Sky Sports Racing’s Alex Hammond is back with her weekly blog and reveals her selection for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe!
After a week off that comprised of life admin, a vet visit and my cousin’s wedding, I’m back raring to go ahead of one of the greatest flat races in the world.
This weekend I’m lucky enough to be heading to Paris to cover the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for Sky Sports Racing.
This hasn’t always been a straightforward meeting for me to get to. Last year, in the midst of passport chaos and Covid, it transpired that my own passport had expired, and despite late attempts to renew it, I was left in Blighty to watch our coverage on the TV.
I’m not overly keen on flying and as a result the train takes the strain where possible, so Eurostar tickets were booked for me and my colleagues (I do feel I’m getting over the plane phobia thing, but this is a nice way to travel, so I’m rolling with it).
So, all being well the team should be in Paris as planned and I’m excited to be there once again. The race itself hasn’t been without controversy.
Australian superstar Verry Elleegant was sportingly sent to be trained in France by her owners with an Arc bid in mind, but a couple of below-par runs have seen her rating drop sufficiently which would potentially have seen her miss the cut for the race.
The owners had a tough decision to make on Wednesday as she would have needed to be supplemented into the race at a cost of €120,000.
They haven’t gambled and sadly she won’t be given the chance to strut her stuff against the best middle-distance horses in the world.
The disappointment for the connections of any horse that misses out will come if there are non-runners on the day due to the ground, but that’s another story. Let’s get back to the Arc itself then and it should be an outstanding race.
We know we are guaranteed a big field and most likely soft ground so who wins Europe’s most valuable, and one of the most prestigious races in our sport?
Luxembourg – One-time leading Derby hope for Aidan O’Brien and the “lads” but suffered a setback after the 2000 Guineas and didn’t make it back until August. Won the Irish Champion Stakes on his most recent outing and primed to be at his peak for this race. Belated first try at 12 furlongs, which could bring about more improvement.
Alpinista – Admirable mare who has won her last seven starts. Versatile ground-wise and stays this trip really well. Will be suited by a typical Arc slog if the ground goes very soft. Beat last year’s subsequent Arc winner Torquator Tasso in Germany last year.
Torquator Tasso – Been building back to his winning form of last year. Second to Pyledriver on unsuitably fast ground in the King George, but only second to stablemate Mendocino where the small field didn’t play to his strengths. Connections will be hoping for a monsoon in Paris.
Titleholder – Strong claims of giving Japan a much coveted first win in the Arc. Has stamina to burn and is also effective over this distance. Heavy rain could pose a problem though, as testing ground is an unknown.
Vadeni – Brilliant winner of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July, but only third when sent off favourite for the Irish Champion Stakes. He wasn’t fully wound up that day, so should strip fitter. The step up to a mile and a half isn’t guaranteed to suit.
Westover – Unlucky third in the Derby before running away with the Irish equivalent. Keen going sort who ruined his chance by pulling too hard in the King George. Had a short break since and is reunited with Rob Hornby who knows him well. Excellent chance of bouncing back if his temperament doesn’t get the better of him.
Onesto – Half-length second to Luxembourg in the Irish Champion Stakes last time out and back on home turf now. Already proven over this trip thanks to a high-profile win in the Grand Prix de Paris in July where he had subsequent Leger winner Eldar Eldarov back in fourth.
La Parisienne – Runner-up to Nashwa in the Prix de Diane, staying on strongly. Most recently third in the Prix Vermeille on her first try at this trip. That form doesn’t look quite good enough, but as a three-year-old filly she gets all the weight allowances.
Al Hakeem – Like Vadeni is trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, who saddled Sottsass to win this race two years ago. Steps up to a mile and a half for the first time but looks like it shouldn’t be a problem.
Mishriff – Prize money won looks like the figures plucked out of a telephone book, but this five-year-old is yet to visit the winner’s enclosure in 2022. Has proven to be incredibly versatile, but there’s no evidence he will bounce back in a race of this quality.
Do Deuce – Another Japanese contender who won the Japan Derby back in May. Sent off favourite on French debut in the Prix Niel but only finished fourth that day, not looking like the soft conditions were ideal.
Mendocino – Trained by Sarah Steinburg in Germany who is the wife of last year’s winning jockey Rene Piechulek. This horse beat Torquator Tasso in Germany last time out and could be a lively outsider.
Mostahdaf – Like Mishriff this horse is trained in Newmarket by John and Thady Gosden. Won seven of his 11 starts including the September Stakes at Kempton last time out (a route taken successfully by the same stable with Enable before her 2018 Arc win). Needs to find more but has been making progress.
So, who comes out on top? I often let my heart rule my head in these situations, but there is logic in this selection too. I’d love to see Sir Mark Prescott win the race with Alpinista.
A trainer of his calibre deserves to win an Arc, and Alpinista’s owner/breeder Kirsten Rausing put so much into the sport. So, it’s Alpinista for me and I hope the prize comes back over the Channel.