Bracketing Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) are four additional Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races. The Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) and Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) offer free berths to the Juvenile Turf (G1) and Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), respectively, while the Prix de l’Opera (G1) is a Challenge event for the Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (G1) plays the same role for the Turf Sprint (G1).
Prix de l’Opera (G1) – Race 5 (10:50 a.m. ET)
The 2020 Opera turned out to be a key pointer to the Breeders’ Cup, with Tarnawa denying Audarya at ParisLongchamp. Tarnawa went on to beat males in the Turf (G1), and Audarya sprang a 17.80-1 upset in the Filly & Mare Turf. With Tarnawa in the Arc, Audarya does not have to deal with her as she tries the Opera again.
Winless since her Keeneland heroics, Audarya has nevertheless gone close in two of three outings this campaign. The James Fanshawe mare was a gallant second to Love in their mutual comeback in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot. After regressing to fifth in the Nassau (G1) at Glorious Goodwood, Audarya returned to top form at Deauville. The daughter of Wootton Bassett appeared on the verge of a repeat victory in the Aug. 22 Prix Jean Romanet (G1), only to be nailed by the progressive Grand Glory.
The Romanet superfecta will renew rivalry over the same about 1 1/4-mile distance in the Opera. Third-placer Thundering Nights made headlines earlier in the summer when edging ill-fated Santa Barbara in the Pretty Polly (G1). Romanet fourth Ambition had missed narrowly to Audarya in the previous year’s edition.
Most of the Opera field, however, consists of sophomore fillies. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Joan of Arc was an apt winner of the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1), beating Burgarita, Sibila Spain, Rougir, and Incarville. Joan of Arc subsequently finished third in the Nassau and last in the Prix Vermeille (G1). Zeyaadah, runner-up in the Nassau for Roger Varian, was a better-than-appears sixth in the Aug. 21 Prix de la Nonette (G2) at Deauville after blowing the break. Babylone likewise failed to do herself justice as the Nonette eighth, but the Andre Fabre filly has won both Longchamp appearances including the July 14 Prix de Malleret (G2). Nonette near-misser Penja and unbeaten Preis der Diana (German Oaks) (G1) romper Palmas add to the intrigue.
Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) – Race 6 (11:25 a.m. ET)
Reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) vixen Glass Slippers will try to book a return ticket in the Abbaye, where she must overcome a high-class three-year-old filly in Suesa.
Glass Slippers is a neck away from perfection over this about five-furlong course, having won the 2019 Abbaye and Prix de Petit Couvert (G3) and gone down in a dogfight with Wooded here as the defending champion last year. Third to Suesa in her belated reappearance in the July 30 King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood, Glass Slippers was a much closer third in her title defense in the Sept. 12 Flying Five (G1) at the Curragh. The Kevin Ryan mare could be even better in this third start of the year as she re-opposes the top two from the Flying Five, Romantic Proposal and A Case of You.
Suesa will take some beating, though. Undefeated on French soil, all at Chantilly, the Francois Rohaut pupil stamped herself as a serious sprinter in the Prix Sigy (G3) and Prix Texanita (G3). Suesa suffered her first loss when eighth in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (G1), but showed her real ability on the cutback to five furlongs in her ensuing British ventures. A smashing winner of the King George, Suesa rattled home for fourth in a Nunthorpe (G1) that did not set up to her advantage. Nunthorpe victress Winter Power is a machine at her best, but she found life tougher away from York when tiring to 10th in the Flying Five last out.
Recent Petit Couvert hero Berneuil leads several exiting that course-and-distance prep – third Wild Majesty; fourth Mo Celita; fifth Air de Valse, the 2020 Petit Couvert winner; seventh Lady in France, who is worth a look off that tightener in light of her fourth in last fall’s Abbaye; and 10th Pradaro, who had outdueled Berneuil to upset the Prix du Gros-Chene (G2) back in June.
Lady in France is one of two for Karl Burke, along with sophomore filly Dandalla, who just ended a long losing streak in the Sept. 17 Scottish Sprint at Ayr. Johnny Murtagh sends Urban Beat, third in his past two listed tries including to Winter Power in York’s City Walls S.
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) – Race 2 (8:50 a.m. ET)
While Ebro River brandishes the marquee formline as the Phoenix (G1) winner and Vincent O’Brien National (G1) third, Ancient Rome has plenty of appeal. Trained by Fabre for the Coolmore partners, the well-bred son of War Front would likely be unbeaten if not for racing greenly on debut. Ancient Rome has since won three in a row, most recently justifying odds-on favoritism in the Prix des Chenes (G3).
Noble Truth represents the red-hot Charlie Appleby, but the Godolphin homebred must move forward after just scraping home in the Flying Scotsman S. at Doncaster. A similar point applies to the Ballydoyle maiden Stone Age, who was a head away from breaking through in the Champions Juvenile (G2) at Leopardstown.
Also notable are Vintage (G2) winner Angel Bleu, unbeaten German Group 3 scorer Rocchigiani, and undefeated Prix du Calvados (G2) heroine Accakaba, who prefers to take on males at this about seven-furlong trip rather than stretch out for the Boussac in her own division.
The Lagardere offers points on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, according to the 10-4-2-1 pattern, but that appears of academic interest only for this group.
Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) – Race 1 (8:15 a.m. ET)
Fabre has lavished praise on Juddmonte blueblood Raclette, now 2-for-2 after romping in a Chantilly conditions race over a metric mile on soft going. Although those conditions figure to recur on Sunday, Fabre has expressed concern that the course might end up too soft. If so, the master trainer prefers to step her up in class on better ground in Newmarket’s Oh So Sharp (G3) next Friday. Nevertheless, the daughter of Frankel and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Emollient is still the heavy antepost favorite for the Boussac.
Should Raclette take her chance here, Fabre would be triple-handed. His duo of Fleur d’Iris and Zellie recently served up the exacta in the course-and-distance Prix d’Aumale (G3).
Either way, sire Frankel should still have a solid contender in George Strawbridge’s homebred Natasha. The half-sister to Almanzor has earned a crack at this level following two daylight victories for John and Thady Gosden.
Invading for Joseph O’Brien is Agartha, the one with Group 1 form in the book. The Debutante (G2) and Silver Flash (G3) winner comes off a runner-up effort in the Moyglare Stud (G1). Acer Alley, a Siyouni half to Digital Age, defeated males in the Sept. 5 Prix La Rochette (G3) that has worked out well. Both placegetters have advertised the form this week, with runner-up Making Moovies just missing in Friday’s Prix Thomas Bryon (G3) and El Bodegon winning the Prix de Conde (G3).
Oscula, who beat Zellie in the Aug. 3 Prix Six Perfections (G3), has since placed third in the Prix du Calvados (G2) and Rockfel (G2). Trainer George Boughey thought about sticking to about seven furlongs for the Lagardere but decided to stick with fillies instead.
Who Knows was acquired by Teruya Yoshida following her narrow verdict in the Aug. 15 Prix Francois Boutin (G3) over males, and Times Square was third versus useful colts in a Deauville listed stakes.
Prix de la Foret (G1) – Race 9 (12 p.m. ET)
The Foret is not a Challenge race, but it historically yields contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Appleby finally gets his seven-furlong specialist Space Blues to this target, after being forced to miss it for the past two seasons. The Group 1 veteran was back on song in the Aug. 21 City of York (G2).
Kinross dethroned Space Blues in the July 27 Lennox (G2) at Glorious Goodwood on soft going, and the onetime classic participant has become a more reliable type since being gelded. A respectable fifth to Marianafoot in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) in his latest, Kinross is most effective at this trip.
Several contenders are fillies. Sagamiyra, edged by Mother Earth in the Prix Rothschild (G1), beat the boys in the course-and-distance Prix du Pin (G3) last out. The improving Pearls Galore just missed by a head in the Matron (G1), where Mother Earth was an unlucky third. Also in the distaff brigade are Speak of the Devil, third in both the Rothschild and Pin; Tropbeau, runner-up in the Maurice de Gheest two back; and the top two from the Oak Tree (G3) at Glorious Goodwood, Last Empire and Onassis.
Prix du Muguet (G2) scorer Duhail twice chased home Marianafoot at this course in distance, in the Prix du Palais-Royal (G3) and Prix de la Porte Maillot (G3). Fourth when up in class and trip for the Sussex (G1), the Fabre runner was most recently second again in the Aug. 21 Prix de Meautry (G3) on the cutback.
Thunder Moon has been largely disappointing at three, but the Joseph O’Brien pupil delivered his best effort of 2021 when missing narrowly in the Prix Jean Prat (G1). Njord has collected a trio of Group placings this season for in-form Jessica Harrington, including seconds to Kinross in the John of Gaunt (G3) and to Breeders’ Cup shocker Order of Australia in the Curragh’s The Minstrel (G2). Japan’s Entschneiden, a respectable fifth in his Pin tune-up, faces a deeper field in more challenging conditions.