May 31, 2020

Arc Day round-up: Prix de l’Opera upsetter Villa Marina mulls BC Filly & Mare Turf

Villa Marina wins the Prix de l'Opera 2019 (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)

While Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) upsetter Waldgeist and dethroned champion Enable are pondering their future, Breeders’ Cup implications from the rest of Sunday’s banner card at ParisLongchamp are likewise in flux.

Villa Marina could take advantage of the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) ticket offered by the “Win and You’re In” Prix de l’Opera (G1), trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias indicated.

Victorious in the Prix de Psyche (G3) two back over Edisa, the next-out Jockey Club Oaks winner, Villa Marina stepped up in trip for the September 15 Prix Vermeille (G1) but found it a bridge too far in fourth. Reverting to about 1 1/4 miles in the Opera suited her to a tee as she sprang the 19-1 upset.

Favored Mehdaayih proved a little too exuberant on the front end, especially considering the very soft going, and gave way. Her stablemate from the John Gosden yard, Terebellum, vied with Commes before striking the front, but couldn’t hold off the well-timed rally of Villa Marina. Aidan O’Brien’s Fleeting got in gear too late and missed by a short neck, with the troubled Watch Me in third. Commes battled back to take fourth from the fading Terebellum. Mehdaayih retreated to 10th of 11. Sadly, O’Brien’s Goddess suffered a fatal injury.

Under Olivier Peslier, Villa Marina clocked 2:09.09 to advance her record to 8-3-2-2. The S.A.R.L. Darpat France homebred was unraced at two and placed in her first four starts, including to the likes of Siyarafina and Edisa. She broke through at ParisLongchamp in July, and followed up in her stakes bow in the Psyche.

“Villa Marina will either run in the Breeders’ Cup and retire to the stud or become a mare right away,” Laffon-Parias told france-galop.com. “What is for certain, is that she won’t be staying on in training next year. We will make the decision in the next 10 days. Her owner (Dario Hinojosa) is a breeder and hopes to produce to some good foals.”

The Niarchos Family’s homebred Albigna secured a Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) berth in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1). Trainer Jessica Harrington, who was continuing her purple patch with two-year-old fillies, commented on the connections’ longstanding fondness for the Breeders’ Cup. But that’s as far as she’d go regarding a potential trip to Santa Anita, preferring to evaluate rather than commit.

The winner of her first two outings at the Curragh, including the Airlie Stud (aka Balanchine) (G2), Albigna was well below form when sixth as the favorite in the “Win and You’re in” Moyglare Stud (G1) during Irish Champions Weekend. The Zoffany filly was compromised by being in season that day, but had no such issues here.

Pacesetter Marieta had the rest of the field on the ropes down the lane, among them favored Savarin, who was laboring on the ground and tired to seventh. The exception was Albigna. Once stable jockey Shane Foley set her down, the 4-1 chance powered 2 1/2 lengths clear to complete the metric mile in 1:41.26.

Godolphin’s homebred Victor Ludorum carved out a similar passage to stay perfect in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), booking a spot in the Juvenile Turf (G1) should connections be so inclined. That’s the rub, since trainer Andre Fabre is already mapping out a French classic campaign for next spring. Hence the 10 points earned in this scoring race on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby figure to be of record-keeping interest only.

The only favorite to prevail on Arc Day, Victor Ludorum unleashed a potent move for Mickael Barzalona to catch front-running Alson by three-quarters of a length. Alson got away with an easier tempo than Marieta had in the Boussac, resulting in a slower final time of 1:44.15. O’Brien’s Armory plugged on another short neck away in third, and hitherto unbeaten Ecrivain was the same margin astern in fourth.

Victor Ludorum had captured his first two on good ground, here and at Chantilly, by 3 1/2 lengths apiece. His effectiveness across all conditions is reminiscent of Godolphin’s other two star juveniles of 2019, Pinatubo and Earthlight – and he’s by the same sire, Shamardal.

The 12-1 Glass Slippers ran the field ragged in the last of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge events at ParisLongchamp, the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (G1), as odds-on favorite Battaash came up empty early. Winning owner/breeder Terry Holdcroft said she probably won’t redeem her ticket to the Turf Sprint (G1), although he’ll confer with trainer Kevin Ryan.

Glass Slippers landed the local prep, the September 15 Prix de Petit Couvert (G3), but that wasn’t as tough a group as the recent sprints in Great Britain in Ireland. As it turned out, conditions made the form book less instructive. Showing high speed with regular rider Tom Eaves, the Dream Ahead filly scampered three lengths clear in :58.04. O’Brien’s So Perfect ran up to her level in second, while Mabs Cross was only fifth, Fairyland 10th, and Battaash an eased 14th of 16. Trainer Charlie Hills was left baffled by Battaash’s display, so stay tuned regarding his Breeders’ Cup status.

Lael Stables’ defending champion One Master outdueled favored City Light in a tussle of market leaders in the about seven-furlong Prix de la Foret (G1), handing jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot a big double after his Arc aboard Waldgeist. The William Haggas mare asserted by a half-length in 1:23.66 to become the first repeat winner since Moorestyle (1980-81). Speaking in Colours reported home another 3 1/2 lengths back in third.

Although the Foret is not a “Win and You’re In,” it typically produces Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) contenders. Haggas commented that One Master, fifth in last year’s Mile, could wheel back for the October 19 British Champions Sprint (G1) at Ascot. City Light’s co-owner Jean-Louis Bouchard expressed his interest in tackling Santa Anita, with the proviso that his partners have to be on board.