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Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (1.15pm) betting
Native American 10/1
Ballymount Bay 14/1
Henry Adams 16/1
West Man 125/1
Have to admit, I wasn’t entirely sold on the super-modernist new Longchamp grandstand when it opened – and I’m still holding out, Asterix-like, against calling it ParisLongchamp – but it’s definitely growing on me.
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (1.15pm) preview
Some of the best juvenile form lines from Ireland, Britain and France come together in a fascinating renewal of France’s championship event for two-year-old colts. Beauvatier, trained in Deauville by ex-jokey Yann Barberot, will probably set off as favourite having remained unbeaten through his four races to date, the most recent of which was a very cosy one-length success in one of the traditional trials for this race, the Group Three Prix La Rochette over today’s track and trip. His most obvious rivals according to the betting are Richard Hannon’s Rosallion, third in the Group Two Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, and Unquestionable, from the Aidan O’Brien yard, who is the only runner in the field with prior experience at Group One level. In fact, Unquestionable was the 13-8 favourite for the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August, but finished only fourth of seven, a performance that may be explained by the facts that a. he hit his head on the stalls and b. he lost a shoe in the process. Other interesting contenders include Zabiari, in the famous green and red colours of the Aga Khan, Evade, who was a length behind Beauvatier in the Rochette, and Native American, a big-money recruit to the nascent Wathnan Racing operation after a win at York earlier in the year. Richard Fahey, his trainer, won this with Wootton Bassett, now a top stallion, in 2010, and he could still be anything after two wins from two starts, including a valuable sales race at the Curragh last time.
Without wishing to rub it in for all of you joining me from elsewhere, I can’t really overstate what a sumptuous afternoon it is here at Longchamp. It is shirt-sleeves and sunglasses in all enclosures, and the main concern for racegoers is staying hydrated and avoiding sunstroke, which has very much not been the case for several recent renewals.
The first of the day’s six Group One events, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, is now 45 minutes away, and the queues for the betting windows are growing longer by the minute.
Good afternoon from Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne, where horses, owners, trainers and jockeys from around Europe and indeed the world are converging once again, as they do every autumn, for what is, quality-wise, our continent’s most significant and valuable day at the races.
Converging, what’s more, in distinctly un-autumnal weather, with no rain in the forecast, temperatures heading towards 25C and the officially “good to soft” ground drying all the time. It was probably, by British standards, riding somewhere close to good on Saturday, and by recent Arc standards, it is going to be freakishly quick by the time the field goes to post for the big race at 16.05 local time, and 15.05 in the UK.
And what a fascinating and competitive race we have in prospect. Some years, the Arc revolves around a single horse – Enable, for instance, or Treve, a decade ago – that is some way in front of the rest of them on form. Others are wide-open, with a host of Group One-winning horses that arrive on a similar level form-wise, and often coming face-to-face for the first time. This is very much an Arc in the second category, which, to my mind at least, is the best kind there is.
The Arc, a little oddly, is the third of the six Group One events on today’s schedule, when it feels like it should really be at the climax of the card. I think it’s something to do with the lottery-style “Tierce” race on the PMU being fixed at the same time every weekend, but I stand to be corrected. Regardless, the “second-string” events are very much championship races in their own right, and since it looks as though Europe may wrap up the Ryder Cup in record time this afternoon, bear in mind that there will still be Group One action in France until 17.00 BST.
That is also likely to be the best time to tune in if you are hoping to see Frankie Dettori ride a Group One winner on his final Arc afternoon at Longchamp. The retiring former champion has five rides in all on the card, including Free Wind, at around 16-1, in the big race, but Kinross, the very warm favourite for the Prix de la Foret, is very much the standout.
The early Arc betting with British bookies has Ace Impact, the unbeaten Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner, as clear favourite at around 3-1, with Hukum, the King George winner at Ascot in July, next best at 6-1. Westover, though, who was just a head behind Hukum at Ascot, is a little uneasy in the market, and out to 7-1 joint third-favourite with Continuous, the St Leger winner, perhaps because he is one of the few in the field that might prefer a bit more cut in the ground.
With two juvenile championships and the frantic five-furlong dash that is the Prix de l’Abbaye to look forward to as well, it is a card with something for everyone and you can follow all the news, views and Arc-day dramas right here on our live blog until the sun sets over the Bois de Boulogne.