The first weekend in October is often greeted with mixed emotions from fans of flat racing. A magnificent two days often lay in prosper just across the Channel, though of course, it also draws a curtain over the flat season itself.
The Prix de l’Arc de Triumph, or the Arc as it is more commonly referred to, is the late-season centre-piece for many, often bringing together Derby winners from across Europe, as well as plenty of Asian interest.
The Asian angle this year looked set to arrive with A Shin Hikari after his blistering success at Chantilly earlier in the season, yet a bid looks unlikely after his trainer suggested 12f would be a step too far and he has also subsequently flopped at Ascot.
So, at the time of writing, Classic winners and an exciting older horse currently take their place towards the head of the market in what looks an extremely open renewal.
Postponed swerved a crack at the Arc last year, after a late trainer switch, yet after success in Dubai and more recently Epsom he looks a major player this season.
Minding was an ultra-impressive Oaks winner, who quashed any stamina doubts as she managed to negate her way out of trouble to stay on strongly down the Epsom camber to mow down her rivals with minimum fuss. She ranks as an interesting entrant, as does French Oaks winner, La Cressonnierre.
French Derby winner Almanzor has been slightly supported since his Chantilly win, while Jack Hobbs and Zawraq hold major question marks given their absences.
So, arguably the strongest form on offer to date, is the Epsom Derby form.
Harzand ran out a game winner that day, despite splitting a plate earlier in the day, and the sustained market support proved telling as he repelled all challengers down the straight.
He is bred for a trip, meaning conditions at Chantilly should be ideal. Of course, a potential crack at the St Leger may beckon given his stamina, yet it looks as though that is factored into his price as the current 10/1 on offer for the Arc looks too big. He surely doesn’t start near that, if he goes?
Golden Horn landed the Derby last year en route to Arc success and the manner in which Harzand has continued his upward curve means he must be respected for the rest of the season.
He was given an educational ride on his only start as a two-year-old, keeping on nicely down the straight without ever getting involved in the finish. Since then, he hasn’t been beaten.
A wide-margin maiden success was followed up with a battling victory over subsequent Derby third Idaho in the Ballysax Stakes. The pair pulled clear of the field and this was a similar story at Epsom, only with the highly-rated US Army Ranger splitting the pair.
US Army Ranger had every chance to win that day but he couldn’t find the extra gear to pass the gutsy Harzand and this could well be the case at Chantilly, should the ground turn up in it’s usual soft(ish) state.
Harzand will relish the trip (and probably further in time) while any cut in the ground is a bonus. We’ll possibly be relying on the weather to ensure Dermot Weld decides to send him to Chantilly instead of Doncaster (what a choice) but if that is the case, the 10/1 could be large.
It looks as though the Irish Derby may be the next port of call for Harzand and if he can put in an authoritative performance at the Curragh, then expect him to shorten up for October’s main event.
He ticks plenty of boxes and looks as though he will have even more to offer in time. The Aga Khan hasn’t tasted Arc success since his star filly Zarkava won the race back in 2008, so he’ll love the chance to head into it with a live chance yet again.
The 10/1 for Harzand seems more than fair and come October, he could well be a whole lot shorter.
Selection: Harzand to win the Arc @ 10/1 (Various)