After being overtaken in the shadow of the post by outsider Solemia in last year’s dramatic finish, jockey Christophe Soumillon will tomorrow try to make amends as Orfevre again starts favourite to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
Orfevre, Japan’s 2011 Horse of the Year after winning a Triple Crown, received a favourable draw yesterday in stall 8 – much better than last year’s outside No 18 position. The positive draw saw the five-year-old’s odds trimmed to 9-4, while Treve’s odds went out to 9-2 after tricky draw in a strong 18-horse field.
Orfevre looked to be a surefire winner last year when he took the lead inside the final furlong, but the 33-1 outsider Solemia, urged on by French jockey Olivier Peslier, moved past Orfevre on the outside.
While Soumillon looks to make up for last year, Peslier wants to make outright history as he rides for Andre Fabre on Intello, although soft ground is to the three-year-old colt’s disadvantage, as reflected by odds of 12-1.
Peslier is tied on four Arc wins with Yves Saint-Martin, Jacques Doyasbere, Pat Eddery and Freddy Head. He won in 1998 on Sagamix, on Peintre Celebre in 1997 and Helissio in 1996. “I think better ground would definitely be an advantage for him,” Peslier said. “He always runs his race, he’s very easy to ride and has a lot of speed, so I think he goes (to the Arc) with good credentials.”
Solemia started from the No 6 post, which has produced four of the last eight Arc winners, and this year’s lucky starter from there will be Aidan O’Brien’s Ruler Of The World. O’Brien’s other contender, the St Leger winner Leading Light, starts from No 5.
Orfevre won the Prix Foy for a second straight year and the 3-year-old Kizuna, Japan’s second entry, won the Prix Niel, where he beat Ruler of the World. “Soumillon said he’s in good shape and that he was happy as well. From here on the only thing I can do is to make sure the horse is in tiptop shape. After that, it’s all up to Soumillon and Orfevre,” trainer Yasutoshi Ikee said. “Winning the Arc has been the hope and dream of Japanese racing and, as one of the representatives of Japanese racing, I hope we’ll be able to realise that dream.”
Novellist, a four-year-old by German Triple Crown champion Monsun, is unbeaten this season and won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot this year. “Everything has gone smooth and fine since his last race,” trainer Andreas Wohler said. “So we are looking forward to Sunday.”
Al Kazeem is flying the flag for Britain – but Roger Charlton’s stable star was dealt a cruel blow at the draw when he was handed stall 18.
Earlier in the season, Al Kazeem was the ante-post favourite for the race after Group 1 wins in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Eclipse, but subsequent defeats at York and Leopardstown mean he is available at an each-way price. Charlton feels he has been quickly forgotten by punters, however, and recent rain at Longchamp at least means he is likely to have conditions in his favour for the first time in a long while.
“There’s not much we can do about the draw,” said Charlton. “At least we’ve had the rain, though I think it will dry to good to soft by tomorrow, so there’ll be no excuses on that front, but the draw makes it difficult. I’m optimistic that he’ll run very well, but he might need more.”
In the supporting in Prix de l’Abbaye, the Clive Cox-trained sprinter Reckless Abandon bids to make up for lost time.
The three-year-old has suffered a couple of minor niggles this term which have kept him off the track since finishing a fine fifth to Sole Power in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. A dual Group 1 winner as a juvenile, Che as been limited to just two starts this term with a swollen gland forcing him to sidestep the July Cup and a hamstring problem ruling him out on the eve of the Haydock Sprint Cup. Cox said: “I would have preferred a lower draw (than stall 16), but you can’t change it. He’s in good nick, he travelling should be fine for him, he’s won twice in France before, including the Prix Morny, and I’m very pleased with him.”