It is 14 years since a horse owned by UAE connections won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but Sunday’s inconclusive l’Arc Trials at Chantilly only increased the possibility that the UAE’s turn might come around again in three weeks.
Postponed was favourite to win the European showpiece before the weekend, and the Dubai Sheema Classic, Coronation Cup and International Stakes winner looks in a stronger position now than he did before.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor was responsible for the last horse to win l’Arc carrying the colours of a UAE owner when, in 2002, Marienbard followed up Sakhee’s victory the previous year for Godolphin.
By staying in his stable Postponed has lost nothing as some of his main rivals picked up injuries, floundered in their prep runs or have had their targets changed in the meantime.
The only horse who threw down the gauntlet to Postponed in some style was Almanzor, the French colt who motored from last to first to deny Found in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.
At Chantilly on Sunday, Almanzor’s trainer, Jean-Claude Rouget, made it quite clear that if it was entirely his decision the winner would not even run in l’Arc at all and would instead feature in the British Champion Stakes, citing the extra fortnight of recovery period as a key influence.
Almanzor is owned by Ecurie Antonio Caro, the part owner of dual Classic-winning filly La Cressonniere, who looks at this stage to be Postponed’s chief threat.
La Cressonniere has been deeply impressive this season for the all-conquering Rouget and every winning trainer at Chantilly had her at the foremost of their minds when asked who they felt would be their chief threat.
As such it would make sense that La Cressoniere heads to Chantilly and Almanzor runs at Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien’s Minding, who has lit up this season in Europe, was third in Ireland, which shows that for all of her majesty she has been simply beating up inferior opposition in races such as the English Oaks and Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
The Irish Champion Stakes was billed as a clash between Minding and Harzand, but the English and Irish Derby winner is currently recovering from a nasty gash suffered during the Irish Champion Stakes in which he finished eighth.
He now faces a race against time to even make the line-up.
At Chantilly, the rapidly improving French colt Silverwave looked useful but not good enough to win l’Arc.
Left Hand, who won the Prix Vermeille for fillies, could be outlier who could cause an upset.
Left Hand won a distinctly average running of the Prix Vermeille for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias and as the race was basically a jog for 2,000 metres with a sprint finish for the final 400m, you never know how strong the form really is.
Left Hand won in some style and looks at the same level as Laffon-Parias’s Solemia, who profited from Japanese raider Orfevre’s wild jink to win l’Arc four years ago.
That brings us to Makahiki, the sole Japanese challenger this year.
Japan waits patiently for its first victory in l’Arc and there are several reasons for believing that the Japanese Derby winner could be the one.
His victory in the Qatar Prix Niel was nothing special but crucially he won his l’Arc trial fairly easily which leaves connections with something to work on.
Much like Left Hand’s trial, his race was a slowly run affair with a sprint finish.
He has already proved in his homeland that he is one of the best horses ever dispatched West for the task and Sunday’s run was simply a warm up.
As a three-year-old colt, Makahiki will enjoy an 8lbs advantage in l’Arc with Postponed due to the weight-for-age scale.
It brings them close together. There is three weeks to go, and all to play for.
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