The magic of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has rarely been more radiant, with Sunday’s 100th running of the Longchamp championship event crammed with talent in a 15-runner field. That point is illustrated by the fact that the list of chief protagonists – Adayar, Hurricane Lane, Tarnawa, Snowfall and Chrono Genesis – do not even include the winners of last month’s Arc trials Deep Bond (Prix Foy) and Bubble Gift (Prix Niel), or Love – Frankie Dettori’s expected mount and a five-times G1 winner – all expected to join combat for the 2400m European race that can transform stars into superstars.
The 2021 Arc field has amassed 24 G1 wins with possible favourite Adayar having won just two of those. First, this powerful son of Frankel improved dramatically to storm away from his rivals in the Derby (2405m) at Epsom in June with those who considered that G1 Epsom Classic win some sort of fluke proven badly incorrect the following month when he outgalloped the brilliant Mishriff in a compelling renewal of the Ascot’s G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2392m).
Chief Godolphin rider William Buick last week chose to ride Adayar over Hurricane Lane (James Doyle) – drawn gate 11 and two respectively – despite the fact that the latter has superb course and distance credentials, having thrashed 10 rivals by six lengths and upwards in July’s G1 Grand Prix de Paris. Last month, Hurricane Lane again powered clear of his rivals, in the St Leger – the final British Classic of the year. No horse has ever won Doncaster’s G1 St Leger (2905m) in September and come back to win the Arc in October but Newmarket trainer Charlie Appleby is taking the opposite attitude to that negative trend: “Hurricane Lane could create history. That is exciting. And both he and Adayar go to Paris in great shape.”
Like Godolphin trainer Appleby, Irishman Dermot Weld has a huge international profile but is still searching for his first victory in Europe’s greatest race. Weld has again looked to Longchamp ace Christophe Soumillon who is twice unbeaten in Longchamp G1s on Tarnawa including in the 2000m Prix de l’Opera at this meeting last year. And Weld is not shy to predict tactics for the brilliant five-year-old daughter of Sharmardal who has drawn gate three: “There is a standard way we ride her, taking our time and gradually improving throughout the race,” says the trainer.
Current predictions of slow ground will not decrease her chance at all, and, according to fellow Irishman Aidan O’Brien, nor will it worry Snowfall – who like Adayar – was supplemented into the Arc field on Wednesday, for 120,000 euros. Before Snowfall gained a record 16-length margin victory in the Oaks (2405m) at Epsom in June, rain had soaked the ground and O’Brien says of Ryan Moore’s mount: “I don’t think that she needs soft ground but whereas soft ground can catch out some horses it doesn’t catch out her.” She will commence her Arc challenge from gate nine.
The Japanese have long hankered after an Arc win and with Chrono Genesis, their best middle distance horse, they must have a chance of finally delivering it. Her profile is not of an established soft ground performer but after big-race rider Oisin Murphy sat on her for the first time on the Chantilly gallops on Wednesday, he said of the mare: “She moved super and she felt fine on that softish ground. I think she’ll run a huge race on Sunday.” The four-times G1 winner has to start wide from gate 14 but when this great race has been run on slow ground in recent times a wide gate has rarely been a disadvantage.