Sunday’s Arc Trials at ParisLongchamp were staged the same day as the second half of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh. But in a sense, you might say the festivities actually blended into each other, for Ireland swept all three stepping stones to the Oct. 4 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Mogul kicked off the Emerald Isle triple in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1), clocking the fastest time of the about 1 1/2-mile events in 2:24.76. In a non-COVID world, the Grand Prix would have been on Bastille Day. But in our pandemic-altered landscape, it was postponed to this date, replacing the customary Arc trial in the division, the Prix Niel (G2).
A full brother to last year’s Grand Prix hero from the same yard, Japan, Mogul was given a patient ride by Pierre-Charles Boudot per trainer instructions. Derby (G1)-shocking stablemate Serpentine did not zip to the front as at Epsom, but eased off the pace set by another companion in Nobel Prize. Entering the straight, Nobel Prize stretched the field, and Mogul got a dream run up the rail. The Galileo colt angled around the tiring pacesetter and rolled to a 2 1/2-length decision.
In Swoop, the German Derby (G1) winner, nailed Gold Trip for second. Serpentine was a one-paced fourth in a quiet prep that should bring him on. Next came British shippers Highland Chief and English King, followed by Nobel Prize. French fancy Port Guillaume, who made an early move to chase Nobel Prize, gave way to last in the 10-horse field.
Mogul, once a leading Derby hope for Ballydoyle, looked smart when taking last fall’s KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2), but needed time to come to hand this summer. Fourth in his King Edward VII (G2) reappearance at Royal Ascot and a belated sixth behind Serpentine at Epsom, he moved forward to capture the July 30 Gordon (G3) at Glorious Goodwood. Mogul was only third in the Aug. 19 Great Voltigeur (G2), though, and answered some questions here.
Whether a return trip to Paris is in the cards remains to be seen. O’Brien mentioned a dizzying array of possibilities ranging from the U.S. to Australia.
Older stablemate Anthony Van Dyck, winless since his 2019 Derby victory, finally got his head back in front in the Prix Foy (G2) – albeit as the controlling speed in a small field. Nursed along perfectly by Mickael Barzalona, the son of Galileo picked up when the real running started and parried star stayer Stradivarius.
But considering that the Foy produced the slowest time of the three trials (2:33.27), Stradivarius was at a tactical disadvantage especially on the cutback in trip. A more robust pace would play to his strengths in the Arc.
Interestingly, when Anthony Van Dyck and Stradivarius had met over a much faster 1 1/2 miles, they were a well-beaten second and third to Ghaiyyath in the June 5 Coronation Cup (G1). Stradivarius was using that as an ad hoc tightener (thanks to the COVID-scrambled schedule) for his Gold Cup (G1) three-peat at Royal Ascot, so that evidence doesn’t necessarily translate to Europe’s fall championship.
Czech celebrity Nagano Gold, not well away and last early, did well to close for third in this race shape. Way to Paris, who had edged Nagano Gold in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1), did not produce his best in fifth of six.
The Ballydoyle winners bookended Dermot Weld’s impressive Tarnawa in the Prix Vermeille (G1) for distaffers. The Aga Khan homebred isn’t an Arc nominee, but her connections might have a rethink after she bounded away by three lengths in 2:26.42.
Making just her second start of a fall-oriented campaign here, Tarnawa had reappeared to defend her title successfully in the Aug. 8 Give Thanks (G3). She got a timely form boost Sunday when Give Thanks runner-up Cayenne Pepper ran away with the Blandford (G2) at the Curragh. Tarnawa won that Irish Champions Weekend feature in 2019, and warranted a loftier target in the Vermeille this time.
Jockey Christophe Soumillon reserved Tarnawa in the latter part of the field as British shipper Dame Maillot carved out the pace, then began to creep up wider out. Dame Maillot was holding her nearest pursuers in the stretch, until Tarnawa struck top gear and overwhelmed them all.
Favorite Raabihah, who had been following the winner, could not live with her burst. Although keeping on to deprive Dame Maillot of second on the line, she didn’t boost her Arc claims. The less-fancied Ballydoyle entrant, Laburnum, got up for fourth, with Wonderful Tonight fifth and Ballydoyle first-stringer Even So sixth.
The versatility of Tarnawa’s sire, the late Shamardal, was showcased when his son Earthlight flaunted his class in the about 7-furlong Prix du Pin (G3) in 1:17.42. The Andre Fabre sophomore now rates as a prime contender for the course-and-distance Prix de la Foret (G1) on Arc Day.
Rebounding from his lone loss, a fourth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1), the Godolphin homebred traveled on the bridle nearly the entire way. Barzalona only had to push him out late to prevail by three-quarters of a length from stablemate Tropbeau in the all-Fabre exacta. Longshot Manjeer grabbed third in the photo with Spinning Memories.
Earthlight compiled a perfect 5-for-5 record as a juvenile, highlighted by last year’s Prix Morny (G1) and Middle Park (G1). His return was delayed until midsummer, when he made it six in a row in the July 12 Prix Kistena at Deauville. Favored to stay unbeaten in the Maurice de Gheest, he went down by a grand total of a length to Godolphin’s older Space Blues. Earthlight is arguably just regaining his momentum now, and his horizons are expanded by this first try at the trip.
In the day’s first stakes, the about 5-furlong Prix du Petit Couvert (G3), Air de Valse blazed in :55.34 to emerge as a contender for the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) on the Arc undercard. Under Ronan Thomas, the 4-year-old filly had too much speed from flagfall to finish for favorite Wooded and British shipper Lady in France.
Bred, owned, and trained by Corinne Barande-Barbe of Cirrus des Aigles fame, Air Valse is the offspring of fellow Barande-Barbe runners Mesnil des Aigles and Air Bag. She was hitherto a handicapper and borderline listed performer, but earned her first black-type laurel in the Aug. 1 Prix du Cercle and proved Group-caliber when second in the Aug. 30 Prix du Meautry (G3).