Stradivarius features among a star cast at ParisLongchamp for Arc trials day today and our man in France Jason Kiely previews the action.
We were lucky enough to witness some extraordinary exploits from some of our finest equine heroes on both sides of the Irish Sea on Saturday, with Magical really living up to her name.
However, gazes this afternoon tilt southbound to the Hippodrome de ParisLongchamp and Arc trials day. The fantastic card features two Group Ones, plenty of international raiders and of course the star of the show Stradivarius, the hot favourite for the Group Two Prix Foy as he warms up for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe early next month.
Distance doubt for sensational Strad?
It is common knowledge that most races in France tend to be run at a much steadier pace than the UK, culminating in a general sprint finish in the straight which occasionally is the cause of a shock result in some of the bigger events.
Therefore it would be only logical to have a slight worry over John Gosden’s star stayer Stradivarius’ capacity to drop sufficiently in trip in the 12-furlong Prix Foy, his first attempt on French soil.
The sensational six-year-old owes nothing to his connections, having taken the Ascot Gold Cup on three occasions and a record four Goodwood Cups and comes to Paris on the back of two fantastic displays in the aforementioned races during the summer.
However, this afternoon represents a new challenge for Stradivarius (a general 12/1 shot for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in three weekends' time) as he drops back down to a mile and a half, a distance he was beaten over at the start of the season.
John Gosden has openly spoken over the last few weeks of how he has changed Stradivarius’ training programme to incorporate a bit more speed work into the six-year-old’s legs in an attempt to take the Prix Foy and hopefully he will be able to use this newly-honed attribute to his advantage.
In a field of only six runners, Stradivarius may have to make his own running and jockey Frankie Dettori could use the ‘false straight’ to stretch the field in a bid to avoid any sprint challenges in what is sure to be a very tactical race.
Way To Paris could take the spoils
A year older than Stradivarius, seven-year-old Way To Paris would buck the stats were he to take the Prix Foy. The Andrea Marcialis-trained grey came close to landing this contest in 2019 when beaten by Arc hero Waldgeist and has been in career best form this season.
A new association with crack jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot has seen Way to Paris amass over €250,000 money in prize-money in four runs, culminating in an inaugural and well-deserved success at Group One level for the seven-year-old.
The teak-tough grey will have no issues with today's distance is and is extremely versatile in terms of positioning throughout his races. The turn of foot he showed on his most recent start when taking the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud was electric and could be enough to claim the scalp of Stradivarius.
Serpentine up against it in Grand Prix
Not seen on a racecourse since that electric performance when taking the Epsom Derby under a sublime ride from Emmet McNamara, Serpentine lines up as warm favourite to take a second Group One of his career in the Grand Prix de Paris.
The three-year-old son of Galileo showed a huge cruising speed when scoring a pillar to post victory at Epsom but may have a bit more on his plate as he bids to reinforce his credentials this afternoon.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has a fantastic record in this race and took the spoils in 2019 with Japan, has opted for a change of pilot aboard Serpentine (owing to Covid-19) and it is 10-times champion jockey Christophe Soumillon who gets the leg up onto the Epsom hero.
The Belgian-born jockey, who already has a decent rapport with O’Brien and is a specialist around ParisLongchamp has often been known to take some drastic tactical decisions throughout a race and is sure to set the perfect fractions on Serpentine.
It may not be all plain sailing up front, however, for the O’Brian charge with the inclusion of Port Guillaume in the ten-strong field. Coming from the in-form yard of Jean-Claude Rouget, Port Guillaume was incredibly impressive in scoring last-time-out and with his front-running style he may pose a threat to Serpentine’s grasp on the field.
Ed Walker-trained English King will surely give less rope to Serpentine in the early stages today and will be ridden by Dettori. The colt closed strongly at Epsom having been given a lot to do and recently ran well at Baden-Baden on ground much too rough for his great action.
An outsider not to be disregarded in the field would have to be the Francis-Henri Graffard colt In Swoop, who was successful at Group One level on only his third start when taking the German Derby in emphatic style. A strong pace would definitely play to the strengths of In Swoop, whose trainer won this race in 2015 with Erupt.
Raabihah sure thing in Vermeille?
We have to go back to 2009 to find Rouget’s last success in the Group One Prix Vermeille but with the yard riding on the crest of a wave this season it is difficult to look beyond Raabihah.
The daughter of Sea The Stars has been almost flawless in her four-race career and was only narrowly beaten in the Prix de Diane during the summer before redeeming herself most recently at Deauville.
Drawn in stall nine is not ideal for the three-year-old who can be a bit keen in her races, but some previous experience around ParisLongchamp should play to her strengths and jockey Cristian Demuro knows the filly well.
Raabihah faces some stern rivals in the shape of Irish Oaks heroine Even So and the Dettori ridden Dame Maillot but it would be huge surprise if this contest did not go the home team as Rabbihah sets out her stall in a bid to win the Arc, a race for which she is already third in the betting behind Love and Enable.