Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and makes the case for a 33/1 chance.
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Sottsass has halved in price for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe since being introduced at 16/1 following his Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby) win in early-June, and that’s despite him not being seen in public since.
Due to reappear in this Sunday's Qatar Prix Niel over the same course and distance as the Arc, Jean-Claude Rouget's colt looks a fascinating potential contender against the all-conquering Enable, who is now odds-on across the board for a historic third Arc win.
It's not a strong-looking Niel at the time of writing, Rouget and owners White Birch Farm having a likely pace-setter in Veronesi, while Aidan O'Brien's Mohawk and Mount Everest won't be joined by Investec Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who is declared for the Irish Champion Stakes (more on him below).
The other two of the seven entries have plenty to find so Sottsass might be able to enjoy a nice prep run on what will be his first outing for well over three months.
It will also be the son of Siyouni’s first attempt at a mile and a half and that is the big quandary when it comes to backing him now at 8/1 for an Arc.
A small-field, slowly-run Niel in which the horse is set to be only 80% fit is unlikely to prove anything beyond doubt, but there are reasons to question why the move up in distance would spark more improvement in a horse who was progressing at a serious rate over 10 furlongs in the spring time.
Siyouni’s best progeny so far, namely Ervedya and Laurens, don’t stay the 2400m trip.
Three-time Group One winner Ervedya never even attempted it, while Laurens, winner of six Group Ones and counting, has been campaigned over much shorter since last year's below-par run in the Yorkshire Oaks.
The dam's side of the pedigree gives a little hope Sottsass will handle the extra yardage - he's out of a Galileo mare in Starlet's Sister which you'd instinctively imagine would help impart stamina.
But the mare's two other progeny, My Sister Nat and Sistercharlie, have been most effective over nine and 10 furlongs.
Sistercharlie admittedly won last year's Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf over a mile and three, but it was way, way off what you'd consider a thorough European test at the trip (26.20 seconds for the first quarter and 51.81 through a half-mile) so it’s hard to class that as caste-iron evidence.
If he stays, Sottsass will become a player but at the current odds I’m willing to look beyond him.
There are two very interesting older horses, who clearly have a job on their hands conceding weight to Enable as well as the budding three-year-olds, and they are Waldgeist and Ghaiyyath.
Andre Fabre has won the Arc seven times and seems convinced Waldgeist has the credentials for the race. He was almost proven correct last year when the horse put up a fine performance in finishing fourth after a troubled run in the home straight.
Based on that effort alone he’s possibly a shade over-priced at 16/1 in places.
He's also looked better than ever as a five-year-old this time around. He bolted up in the Prix Ganay on his seasonal return in April and has since had the ground go against him in two starts in Britain, showing up well in spite of the going on both occasions.
He was third to Crystal Ocean from well off the pace in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes and then finished a two-length third to Enable and Crystal Ocean in the King George, when pre-race rain dented his chance again.
He has a little bit to find with Japan strictly on that running but his overall form profile puts him right behind the top two in the betting and it's not hard to imagine him going off a little shorter than is currently available.
Waldgeist is due to run in Sunday's Prix Foy where he'll look to follow up last year’s wide-margin win in the Group Two contest.
He comfortably had the beating of Ghaiyyath in the Prix Ganay but it’s thought that run came a little too quickly on the back of Ghaiyyath's comeback win at Longchamp and, following another break, Charlie Appleby's colt has bounced back in some style.
Now a four-year-old having raced just the once at three, (when widely regarded as Godolphin’s big Derby hope that spring) he pulverised the opposition in a German Group One at Baden-Baden on the first of the month.
It was his first try at a mile and a half and, after taking up the running quite early, he clearly relished the move up in distance, while as a late-maturing, lightly-raced son of Dubawi it’s not hard to imagine he’s still got some massive days ahead of him.
His price still has mileage (12/1 with William Hill), especially considering he’s going straight there whereas others could yet fluff their lines in the build-up. The only nagging issues with Ghaiyyath are whether he’ll be able to produce another huge effort within a relatively short space of time, and whether he can cope with heat of an Arc battle.
There’s only one other candidate I’m interested in opposing the favourite with at this point and at 33/1 generally, Investec Derby winner ANTHONY VAN DYCK is worth a small bet.
Eight of the last 11 Arc winners have been fillies or mares but the three colts to have shone in that period all won at Epsom and while he’s probably not in the class realms of Sea The Stars, Workforce or Golden Horn, Anthony Van Dyck does have a squeak getting the 3lb from Enable.
It's hard to suggest he'll win Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes – he’s a big price to do so having bombed out completely in the King George – but he clearly needs a run to get him back on track and anything like a prominent showing would set him up nicely for a crack at the Arc.
The King George was an odd one as in hindsight I’m sure connections wish they’d pulled him out following so much rain but Ryan Moore looked after him when it was clear he wasn’t functioning and I’d maintain he was the best horse in a bizarrely-run Irish Derby when second to front-running stablemate Sovereign.
Prior to that Anthony Van Dyck had won the Lingfield Derby Trial with little fuss and stayed on best of all under a canny Seamie Heffernan ride to win the big one, where he beat a bunch of subsequent winners including Madhmoon and Japan.
Japan has obviously since stepped up to claim Group One honours in France and the Juddmonte International at York last time but there’s still time for the Epsom hero to scale those heights and a good run on Saturday will surely see his odds contract for Paris next month.
Posted at 1040 BST on 12/09/19