Two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) heroine Enable will face 14 rivals in her quest for an unprecedented third Arc title on Sunday – but not erstwhile antepost favorite Love.
Widely regarded as the most dangerous threat to Enable’s bid for history, Aidan O’Brien’s dual classic heroine was withdrawn thanks to the very soft ground at ParisLongchamp at Thursday’s final declaration stage. The adverse forecast points to it deteriorating further over the weekend, and O’Brien opted to skip the Arc.
The silver lining for U.S. racing fans is that Love will probably tackle the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland next. The interim option would be Champions Day, but O’Brien observed that the ground isn’t likely to be good enough at Ascot on Oct. 17 either.
Aside from no longer having the challenge of giving Love seven pounds in the Arc, Enable received good news from the draw, landing in post 5. Trainer John Gosden has brought the 6-year-old in fine form, after an effortless wire job in the September S. (G3), and longtime partner Frankie Dettori got his desired draw.
But the Juddmonte superstar will encounter conditions at least as testing as last year, when she was thwarted by Waldgeist. Enable might have been able to turn the three-peat if not for the stiff pace set by Ghaiyyath, who faded to 10th and set it up for the late-running Waldgeist.
If there’s no Ghaiyyath here either, there is the Ballydoyle tag team that could replicate his tactics. O’Brien has four entrants, two of whom have been known to go forward early – the supplemented Serpentine, who stunned the Derby (G1) at Epsom as a putative pacemaker, and Sovereign, who did the same in the 2019 Irish Derby (G1).
Both could turn the Arc into an end-to-end slog in hopes of assisting Mogul, hero of the course-and-distance Grand Prix de Paris (G1) over In Swoop in his latest, and full brother Japan, last year’s Grand Prix hero and Arc fourth. Although yet to recapture his heights from 2019, Japan was bothered by a stone bruise when trailing behind Enable and Sovereign in the July 25 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), and his ensuing fifth to Magical in the Sept. 12 Irish Champion (G1) smacks of a quiet prep.
Ryan Moore rides Mogul, suggesting he’s the top seed of the Ballydoyle quartet, and he’s also the best drawn of them in post 3. Sovereign will break from post 10 with Mickael Barzalona, Japan is in post 11 with Yutaka Take, and Serpentine figures to hustle from the far outside post 15 for Christophe Soumillon.
A severe test would play into the hands of Gosden’s other star, staying supremo Stradivarius. Mocking concerns about his effectiveness on soft, Stradivarius romped by 10 lengths to achieve a three-peat in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot. The son of 2009 Arc legend Sea the Stars turned in a solid prep in the Prix Foy (G2), just missing despite the slow pace not suiting. Post 14 isn’t a plus, but that could be negated by the addition of Olivier Peslier.
Aside from Enable and Japan, the other veteran of the 2019 Arc in Sunday’s line-up is third-placer Sottsass, last year’s French Derby (G1) star and half-brother to Sistercharlie. Sottsass added the June 14 Prix Ganay (G1) in a tight finish over Way to Paris, and his near-miss in the Aug. 15 Prix Gontaut-Biron (G3), on heavy going at Deauville, giving six pounds to Skalleti, is better than it looks. His prep fourth in the Irish Champion was a means to this longtime goal for Jean-Claude Rouget, and he’s well drawn in post 4 with regular pilot Cristian Demuro.
Rouget has made no secret of his regard for Raabihah, the only 3-year-old filly left in a “Loveless” Arc. The daughter of Sea the Stars was beaten in both of her Group 1 attempts so far, but went down by only a half-length in fourth in the French Oaks (G1), and her recent second in the Prix Vermeille (G1) could bring her on. Maxim Guyon picks up the mount on Sheikh Hamdan’s homebred in post 2.
Arc maestro Andre Fabre relies on a wildcard in Persian King, who takes a dramatic step up in trip after downing Pinatubo in the Sept. 6 Prix du Moulin (G1). Campaigned mostly as a miler like sire Kingman, last year’s French 2000 Guineas (G1) hero – on heavy ground at this track – was runner-up to Sottsass in the French Derby in his first try beyond a mile.
Persian King reverted in trip this term, then inched up to about 9 furlongs to outclass them in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1). If about 1 1/2 miles is terra incognita, at least his dam is by 2007 Arc winner Dylan Thomas, from the rich family of Fabre’s 1997 conqueror Peintre Celebre. Pierre-Charles Boudot, who masterminded Waldgeist’s victory for Fabre, could repeat the feat here if Persian King stays the distance from post 7.
The aforementioned Way to Paris has tried the Arc before, winding up 11th behind Enable in 2018, but the gray is improved as a 7-year-old. Hero of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) and Grand Prix de Chantilly (G2) (transferred to Deauville), Way to Paris is entitled to move forward off his prep fifth in the paceless Foy.
Reigning German Derby winner In Swoop, second to Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris, has support in light of the desperate ground. Gold Trip has traded decisions with In Swoop, beating him when capturing the Prix Greffulhe (G2) but most recently third in the Grand Prix.
Rounding out the cast are Japanese expat Deirdre, who’s been off form; Chachnak, who takes a class hike from the Prix du Prince d’Orange (G3); and Italian Group 2 veteran Royal Julius, runner-up in the Premio Federico Tesio (G2) for the second straight year.
The Arc, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, is the centerpiece of a blockbuster card with four other Breeders’ Cup Challenge events on tap. Posts will be drawn Friday for the undercard WAYIs – the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), Prix de l’Abbaye (G1), and Prix de l’Opera (G1) – as well as the Prix de la Foret (G1), which has Mile (G1) implications.