Twenty horses remain eligible for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) as of Monday’s forfeit stage, and that’s not even counting heavily favored Enable. John Gosden’s triple Oaks heroine is set to be supplemented on Wednesday, setting the stage for a rematch with Ulysses, who was second to Enable in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1). Aidan O’Brien, and Coolmore supersire Galileo, have no fewer than seven candidates in a bid to replicate their incredible Arc trifecta, including last year’s placegetters, Highland Reel and Order of St George, along with dual classic winners Capri and Winter.
The field will come into sharper focus as the week unfolds. Tuesday marks the second forfeit stage, with supplementary entries and the announcement of probables on Wednesday, and final declarations on Thursday.
As expected, Enable is the lone participant from the Gosden yard after his top sophomore colt, Cracksman, opted to pass despite hacking up in the course-and-distance Prix Niel (G2). The winner of her last five in a row, highlighted by the Oaks (G1) at Epsom, the Irish Oaks (G1) and the aforementioned King George over older males, the Juddmonte homebred used the August 24 Yorkshire Oaks (G1) as her stepping stone.
Distaffers have enjoyed a purple patch of late in the Arc, capitalizing on the weight concession from the older males. Six of the last nine editions have gone to the fairer sex, and while Enable is the likeliest to further the trend, she’s not the only one. Winter has the class as a four-time Group 1 winner of the 1000 Guineas (G1), the Irish equivalent, the Coronation (G1), and the Nassau (G1), but the obvious question mark is the unknown venture of the about 1 1/2-mile trip. Other females in the Arc picture are Winter’s stablemate Seventh Heaven, last year’s Irish and Yorkshire Oaks victress who was eased in the Blandford (G2) in her return from an injury, and the Carlos Laffon-Parias trainee Left Hand, the 2016 Prix Vermeille (G1) winner who was a troubled third in her title defense. Only 12th behind Found here a year ago, she has something to find on form. (Tuesday update: Left Hand was the only withdrawal at the second forfeit stage.)
Older males, in contrast, have had a tough time trying to win the Arc in recent years. The last to do so was O’Brien’s Dylan Thomas (2007), in a messy race that doesn’t rank among the tip-top editions.
O’Brien’s globetrotting warrior Highland Reel seeks to go one better this time, and he’s arriving at Chantilly a fresher horse. Unlike 2016, when he made the seventh start of his campaign in this spot following a seventh in a rain-softened Irish Champion (G1), Highland Reel has raced just four times so far in 2017. After a quick double in the Coronation Cup (G1) and Prince of Wales’s (G1), he caught unsuitable ground in the King George and plugged on an uncharacteristically one-paced fourth. With an unsettled forecast for Chantilly later in the week, Highland Reel must hope that the rain stays away. If it doesn’t, his Arc will devolve into just a prep for a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Conversely, Order of St George and Capri are rooting for the rain. Outstanding stayer Order of St George needs the Arc to turn into a thoroughgoing stamina test. Last year, a quick-ground Arc didn’t play to his greatest strengths, yet he still finished an admirable third. The more grueling the conditions, the better for the 2016 Ascot Gold Cup (G1) star who recently regained his crown in the Irish St Leger (G1). The antepost market is wagering on a favorable forecast, betting Order of St George down to third choice behind only Enable and Ulysses. Capri is likewise cutting back in distance after his determined success in the St Leger (G1) at Doncaster. The gray has an advantage over Order of St George in that he’s also a major winner at 1 1/2 miles, in the Irish Derby (G1). On the other hand, the only St Leger winner to add the Arc is *Ballymoss (a year apart in 1957-58), so Capri has the weight of history against him on the winner’s podium.
Rounding out the Ballydoyle seven are reigning Hardwicke (G2) hero Idaho, Highland Reel’s full brother who flopped as the favorite in the Sword Dancer (G1), and Cliffs of Moher, who’s regressed since his near-miss in the June 3 Derby (G1) at Epsom.
Galileo fields a total of eight in the Arc, led by early second choice Ulysses. Fourth to Highland Reel in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Sir Michael Stoute pupil is on course for the November 4 renewal at Del Mar, but as a much more mature individual. Since his third, again to Highland Reel, in the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot this summer, Ulysses has blossomed. The blueblood son of 2007 Oaks queen Light Shift has gone on to land the Eclipse (G1) and most recently the Juddmonte International (G1), in arguably a career-best display. Ulysses must engineer a 4 1/2-length form reversal with Enable, but he’s not giving away quite as much weight as he was in the King George – 10 pounds as opposed to 14.
Japan, still in search of an elusive Arc, relies on Satono Diamond and a pacesetting assist from Satono Noblesse. But last year’s Japanese champion three-year-old colt was only fourth to Germany’s Dschingis Secret in the local prep for the older brigade, the Prix Foy (G2). While trainer Yasutoshi Ikee can work on his lack of fitness on that day, the potential for soft ground again must be a concern for the son of Deep Impact. Dschingis Secret won’t mind whatever the conditions may be, having won the Grosser Hansa-Preis (G2) on heavy and the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) on good going in his prior two.
Godolphin’s Cloth of Stars turned in the right sort of prep when second in the Foy for master horseman Andre Fabre, aiming for an eighth Arc trophy. By 2009 Arc legend Sea the Stars, Cloth of Stars opened 2017 with a three-race winning streak capped by the Prix Ganay (G1) over Zarak and Silverwave. Fabre also has Plumatic (another Wertheimer et Frere homebred by Dubawi like Left Hand), who just lost a photo in the Prix du Prince d’Orange (G3), and Al Shaqab’s Doha Dream, last seen missing narrowly in the Grand Prix de Deauville (G2).
Al Shaqab’s prime player, however, is dual French classic victor Brametot. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, Brametot was up in time in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1) and Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) (G1), but never recovered from an even worse start than usual in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (G2). A back problem was found to be the culprit, and he’s reportedly back in grand shape now. Given Brametot’s late-running style, and fellow Al Shaqab runner Doha Dream’s forward placement of late, perhaps the less accomplished colorbearer can monitor the pace scenario.
The Aga Khan’s homebred Zarak, out of unbeaten 2008 Arc champion Zarkava, shares the same trainer in Alain de Royer-Dupre. The Dubawi colt played second fiddle to Almanzor a couple of times last season, notably in the French Derby, and finally broke through at the top level in the July 2 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1). Zarak, unraced in the interim, will try to take the spoils without the benefit of a recent prep. De Royer-Dupre has a secondary shot with One Foot in Heaven, the sixth-placer to Found here last October. Subsequently victorious in the course-and-distance Prix du Conseil de Paris (G2), the son of Fastnet Rock and Pride was a useful runner-up in the La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte (G3) in his warm-up.
Germany’s Iquitos, only seventh in last year’s Japan Cup (G1), was beaten by streaking countryman Dschingis Secret at Hamburg. Later notching his second Group 1 laurel in the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis (G1), Iquitos had to settle for the runner-up spot as the defending champion in the Grosser Preis von Baden (G1) in his latest.
Silverwave, who scored his signature win in the 2016 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, added the Grand Prix de Chantilly (G2) at this course and distance in June. But the Pascal Bary veteran has been up the track in the past two runnings of the Arc, and he’s succumbed to Zarak, Cloth of Stars, and Dschingis Secret this term.
The Arc anchors a superb Sunday card at Chantilly, encompassing the Prix de l’Opera (G1), a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1); the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), both a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Juvenile Turf (G1) and a points race on the new European Road to the Kentucky Derby; the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), a “Win & You’re In” for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1); the Prix de la Foret (G1) with Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) implications; and the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) for five-furlong specialists. Edit: The Prix du Cadran (G1) for the marathon set, formerly on Arc Day but moved to the Saturday program last year, remains in its new spot on Arc Eve this year.