Our man tipped Continuous to win the St Leger at 20/1 and now looks ahead to the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, where the same horse is set to feature.
1pt win Continuous in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at 12/1 (William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes) - 10/1 General
All the clues are in with just a fortnight to go until the 2023 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and, having effectively had the last laugh in the various ‘trials’ by winning Saturday’s St Leger, it's not hard to see supporters of CONTINUOUS laughing loudest at Longchamp on October 1.
A two and three-quarter length defeat of Arrest over the extended mile and three-quarters of Town Moor won’t be the strongest piece of form heading into the Arc, that much is clear, but he won with any amount in hand at the weekend and how many other horses arrive on such an upward curve, with the potential to produce another significant personal best when lining up in Paris?
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General 3/1 market leader Ace Impact aside, there aren’t many genuinely exciting three-year-olds in the shake-up this year and I was surprised to see Continuous entered into the market as big as 12/1 with a few firms. A couple of bookmakers have him the same price as Savethelastdance which looks plain wrong as far as I’m concerned as she doesn’t possess anything like the cruising speed or basic ability of her male stable companion.
While it’s been suggested that the Irish Oaks winner Savethelastdance would thrive in typically testing conditions for the time of year, she surely won’t be quick enough regardless. On top of that, Continuous appeared to really enjoy the return to soft ground at Doncaster, having also won on it in France as a two-year-old, so I’d have no concerns whatsoever regarding the weather over the next couple of weeks for him.
Reading between the lines, it's long odds-on that Continuous will now be supplemented into the race and, all things being equal from a physical point of view, this rapidly progressive three-year-old looks certain to lead the line for Aidan O’Brien in the Arc, with Auguste Rodin bound for America and Luxembourg likely to be aimed towards Ascot and the Champion Stakes. Prix Vermeille winner Warm Heart can't have the ground quick enough by all accounts and is another not yet entered so I'd be surprised to see them shell out to add her into the mix as well.
I suppose it could be argued, how can Continuous even get close to Ace Impact, having been kicked into touch by the same horse in the Prix du Jockey Club?
The simple answer is that that was early-June, and this is early-October. O’Brien has made a habit of finding the key to his three-year-olds as the season - and the individual - develops, and this is a prime example of him giving a very well-bred colt time to develop and learn on the job throughout a Classic campaign.
Continuous only managed to dead-heat for third behind The Foxes in the Dante prior to Chantilly and on those two pieces of evidence he’d stand next to no chance, but the improvement since chasing home King Of Steel when first tackling 12 furlongs at Royal Ascot has been stark, and perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked given the trainer hinted quite strongly that he’d had a few hold-ups going into the spring.
It’s hard to throw stones at the favourite Ace Impact on account of never racing over a mile and a half before, especially as the Arc has been won many times on debut at the trip, but by the same token his stamina is clearly a bit of an unknown and something that has to be factored into the odds.
He’s short enough on the back of a narrow prep win over Al Riffa at Deauville (third and fourth have been well beaten since) and I don’t see Continuous being nine points bigger than Ace Impact in the betting come the day.
Hukum and Westover bring some of the best form to the table among the older horses on the back of their memorable King George clash, the pair coming clear of King Of Steel and Luxembourg who didn't exactly let the form down by each getting to within a length of Auguste Rodin in the Irish Champion Stakes.
I’d have no arguments with the likeable Hukum winning a soft-ground Arc and he’s priced accordingly at this point around 11/2 with Westover, who had beaten subsequent G1 Grosser Preis von Baden winner Zagrey a couple of lengths in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, double that price which looks potentially quite generous on the face of it.
Westover could manage only sixth to Alpinista in last year’s Arc, when the bad ground was put forward as a possible excuse for him not quite seeing it out. He’d need conditions to be in his favour if he’s going to reverse placings with Hukum but even if it does come up something vaguely in the realms of good ground on the day, the one I’d want on side is Japanese mare Through Seven Seas.
Unraced at two, she was seemingly no great shakes as a three-year-old, finishing down the field in the 2021 Shuka Sho – the final leg of Japan’s Triple Crown for fillies – and then only made the track once last year when disappointing in a domestic Grade 3 handicap.
She’s obviously made some major improvement as a five-year-old, however, as she won on her comeback in March before looking a touch unlucky in the run when second to the much-vaunted Equinox in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen, one of Japan’s principal middle-distance races for older horses.
Equinox had left onlookers drooling earlier in the year with his three and a half length destruction of a strong field in the Dubai Sheema Classic, in which Westover, Zagrey and subsequent Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Juddmonte International winner Mostahdaf followed him home.
Through Seven Seas consequently looks a more than legitimate contender for Japan on a strict reading of her 2023 form – the obvious sticking point, as has been the case since the Far East nation first set eyes on Europe’s greatest Flat race, is the potential for a much deeper racing surface than she’s used to back home.
With that in mind, I’ll pass up the current 33/1 on offer (25s generally), but may look to get her on side closer to the time.
The other one in a similar bracket is French-trained four-year-old Simca Mille, who has also demonstrated improved form this season, including when prepping in the Grosser Preis von Berlin, a race won by Arc heroes Torquator Tasso and Alpinista in recent years.
He went there rather than face a clash with British big guns in the King George and it could turn out to be a wise move as Simca Mille avoided a very hard race and looks primed to go well back at Longchamp, where he pushed Onesto close in last year’s Grand Prix de Paris and clocked a couple of high-class efforts over 10 furlongs earlier in the current campaign.
Like Through Seven Seas and Westover, Simca Mille would not want a bog come the first Sunday in October, otherwise the 20/1 about him looks pretty tasty.
The final word goes to Frankie Dettori and what the retiring (!) Italian will ride as he looks for a seventh Arc success in his final season as a jockey.
Dettori has ridden Emily Upjohn for the majority of her career and she looked a serious prospect for this race when sauntering past Westover in the Coronation Cup before pluckily failing by half a length to concede 7lb to the prolific three-year-old Paddington when dropped back in trip for the Coral-Eclipse.
Unfortunately, Emily Upjohn took a major step backwards in the King George, not for the first time having completely bombed out in the same race last summer, and now has a question mark over her head again.Loyal fans will point to how she bounced back after an 84-day break to win the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot last October, which was clearly a superb training performance from John and Thady Gosden, but this demands a whole lot more. Emily Upjohn will need to be at least as good as she looked on Oaks day if she's going to play a leading role here.
If she’s not in the line-up for whatever reason, things could get interesting with Dettori as stablemate Free Wind might be a legitimate runner having gone down on her sword behind Warm Heart in the Yorkshire Oaks.
You sense she’s still got unfinished business having missed the thick end of a year after picking up an injury last July, but she’d need to take another sizeable step up on all known form and is a 66/1 on that basis.
Otherwise, the ties are clearly there with Onesto after riding him in the Irish Champion – without much joy it has to be said – and Bay Bridge might be another possible mount for Dettori, although I wonder if there’s an outside chance he could ride Westover.
Rob Hornby was politely asked to step aside for Colin Keane to partner the horse in a couple of outings last year and Ryan Moore was on him out in Meydan in March, with Hornby back in the saddle for all three starts since.
Dettori, Westover’s owners Juddmonte and the Arc are so intrinsically linked through the exploits of Enable and perhaps they’d struggle to resist the call if he became available, but for now it’s most likely Emily Upjohn and another retrieval mission for Frankie in France.
First published on Sporting Life Plus at 1320 BST on 17/09/23
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