Almanzor (left) is the best in Europe at 1m2f but unlikely to go for the Arc
PICTURE: Alain Barr (racingpost.com/photos)
LAST weekend couldn’t have gone any better for Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe favourite Postponed as one by one his main rivals disappointed.
On Saturday two of Europe’s leading three-year-olds were beaten in the Irish Champion Stakes, Minding receiving her biggest ever defeat in third and Harzand finishing eighth after picking up an injury.
The following day Japan’s Makahiki was workmanlike in his Prix Niel success, while the other French trials were pretty insignificant and Order Of St George was chinned at long odds-on in the Irish St Leger.
Then by Monday it was clear that Almanzor, who became second favourite for the Arc after his Irish Champion Stakes win on Saturday, was probably heading to the Champion Stakes at Ascot instead of the Arc.
Yet after all that turbulence Postponed’s price didn’t move much – he’s 7-2 in most places to add to his six-race winning streak – and he’s now looking an increasingly good bet for France’s end-of-season showpiece.
Almanzor best over 1m2f in Europe
His biggest rival on the ratings and in the market is Almanzor, who matched Postponed’s best RPR of 126 when winning an incredibly deep running of the Irish Champion by three-quarters of a length from top-level yardstick Found (122).
The first and second were held up off the strong pace and got clean runs down the outside of the field, whereas Minding (116+) didn’t get the clearest passage up the inside to finish third, three and a half lengths behind the winner.
Almanzor’s rating makes him the best turf three-year-old on the planet this year, but there are problems as far as the Arc is concerned as he has never run further than 1m21/2f and the race has never been his target.
Before and after Leopardstown, trainer Jean-Claude Rouget made it clear that the plan was always the Champion Stakes as he sees the horse as a 1m2f performer.
At Ascot he would have the chance to prove himself the best horse at that trip in Europe and cement his new-found status as the continent’s leading three-year-old, which should be enough of a draw to keep him away from Chantilly.
Rouget may yet change his mind, but the Arc would fall firmly in the ‘afterthought’ category.
La Cressonniere concerns
Next best in the market for the Arc at present is La Cressonniere, also trained by Rouget. She’s unbeaten in eight starts and is unquestionably a smart filly, but there are a couple of doubts about her.
First is the distance as she has not run beyond 1m21/2f either.
Next is class. Yes, she’s been unstoppable against her own age and sex, but the recent fillies from her demographic who won the Arc (Treve and Zarkava) were a long way clear of their contemporaries, had much higher RPRs (120 and 124) than La Cressonniere’s 115 and were proven at the trip.
Value gone on Makahiki
Next in the market is Sunday’s Prix Niel winner Makahiki, who is still available at 10-1. World Class readers know all about him after he was flagged up as Japan’s Arc hope on the back of a Grade 2 win at Nakayama six months ago.
Back then he was an unexposed horse with a good turn of foot, an RPR of 123 in the book and the world at his feet. At 25-1 he was a cracking bet, but he has failed to build on that early promise in three subsequent runs.
He was beaten in the Satsuki Sho (121), narrowly won the Tokyo Yushun (122) and narrowly won the Prix Niel (114). He had excuses and did well to pick up the leaders off the ridiculous pace in the Niel on Sunday, but while there may be more to come his profile is hardly progressive.
New Bay the one to take from Irish Champion
The next four horses in the Arc market were all beaten in the Irish Champion Stakes, but runner-up Found could clearly be in the shake-up. She’s won two races at the highest level and finished second in an unbelievable nine more. She arrives in the form of her life after Sunday’s career best RPR of 122, but her RPRs are slightly better over 1m2f and she is clearly vulnerable to a good one – like Postponed.
Minding didn’t get the cleanest trip and is better than the bare result from Saturday’s race, but whether she’s an Arc winner waiting to happen is another matter.
Harzand was never going to be at his best over 1m2f and he picked up an injury in the early scrimmage which puts his Arc run in doubt. If he runs he can improve for the step back up to 1m4f, but this wasn’t the most encouraging prep.
That leaves New Bay, who could be the runner to take out of the Irish Champion. He tried to keep tabs on the hot early pace, still travelled well turning in but didn’t have the legs for the sprint to the line and faded late on, posting an RPR of 116 in fourth.
He ran to an RPR of 122 when third behind Golden Horn in last year’s Arc and should improve to that sort of level to hit the frame again. However, the win should be beyond him if the real Postponed shows up.
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