If perhaps overshadowed by the Breeders’ Cup splash made by Irish Champions Weekend, Sunday’s Arc trials at ParisLongchamp figure to be informative not only for the October 7 bonanza but potentially for Churchill Downs as well.
An older male hasn’t won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) since Dylan Thomas (2007), but don’t tell that to Waldgeist. Producing a turbo charge from off the pace in the Prix Foy (G2), the Andre Fabre trainee overwhelmed stablemates Talismanic and Cloth of Stars to win handily by 2 1/2 lengths.
Waldgeist, last seen landing the July 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1), continued his career-best form while extending his winning streak to four. The Galileo colt had the whiff of an underachiever last year, but he’s a fully mature specimen now.
Cloth of Stars had likewise not raced since Saint-Cloud, having finished fourth behind Waldgeist when his saddle slipped. Fabre was reportedly pleased with his prep effort. Cloth of Stars, a closing second in last year’s Foy, moved forward to take runner-up honors behind Enable in the Arc, so there’s precedent for him to improve from the trial.
The Arc’s all-time leading trainer also confirmed that Talismanic would line up in the Arc on the way to a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Interestingly, Fabre commented that Talismanic is better suited to 1 1/4 than 1 1/2 miles. That distinction would apply more to the stiffer European tracks than to America, where he clearly handled the trip well around Del Mar. But Fabre’s view is worth keeping in mind when assessing Talismanic’s performance in the Arc. For him, the first Sunday in October is a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup.
The sneakiest prepper in the Foy, however, is probably Capri, hero of last year’s Irish Derby (G1) (over Cracksman and Waldgeist) and St Leger (G1). The Aidan O’Brien pupil had been sidelined since capturing his seasonal reappearance in the April 13 Alleged (G3), so this marked only his second race in nearly a year. After chasing the pace, he understandably tired from lack of fitness and wound up fifth of six. But given how much O’Brien horses usually profit from a pipe-opener, Capri stands to be a different animal on Arc Day, especially if he gets a rain-affected track.
The fastest of the trio of Arc trials was the Prix Vermeille (G1) for distaffers, courtesy of a punishing pace that played into the hands of Kitesurf. Another Fabre trainee, the Godolphin colorbearer roared from last to head O’Brien’s Magic Wand on the line in a blistering 2:26.43. The top two drew clear of Zarkamiya, the blueblood daughter of Frankel and Zarkava.
As of Monday, Fabre sounded more inclined to point Kitesurf to the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) on October 20 than the Arc, but the decision is pending. Since Kitesurf was stepping up from her first Group 2 success in the Prix de Pomone (G2), heading to Ascot would be the more conservative course.
Magic Wand proved that she’s back to her best after battling the midsummer illness that afflicted Ballydoyle, while further boosting the form of the Yorkshire Oaks (G1). She was fifth at York behind Sea of Class, currently second favorite for the Arc (to defending champion Enable). Other Yorkshire Oaks alumnae to flatter Sea of Class include Saturday’s Matron (G1) upsetter Laurens, Sunday’s Blandford (G2) winner Eziyra, and last Thursday’s Park Hill (G2) near-misser Horseplay. Presumably Magic Wand would return to Paris for the Prix de l’Opera (G1) on Arc Day, then rate a top threat in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), as long as the ground is riding quick.
The slowest of the trials, the Prix Niel (G2) for three-year-olds, was also the shakiest from a form perspective. Godolphin’s Brundtland belied his inexperience to go wire to wire, outgaming O’Brien’s Hunting Horn, in 2:31.55 – almost three seconds off the Foy (2:28.70) and fully five seconds behind the Vermeille.
Now unbeaten from three starts, Brundtland capped a banner Sunday for sire Dubawi, also responsible for Kitesurf and Vincent O’Brien National (G1) scorer Quorto. Trainer Charlie Appleby wisely sees the Arc as too tall a task at this point for a colt who wasn’t even nominated to it. The October 6 Prix de Chaudenay (G2) has been mentioned as his accessible goal.
If the Niel is to have any bearing on the Arc, it will come through third-placer Neufbosc, who turned in a satisfactory trial as the odds-on favorite. The form choice as the runner-up to Kew Gardens in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1), Neufbosc had the race shape all against him here and closed respectably.
Two other prep races were staged with a view toward the Arc undercard.
In the Prix du Pin (G3), the about seven-furlong tune-up for the Prix de la Foret (G1), Tornibush hit a new career high for himself and trainer Philippe Decouz. Fabre’s favored Inns of Court did his best work late for third, but Tornibush was in command.
A late foal peaking as a four-year-old, Tornibush is unlucky not to be unbeaten this year, his record sullied by a troubled fourth last time in the August 30 Oettingen-Rennen (G2) at Baden-Baden. Fans of the Man o’ War sire line have an extra reason to root for him: he’s a colt by Dream Ahead, from the deep family of Vadamos and Valixir.
Shadwell’s sophomore filly Tantheem put on a speed exhibition over older males in the Prix du Petit Couvert (G3), advertising her claims ahead of the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1). City Light, the near-misser in the Diamond Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot, flubbed the start again and had to settle for second in the about five-furlong dash.
Tantheem, who also toppled her elders in the August 26 Prix de Meautry (G3), has now won two in a row since reverting in trip for Freddie Head.