Our man in France Jason Kiely sets the scene on Arc weekend and speaks to some of the leading local jockeys set to be in the thick of the action.
At only 26 years of age Pierre-Charles Boudot has already twice been crowned champion jockey in France, having ridden an extraordinary 300 winners in a season, and this weekend his sights are set on even more career landmarks.
Waldgeist returned to winning ways when easily landing the Qatar Prix Foy at ParisLongchamp three weeks ago, proving that there were no long-lasting effects from his extremely game effort when finishing third behind Enable at Ascot.
Although he finished fourth in last year's running of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe he was only beaten a little under two lengths and the five-year-old can go well again this time around.
"Waldgeist is in super form in the mornings, all his preparation has gone really well," said Boudot.
"We won the Prix Foy last time out and he is looking like that he has improved in every single way since that race. He looks like he has really hit top form now and is ready for another go at the Arc. We know that the ground will definitely be soft, unfortunately for us we would have preferred it better but he should handle it OK.
"We have been lucky with the draw and to me he shouldn’t be too far away again this year."
The jockey went on: "It is a sensation like no other when you ride in the Arc, for me it is the most important race of the year and the most important race in the world to win, everyone gets excited for it."
Watch Me put in an outstanding performance earlier on this year for her trainer Francis-Henri Graffard when she won the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot before then finishing fourth against the colts in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. Now pitched back in against her own sex and stepped up in trip, Watch Me looks capable of another huge performance in the Prix de l’Opera Longines on Sunday.
Big-race rider Boudot said of Watch Me: "Its true that she was a slight bit disappointing the last time out at Deauville. Obviously stepping up to 2,000m this weekend should help. In the mornings she has been looking very well and all her gallops have gone excellently. The ground being soft is going to be a great advantage, she should cope very well with it.
"With all that in mind I will be expecting a very big performance from her, even if the opposition looks very strong, she is a really smart filly."
One Master won the Qatar Prix de la Foret in 2018 for Boudot and is fancied to strike once again this year. The William Haggas-trained five-year-old has not been seen since finishing a game fifth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. With only twelve runners in the line-up this year, the daughter of Fastnet Rock looks certain to run a strong race.
Boudot sets the leg-up and said: "She has been well prepared for this race by her team at home, this has been the main aim and she should be nicely freshened up coming off the back of a two month break. Of course we won this race together last year when we were drawn in thirteen, this year we have been lucky with the draw and are in stall six.
"To me there is no reason to believe that she can’t repeat last year's performance, she should have a very good chance, especially if the ground keeps getting softer."
Fresh from his epic success in last weekend’s Group One Middle Park Stakes with Earthlight, jockey Mickäel Barzalona prepares to get on board yet another exciting Fabre-trained, Godolphin-owned two-year-old.
Highly impressive when taking his tally to 2-2 at Chantilly in early September, Victor Ludorum is a name that has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue for some weeks now. The manner of his debut victory at ParisLongchamp proved that the complexities of the track should pose no threat to this son of Shamardal, who looks like going off a short price favourite for the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the juvenile is regarded as a weekend ‘banker’ by many.
Barzalona said: "Victor Ludorum is a super colt, he has done everything that we have asked from him up until now. He showed a huge turn of foot when winning on both of his starts, along with being very professional and easy to ride, he has a great attitude. This weekend he will step up again in grade and we will wait for him to show us just how high his level is, but he looks very nice for the future."
Musis Amica, who was only scratched from the Arc at a late forfeit stage, looks to have been presented with an ideal chance of breaking her Group One duck in this afternoon's Qatar Prix de Royallieu.
Twice runner-up at the top level, including on her latest start when going down by three quarters of a length in the Prix Vermeille, she looks to be a Group One winner in waiting.
"Musis Amica’s last run really showed us that she is back to the form that she had as a three-year-old," said Barzalona.
"I think that the increase in distance to 2,800m shouldn’t pose any problems for her, the Royallieu looks the ideal race for her. I think that she will handle the soft ground well and if all things go to plan she should not be too far away at the finish."
Nagano Gold comes into the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a general outsider and is the only runner in the field to have never contested a Group One race. Trainer Vaclav Luka has had the Arc on the radar for a long time for the best horse in the Czech Republic who handles the track at ParisLongchamp perfectly, including when winning a Listed race in April for his jockey Barzalona.
He said: "What can I say? It should be a great race no matter what the outcome. All the horses in the race merit their chance and we all have the opportunity to take a place. Enable obviously looks very difficult to beat, but at the same time you have to look at it like a race.
"When I rode Nagano Gold before I rode him patiently and tried to come with a good effort. So we will wait and see how the race unfolds and hopefully we can run the best race possible."
Four-time winner of the Arc as a jockey between 1966 to 1979, trainer Freddy Head is expecting some big results from his stable stars this weekend.
Group One winner in 2018 when landing the Prix Rothchild, With You has been a model of consistency for her trainer Freddy Head. Twice runner-up on her two most recent starts at Grade One level the daughter of Dansili will be on many a short-list for the Prix de l’Opera Longines a race in which she finished fourth in 2018, and was arguably a stronger renewal.
Head said: "With You looks good, she has been working well since her last run in August. She has only ran three times this year, the first run was bad but it turned out that she wasn’t too well at that moment, then after that she has been twice second in Group One races beaten by Laurens and then by Coronet, so the form is strong and if she runs near that form she should have a good chance."
Call The Wind was a gallant winner of the 2018 renewal of the Prix du Cadran and is towards the top of the market as he bids to defend his title in the marathon 4,000m race on Saturday afternoon.
"Call The Wind looks very well, possibly even better than when he won this race last year. He ran very well in his preparation run and there are no worries at all with the ground and everything should be fine," remarked Head.
And after winning the race four times as a jockey, the trainer knows what it takes.
He said: "Of course I think Enable can do it, they look like on paper that they should win. She has beaten them all before and looked very good doing so, but as we know so well in this game there is no such thing as an invincible horse."