The SPORTING spotlight falls on Paris for the second weekend in succession when the Arc comes to town.
Francesco Molinari holed the winning putt as Europe regained the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National last Sunday, and fellow Italian and keen golfer Frankie Dettori is also seeking gold on ENABLE as the race returns to its traditional home of Longchamp.
But it may be local trainer Andre Fabre who spoils the party despite it being a dozen years since his last Arc win with Rail Link.
So, has he lost his touch when it comes to Europe’s richest race? Not at all.
While an eighth win has so far eluded him, he has gone close in five of the last six runnings, the exception being the 2016 renewal in which Aidan O’Brien saddled the first three home.
Masterstroke, Intello, Flintshire (twice), New Bay and CLOTH OF STARS have all been placed since 2012, Flintshire and Cloth of Stars having the misfortune to come up against those exceptional fillies Treve and ENABLE.
For my money WALDGEIST may be his best chance. This slow burner smacks of a Fabre masterplan as he really fancied him to beat Cracksman in last year’s Irish Derby. He drew a blank at three when he suffered a narrow defeat in the Jockey Club, finished fourth in the Irish Derby and was turned over at odds on in the Cumberland Lodge.
But he’s had no trouble getting his head in front this term and his prep race the Prix Foy was his fourth success in a row and a career-best effort.
It was certainly a more convincing performance with the Arc in mind than his win in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July when he’d beaten Coronet by just a nose, the runner-up a smart filly but not in the same league as stable companions ENABLE and the ground dependent Cracksman who bypasses Paris in favour of the Champions Stakes.
Other contenders include STUDY OF MAN, but his limitations were brutally exposed at Leopardstown and I can’t help but feel he would be better off waiting for Churchill Downs and hoping those who have his number stay at home.
No St Leger winner has ever followed up in this contest and KEW GARDENS is unlikely to buck that trend.
Finally, there’s a unique set of circumstances this year, following Longchamp’s closure for refurbishment for two seasons and Chantilly’s temporary hosting of the Arc, which might just give horses who contested an Arc trial an extra edge.
Most of the other leading Arc contenders lack any experience around Longchamp, and that includes hot favourite ENABLE who, despite being last year’s winner, has to be opposed.
In the Prix de l’Abbeye BATTAASH will be looking to put his York flop behind him and win for a second successive year, but the breakneck pace may play in to the hands of CITY LIGHT and the Michael Dodd trained MABS CROSS (currently 7/1 with Carrigill’s) who won’t be crossing the channel just for the fun of it.
Closer to home David Elsworth’s RIPP ORF doesn’t appear to be yet in the grip of the handicapper and can win again at Ascot in Saturday’s (tomorrow) Challenge Cup. Connections of WIND CHIMES have stumped up £20,000 as a supplementary entry fee for the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes and the clock suggests this could turn out to be a profitable decision with market leader LAURENS the one to beat.