Jason Kiely speaks with legendary French trainer Andre Fabre as he puts the finishing touches to Waldgeist's Arc preparations at Longchamp today.
Fabre pleased with Arc-bound Waldgeist
With only three weeks remaining to prepare for the 2019 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, every decision is crucial and this afternoon's 'Arc trials' at ParisLongchamp will play a vital role in ensuring that runners arrive in Paris on October 6 in prime condition, none more so than the André Fabre-trained Waldgeist.
Last seen when taking a tremendous third place, beaten only two lengths by Enable and Crystal Ocean as the pair fought out that historic battle in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Ascot, Waldgeist faces much lighter opposition in the Group Two Qatar Prix Foy.
Winner of this race in 2018, then going on to finish fourth in the Arc, Waldgeist's trainer André Fabre is pleased with the highest-rated horse in France and suggests that he is even better this year.
Fabre said: "That was an excellent run at Ascot, the horse is five-years-old now, we have a stronger horse and he takes everything better, all these tough races. This weekend, I don’t really mind as it’s a preparation race for the Arc, if he wins well then it’s well done!"
With the ground officially described as Good the French champion trainer is confident that conditions will be perfect for his three-time Group One winner, even with only four runners in this afternoon's €130,000 race,
"To be fair, this year I have discovered that Waldgeist is much better on good ground and that will be the case this weekend, so that is good and hopefully that will be the case for the Arc. He is a very easy horse to ride and with the Japanese horse in the field they should go a good pace," he said.
Having already trained seven previous winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, including the mighty Hurricane Run in 2005, the 24-time champion admits that Waldgeist will have to be at his very best if he is to improve on last year’s fourth in the €5,000,000 spectacle. He is currently a general 12/1 shot in the market and will be ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot, his regular rider.
Fabre said: "Everything will have to go right, the favourite Enable and some of the other favourites may possibly need to run a bit below their best, but he will be there and he always runs well. We will probably travel again and the Breeders' Cup could be interesting for him.”
Return of French Derby hero Sottsass
Absent from a racecourse since impressively landing this year's Prix du Jockey Club in June, Sottsass lines up in the Group Two Qatar Prix Niel, an Arc trail reserved for three-year-olds only.
Exploding into the picture with that stylish two-length victory over Persian King in the Jockey Club, Sottsass is as short as 8/1 in places for the Arc and his trainer Jean-Claude Rouget feels that the son of Siyouni is coming to hand perfectly.
He said: "Sottsass has been working well, following the plan as normal, we have had a lot of time to prepare, we have really stepped his work up over the last two weeks.
"He is happy and is showing that he is as good horse as ever. He is not at 100% of course, but this race should put him perfect in terms of work for the Arc."
Sottsass faces four rivals, including the Aiden O’Brien trained Mohawk (seventh behind Sottsass in the Jockey Club) but Rouget’s stable star is a long odds-on favourite and winning should be a formality as the colt steps up to 2,400m for the first time.
“The slight step up in trip will not be a problem for him, it’s a natural progression and he should take it well. Only five runners in the race is good, like that we can just allow the race to develop and hopefully it will go as we would like. If that is the case he should go to Longchamp in perfect condition, I am not looking any further than that for now," explained Rouget.
French fillies under attack in Vermeille
With the first two in the betting both coming from his immensely powerful stable in Newmarket, John Gosden once again is the man to beat as nine runners head to post for the Group One Qatar Prix Vermeille.
Little over 24 hours after the duo landed the St Leger at Doncaster with Logician, messieurs Dettori and Gosden once again hold all the cards as Star Catcher bids to land a second Group One on only her sixth start and looks very difficult to beat.
The daughter of Sea The Stars showed a great attitude when making all the running to land the Irish Oaks at the end of July, beating Aiden O’Brien's Fleeting and Pink Dogwood, who both re-oppose once again this afternoon.
If for any reason Star Catcher does perform below-par, Gosden is also represented by Investec Oaks heroine Anapurna. Not seen on a racecourse since that victory at the end of May (where she also got the better of Fleeting), Anapurna will be ridden by Oisin Murphy and is the second favourite behind her stable mate.
With those four overseas fillies seeming to tower above the five French representatives in terms of proven class, it looks like the Prix Vermeille could be heading towards the British Isles for the fist time since Midday landed the Group One event for Sir Henry Cecil back in 2010.
The strongest French hope in the line-up is Channel, winner of the Prix de Diane at Chantilly in June before disappointing in the Nassau at Goodwood.
Her trainer Francis-Henri Graffard suggests than winning the Vermeille could be difficult, but remains confident that Channel can run a big race as she approaches the end of a wonderful career.
He said: "Right now Channel is going well at home, even better that she was during the summer.
"She is the Prix de Diane winner, but the Vermeille looks a very tough race this year. I have told that the owners that if we finish in the first five we should be delighted, but she can run well. Looking towards the future, Channel will not stay in training for next season, but we may go to the E.P. Taylor Stakes in Woodbine with her but she would have to run very well in the Vermeille to merit that."
Having trained the winner of this race last year with Kitesurf, Fabre will try to win yet another Vermeille but he admits it will difficult task to defeat the overseas entourage, he has three runners in this year race.
"For sure it is nice to see the British and Irish runners, it makes it interesting but tough. Ours are three nice fillies but they are not proven like some of the favourites. Tamniah is a nice, progressive filly who should enjoy the track at ParisLongchamp.
"Musis Amica was very disappointing last time out, its true that she is better on the softer ground and she had a little breathing problem but she seems to be right now.
"And finally Ligne D’Or, this filly could be surprise of the race, she has run some very good races and I think she could go well,” explained Fabre.
City Light up in trip as connections eye Prix de la Foret
Although only narrowly beaten in last year’s Group One Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, connections feel a step up in distance is the right move for classy five-year-old City Light.
His trainer Stéphane Wattel will step the colt up to 1,400m in this afternoon's Qatar Prix du Pin, with a view towards running in the Prix de la Foret on Arc weekend.
Christophe Soumillon regular rider of City Light will partner him again this afternoon and the pair look likely to gain another victory together.
"I am very happy to get him (City Light) over a longer distance that usual, I think mentally it will help him and he should be more competitive. He is going very good on the gallops, of course what we are hoping is that he will run well and that will prepare him for the Prix de la Foret,” said Wattel, who is having a remarkable season.
Although disappointing at Royal Ascot this time round, City Light gained a confidence booster when winning at Deauville last time out, and his trainer suggests that conditions are optimum as the colt comes to the end of his fantastic career.
“We have got a good number in the stalls and the horse looks incredibly well. I think that the change of track layout will help greatly, the race will not be run on a straight course so that should be a great advantage to our chances.
"As everyone knows Ascot is a very difficult racecourse and things sometimes don’t go well there, so after Ascot it was important for the moral to win at Deauville. Normally he will go on to his stallion career, but we will first hopefully run in the Foret,” said Wattel.