Now where were we three years ago when last we came to Longchamp for Europe’s richest race?
In the time since, they spent $150 million to rebuild the grandstand, renamed the joint ParisLongchamp and spent seemingly nothing on the old turf that looks like it could use some crabgrass clout. They also held two $5.7 million races at Chantilly and still called them both the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
With apologies to Found and Enable and their rich connections, the Arcs that they won up the railroad tracks were competitive and featured impressive fields. But they were not the same race that will be renewed Sunday at 7:05 a.m. EDT, when Enable will try to repeat her victory from the faux Arc when she races in the real one.
While the brie and Sancerre will be consumed in splashier digs, the 19 horses racing the 1½ miles on what may be wet but not soft turf will be on the exact same Longchamp course that was there in October 2015, when Golden Horn spoiled Trêve’s bid for a three-peat.
Bettors in the U.S. – or anywhere, for that matter – must remember a few facts about the recent history of what shall be labeled henceforth as the true Arc – the ones at Longchamp. In case you had forgotten:
* Of the last 30 true Arc winners, 25 had won their last prep beforehand. The top four betting choices here in Europe on Sunday – Enable (11-10), the late supplement Sea Of Class (7-2), seven-time Arc-winning trainer Andre Fabre’s colt Waldgeist (7-1) and the top Coolmore contender Kew Gardens (10-1) – are the only ones in the field that won their last preps.
* Nine of the last 12 winners of the true Arc were 3-year-olds. That young age comes with a 6.6-pound break in the weights vs. older horses. Golden Horn did it in 2015 with the same trainer – John Gosden – and jockey – Frankie Dettori – that Enable will have Sunday. But she is 4. Sea Of Class, Kew Gardens and seven others in this year’s Arc are 3.
* Until Golden Horn, there were four straight true Arcs won by fillies. That is worth 3.3 pounds at impost. Enable carries that break over the older boys. Sea Of Class is both 3 and a filly, giving her a nearly 10-pound advantage over the males that are 4 and up.
* Of the last 22 true Arc winners, 17 drew an inside post between 1 and 7. Golden Horn was one of the exceptions, breaking from post 14 in 2015.
Which brings this year’s lopsided draw to the fore. Enable drew ideally into gate 6. Sea Of Class, Waldgeist and Kew Gardens drew 15, 13 and 14, respectively. It may not hurt Sea Of Class, a closer by nature, but the others could find themselves inconvenienced with a wide trip up the hill to play catch-up the first third of the race.
But for all the breaks Enable got at the draw and with her gender, she is fighting an even longer trend that may work against her. Because she was hurt with an injury that Gosden never detailed, the filly sired by Nathaniel did not race at all since last year’s Arc until she defeated a boutique field of four last month in a 1½-mile race on the all-weather track at Kempton, England. No horse in the last 40 years that France Galop keeps full records has won the Arc with only one previous race all that year.
So this becomes a question of faith in Enable – one of the few horses that could be mentioned at this time last year in the same breath as Winx during a conversation about the world’s best racehorse.
But even though Enable won her only race this year and, thus, her last prep before the Arc, that $50,000 race pales by comparison to victories by Sea Of Class in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, Kew Gardens in the Group 1 St. Leger and Waldgeist in the Group 2 Prix Foy.
It was last year’s Prix Foy that signaled Cloth Of Stars as a worthy rival to Enable. He finished second in that traditional prep, and then he was second in the Arc. But carrying odds of 20-1, Cloth Of Stars was largely ignored by bettors who may not have respected the Prix Foy.
One would think that bettors will not make that mistake again with Waldgeist or the Foy runner-up Talismanic (40-1). Yes, the same Talismanic that won at odds of 14-1 last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Oh, wait. Maybe they will repeat the mistake. Don’t forget, the Prix Foy was run last month at ParisLongchamp but last year at Chantilly.
So was it a fake Foy? We will know soon enough with the renewal of the real Arc.
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com and after big races such as here. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, also posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s edition features European racing journalist Liz Price with her breakdown of the Arc and three other Group 1 races at ParisLongchamp that are Breeders’ Cup qualifiers. Back home in the U.S., trainer Peter Miller discusses Roy H, the favorite to repeat Saturday in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, another Breeders’ Cup win-and-you’re-in race. Ron also discusses Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. The RFRP is also available at leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher. This week’s RFRP and coverage of the road to the Breeders’ Cup are sponsored by Xpressbet.