Sky Sports Racing’s Alex Hammond is back with his weekly blog and reveals his selection for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe!
After a week off including life administration, a visit to the vet and my cousin’s wedding, I’m back excited to compete in one of the greatest flat races in the world.
This weekend, I have the chance to travel to Paris to cover the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to Sky Sports Racing.
It hasn’t always been an easy meeting for me. Last year, amid the passport and Covid chaos, it turned out that my own passport had expired, and despite belated attempts to renew it, I was left at Blighty to watch our TV coverage .
I don’t like flying too much and therefore the train takes the pressure off as much as possible so Eurostar tickets have been booked for me and my colleagues (I feel like I’ve overcome the phobia of flying , but it’s a good way to travel, so I ride with it).
So, all is well, the team should be in Paris as planned and I’m delighted to be there again. The race itself was not without controversy.
Australian superstar Verry Elleegant was sportingly sent to be trained in France by her owners with an Arc bid in mind, but a few races below par saw her rating drop enough which would have potentially seen her miss the cut for the race.
The owners had a tough decision to make on Wednesday as it should have been completed for the race at a price of €120,000.
They didn’t play and unfortunately she won’t have the chance to strut against the best middle distance horses in the world.
The disappointment for a missing horse’s connections will come if there are non-runners on the day because of the terrain, but that’s another story. Back to the Arc itself then and it should be an exceptional race.
We know we are guaranteed a big field and probably soft ground, so who wins Europe’s most valuable race and one of the most prestigious races in our sport?
Luxemburg- Aidan O’Brien and the ‘guys’ were the Derby’s top hopes but suffered a setback after the 2000 Guineas and did not return until August. Won the Irish Champion Stakes in his last outing and is set to be at his peak for this race. Late first try at 1,200 meters, which could bring even more improvements.
Mountaineer – Admirable mare who has won her last seven races. Versatile on the ground and stays very well this trip. Will fit a typical Arc slog if the ground gets very soft. Defeat Torquator Tasso, winner of last year’s Arc, in Germany last year.
Torquator Tasso – Rebuilt to its winning form from last year. Second to Pyledriver on insufficiently fast ground in the King George, but only second to stable mate Mendocino where the small field did not play to its strengths. Connections are hoping for a monsoon in Paris.
Title holder – Strong claims to give Japan a coveted first victory in the Arc. Has stamina to burn and is also effective at that distance. Heavy rain could be a problem though, as the testing ground is unknown.
Vadeni- Brilliant winner of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July, but only third when sent on as favorite for the Irish Champion Stakes. He hadn’t fully wound up that day, so he would have to undress. The step up to a mile and a half is not guaranteed to be suitable.
Westover- Unlucky third in the Derby before running off with the Irish equivalent. A passionate guy who ruined his luck by pulling too hard in the King George. Had a short break since and reunited with Rob Hornby who knows him well. Excellent chance to bounce back if his temper doesn’t take over.
Onesto- Second half a length behind Luxembourg in the Irish Champion Stakes last time out and back at home now. Already proven on this trip with a high-profile victory at the Paris Grand Prix in July where he brought Leger winner Eldar Eldarov back to fourth.
The Parisian – Vice-champion of Nashwa in the Prix de Diane, she remains solid. More recently third in the Prix Vermeille on his first attempt on this trip. This shape doesn’t look good enough, but as a three-year-old filly she gets all the weight allowances.
Al Hakim – Like Vadeni is trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, who saddled Sottsass to win this race two years ago. Passed a mile and a half for the first time, but looks like that shouldn’t be a problem.
Mishriff- The prize money won looks like numbers from a phone book, but this five-year-old has yet to visit the winner’s enclosure in 2022. He’s proven to be incredibly versatile, but there’s no evidence that he will bounce back in a race of this quality.
Make Deuce – Another Japanese competitor who won the Japan Derby in May. Favorite starter on his French debut in the Prix Niel but only finished fourth that day, not looking like the soft conditions were ideal.
Mendocin- Trained by Sarah Steinburg in Germany who is the wife of last year’s winning jockey Rene Piechulek. This horse beat Torquator Tasso in Germany last time and could be a keen underdog.
Mostahdaf- Like Mishriff, this horse is trained in Newmarket by John and Thady Gosden. Won seven of his 11 starts, including the September Stakes at Kempton last time out (a course successfully ridden by the same team with Enable before winning the 2018 Arc). Needs to find more but has made progress.
So who emerges victorious? I often let my heart rule my head in these situations, but there is also logic in this selection. I would like to see Sir Mark Prescott win the race with mountaineer.
A trainer of his caliber deserves to earn an Arc, and Alpinista owner/breeder Kirsten Rausing has been so invested in the sport. So that’s Alpinista for me and hopefully the award will come back across the Channel.