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Qatar Arc de Triomphe : Eleven challengers face Enable

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We moved a step closer to the probable line up of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the world championship of horse racing, and due to take centre stage at ParisLongchamp on Sunday [October 6] following the Wednesday (Oct 2) third acceptance stage. Unless there are any last minute defections, a field of 12, including the hot favourite Enable, who angles for an unprecedented treble, is expected. The French colt Soft Light (Authorized) has been supplemented by his owner, Claudio Marzocco, at a cost of 120 000 € for the privilege of taking part. The supplementary entry stage enables those horses which weren’t entered at the original closing date (May 15) to be added to the field. This option was introduced in 1986 and, since then, four future winners: Saumarez (1990) Danedream (2011) Trêve (who gained the first of her two wins in 2013) and Enable (2017), were all added to the field at this stage.

Soft Light, with just one win under his belt following a successful introduction, will bat as an outsider. However, the Jean-Claude Rouget runner loves a bit of give in the ground, and is coming off a creditable second in the Lucien Barrière Grand Prix de Deauville (Group 2). He is due to be ridden by the 50-year-old Japanese star Yutaka Take.

Japan enlists the help of Christophe Soumillon

Christophe Soumillon, the champion jockey of France, is due to team up with the Japanese raider Kiseki (Rulership). The partnership were united for the first time in the Qatar Prix Foy on September 15th, and the subsequent third place obtained by the visitor clearly doesn’t place him in the leading contender category. However, Christophe Soumillon, due to embark on a winter stint in Japan, is sticking by his mount. He said: “I think that his return race in the Qatar Prix Foy at ParisLongchamp should sharpen him up. He worked well last week and, although he performed very disappointingly in the Prix Foy in relation to what we have come to expect from him, the forecast soft ground on Sunday should enable to come on for the run. We’ve seen many horses turn in below par efforts in the ‘Arc’ trials – before turning it on come the big day. Let’s hope that this example will apply to him on Sunday.

Kiseki isn’t the best horse in Japan and he is certainly not in the class of either Deep Impact or Orfèvre: horses which carried all before them in Japan. He won a classic but has also tasted defeat on a consistent basis. It has been said that he will perhaps click at ParisLongchamp in view of his superb stride and his first rate attitude. One is aware that the horse is capable of turning it on and that he is well endowed on the stamina front. We are hoping for a true run race as, the quicker the tempo, the better it is for him.

As I’ve said repeatedly, you need the best horse to win the Arc de Triomphe. You can’t expect to win the race with a horse that doesn’t cut it at this level – instead you need a horse that is something out of the ordinary. It’s the case with the current favourite for the race, Enable, as she’s the world’s best racemare. However, even the very best performers can get beaten. Who could ever have foreseen that Solemia would beat Orfèvre? I was certain that I was going to ride the very first Japanese winner of the race but, for a reason which I still can’t get my head around, my mount got beaten by Solemia. In order to win the Arc, you also need a horse with considerable powers of acceleration, which is a necessity to be able to win at ParisLongchamp. I believe that the French horses can beat their British counterparts on this particular track owing to their ability to deliver a sprint finish; taking into account that the English raiders are more galloping types, whose toughness comes into play.

I’m very proud of being able to ride a Japanese horse in the Arc, and I would dearly love to be on board the first winner from this country. I’m convinced that the Japanese will one day win the Arc. Will it be this year? I’ve no idea. However, I will be returning to Japan during the winter, and one of my aims while I’m there is to identify a potential Arc winner.”

A track in pristine condition

After the particularly hot and dry summer, the rains have returned to the Parisian region.

Jean-Guillaume d’Orglandes, in charge of track maintenance at ParisLongchamp, Saint-Cloud and Auteuil, said: “On Wednesday [Oct 2], the penetrometer reading [ParisLongchamp) was 3,5 [soft]. We’ve had 5.5mm of rain late on Tuesday and overnight, and, in view of the current forecast, the ground is expected to ride good to soft, or even soft, on Saturday; whereas conditions are expected to be soft, or even very soft, on the Sunday card. The far running rail will be moved 17 metres in-field on Saturday but this won’t apply on the Sunday when the cut-off, or open stretch, will be six metres in-field.  After the last meeting here on September 21, we’ve had good growth of grass – with the density to match. The track was rolled at the beginning of the week. We cut the grass on Monday and are planning on doing so again on Wednesday and Friday. The track should ride like a quality carpet and one which reflects the autumnal conditions.”