Jonathan Pow­ell looks ahead to the Bri­tish chal­lenge in the Arc at Chan­tilly

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Award-win­ning writer looks at the Bri­tish chal­lenge at the Arc

When a horse wins the Prix Niel im­pres­sively on tri­als Sun­day in Paris in the au­tumn all roads in­vari­ably lead to the Prix de l’Arc de Tri­om­phe, for long one of the jew­els of the in­ter­na­tional racing cal­en­dar.

As sys­tems go, back­ing the win­ner of this key trial in the Arc, is one of the more prof­itable, but not nec­es­sar­ily so this year when the great old race will be held for the fi­nal time at Chan­tilly while up­grad­ing con­tin­ues apace at Longchamp.

Those who have al­ready backed Cracks­man ante post for the Arc, be­fore or af­ter his vic­tory romp in the Prix Niel on Septem­ber 10, are in for a white knuckle ride be­fore learn­ing if his trainer John Gos­den and owner An­thony Op­pen­heimer are pre­pared to send him across the chan­nel on Oc­to­ber 1.

Smoke sig­nals emerg­ing from their camp these past few weeks have been con­sis­tently neg­a­tive about com­mit­ting the rapidly im­prov­ing colt to the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge for a three-year-old.

God­sen, the bright­est of train­ers, has reser­va­tions about the na­ture of the track at Chan­tilly and is con­cerned that Cracks­man might en­dure a pun­ish­ingly hard race at the end of a busy cam­paign.

On a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions he has hinted that he would pre­fer skip­ping the race with Cracks­man this year be­fore cam­paign­ing him in 2018 with the Arc firmly in his sights.

He ex­plains: “I do not nec­es­sar­ily want to com­mit to the Arc though if it was at Longchamp I would prob­a­bly not hes­i­tate. Chan­tilly is a dif­fer­ent track and pos­si­bly his Arc is next year.

“The other op­tion for Cracks­man is the Cham­pion Stakes but the key thing about As­cot is the draw. You don’t want to be drawn wide in the Cham­pion Stakes.

“There are a num­ber of de­ci­sions to be made and I’ll be in no rush.”

No won­der since Gos­den and his jockey Frankie Det­tori al­ready have an ace for this year’s Arc in the jaunty shape of the bril­liant filly En­able, win­ner of the English and Ir­ish Oaks as well as the King Ge­orgeV1 and Queen El­iz­a­beth Stakes at As­cot.

Op­pen­heimer has al­ready said he will leave the fi­nal de­ci­sion to his trainer.

“The op­tions are the Arc or the Cham­pion Stakes at As­cot and we would pre­fer to put him away for next year without a hard race,” says Op­pen­heimer.

“We feel he has had two pretty hard races al­ready at Ep­som and the Cur­ragh and he also started his sea­son quite early.

“We think that if we give him a hard race this year it may just take the sting out of him for next year...and there is only one Frankie.”

The con­tin­u­ing un­cer­tainty about Cracks­man’s par­tic­i­pa­tion has led to a sus­tained cam­paign in the media to per­suade Gos­den and Op­pen­heimer to take the sport­ing op­tion by send­ing their colt to Chan­tilly in a race, that for once, lacks its usual depth.

Yet Gos­den has never struck me as a man likely to be dis­turbed by the sound of sabre rat­tling. For him the horses in his charge al­ways come first and he has long held the view that as Cracks­man ma­tures and de­vel­ops over the win­ter he will make a for­mi­da­ble four-year-old.

While he is not a trainer who ducks chal­lenges he, more than any­one else, ap­pre­ci­ates that pitch­ing him against the pre­o­ciously tal­ented En­able at this stage of his ca­reer might leave its mark.

Det­tori is cer­tainly in no doubt as he says: “At this stage En­able is stronger and more street­wise than Cracks­man. I ex­pect to be on her in the Arc.”

The Derby came a bit too too soon for the in­ex­pe­ri­enced Cracks­man in the first week in June when he fin­ished a close third to Wings of Ea­gles and he looked un­lucky when just out­run by Capri in the Ir­ish Derby. Given a short mid-sum­mer break he re­turned in vi­brant form in the GreatVoltigeur Stakes atYork and looked to have im­proved again in the Prix Niel last time.

You sense that Gos­den will wait un­til the last mo­ment be­fore mak­ing up his mind and he will not be in­flu­enced by the knowl­edge that the Arc will be a bet­ter race if he al­lows Cracks­man to line up along­side En­able who is al­ready odd­son with some bookies.

Solid each way al­ter­na­tives to her are thin on the ground with Ulysses, re­cent

win­ner of the Jud­dmonte In­ter­na­tional and Co­ral Eclipse Stakes, sec­ond best in the mar­ket at around 10-1.

Although he trav­els so well in his races and was un­de­ni­ably impressive at York, it is not easy to erase the mem­ory of the man­ner in which he was routed by En­able in the mid-sea­son clash of the gen­er­a­tions at As­cot in the King Ge­orge V1 and Queen El­iz­a­beth Stakes.

While Ulysses does stay a mile and a half, the ev­i­dence of the form book sug­gests his op­ti­mum trip is a fur­long or two shorter of that dis­tance.

A more po­tent threat would surely be the St Leger win­ner Capri if he is al­lowed to take his chance by Ai­dan O’Brien who fa­mously sad­dled the first three in the Arc 12 months ago.

O’Brien is bound to as­sem­ble a strong raid­ing party again with High­land Reel, Or­der of St Ge­orge, Capri and, most in­trigu­ingly, Win­ter all in the mix.

O’Brien says: “The Arc is def­i­nitely some­thing we are think­ing about for Win­ter. It’s un­der strong con­sid­er­a­tion though the trip is some­thing of an un­known and you couldn’t be sure she would stay.”

Third in the Arc last year, Or­der of St Ge­orge was back to his im­pe­ri­ous best in the Ir­ish St Leger and could again play a big part at Chan­tilly.

Then there is the Ger­man raider Dschingis Se­cret who was so dom­i­nant in the Group 2 Prix Foy on tri­als day at Chan­tilly. Should he pro­duce the same form on Oc­to­ber 1 he would not be a for­lorn hope to fol­low in the hoof­beats of Star Ap­peal and Dane­dream.

With the home team sur­pris­ingly short of se­ri­ous players the more you ex­am­ine the en­tries for this year’s Arc the more you ap­pre­ci­ate that En­able is out

stand­ingly the best can­di­date. The only neg­a­tive that I can put for­ward is that she has been on the go all sea­son, racing at the high­est level which is cer­tainly not the ideal prepa­ra­tion.

Canny French train­ers tend to give their best Arc hopes a lengthy break in high sum­mer be­fore some­times bring­ing them back for a warm-up event on tri­als Sun­day.It is a time-hon­oured sys­tem that has paid rich div­i­dends down the years.

En­able, in con­trast, has run six times this year, start­ing with an eye-catch­ing third be­hind sta­ble mate Shut­ter Speed over an in­ad­e­quate tie at New­bury in April.Her sub­se­quent suc­cess at Ch­ester set her up per­fectly for four con­sec­u­tive Group 1 vic­to­ries, the lat­est com­ing in the York­shire Oaks at the end of Au­gust.

She has won on all types of ground, clearly loves her racing and is firmly es­tab­lished as one of the best mid­dle dis­tance mares of modern times.

While you can­not fault her class or her at­ti­tude you have to won­der if such a hec­tic cam­paign might have left its mark as au­tumn leaves start to fall in Paris. Nor do out­stand­ing Bri­tish-trained fil­lies have a good record in the Arc.

But the pos­i­tives most def­i­nitely out­weigh the neg­a­tives and let’s not for­get that in July Frankie Det­tori de­fied pain and hunger to main­tain his part­ner­ship with En­able. He rushed back pre­ma­turely from a frac­tured shoul­der to make his date with des­tiny on her in the Ir­ish Oaks and then en­dured a week’s diet of wa­ter and fish to do the cor­rect weight of 8 st 7 lbs in the King Ge­orge.

He re­calls: “When John rang to say she was go­ing to run at As­cot I was happy be­cause it was £1m race but I also knew I had to lose 7 lbs in a hurry.

“I did it in six days, paced my­self, and stuck to a strict diet of wa­ter and fish which was a bit bor­ing but I wasn’t go­ing to let any­one else ride her.

“En­able is a su­per­star and she de­stroyed them in the King Ge­orge.She is un­com­pli­cated, easy for me to ride, has a good mind, all the things you want.

“If you try to keep up with her she will break your lungs and she is more com­pet­i­tive when some­thing comes to her.

“I would pre­fer to have a lead in the Arc but she is sen­si­ble enough to make the run­ning if we need to. We’ve got that weapon in our ar­moury.”

Gos­den com­mented at the time: “Frankie killed him­self to make the weight. His hunger and pas­sion for the game are undimmed and I find that re­mark­able.”

He is in no doubt that En­able is the best filly he has trained. “She is won­der­ful. To fol­low the likes of Dahlia and Pawneese in the King Ge­orge says so much. She ex­ploded early in the straight at As­cot and can han­dle any ground.

“I think it is the style of her win­ning that makes her great. It is quite ob­vi­ous she wants to race. She doesn’t wait for things to go her way, she takes it by the the horns.”

The pos­i­tive tac­tics em­ployed by Det­tori on En­able at York of­fered a timely glimpse of what might hap­pen at Chan­tilly.

Gos­den ex­plained: “If there is no pace in the Arc we wouldn’t be fright­ened of mak­ing all in the Arc. That was one thing I wanted, to let her use her stride to find that out.”

En­able has bright­ened our lives as she has danced ev­ery dance this sum­mer. The le­gions of Bri­tish vis­i­tors to Arc week­end will be hop­ing she can de­liver one more im­pe­ri­ous per­for­mance to set the blood racing.


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