Analyzing the Arc: exotics players & longshots to know
Dolniya photo courtesy of Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club.
Having discussed Treve and the four other win candidates in Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1), it's time to look at a few contenders who are eligible to run well at big prices.
The obvious exotics player to mention is Flintshire, not only as last year's runner-up to Treve, but also as a consistent Group 1 placegetter who should get his preferred quick conditions. Moreover, the Andre Fabre campaigner comes off his most brilliant career victory in the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga -- as connections said at the time, that must have done his confidence a world of good.
But don't forget about the four-year-old filly Dolniya, who had Flintshire's number in three straight races earlier this season, and is generally a much bigger price than he is now. Although fifth in the 2014 Arc, the Aga Khan homebred clearly improved over the winter. She was a different proposition when emphatically beating Flintshire in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on World Cup night. Both were upset by Pether's Moon in the Coronation Cup (G1), but Dolniya finished ahead of Flintshire again.
Flintshire figured out a way to beat Dolniya in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1). The only problem was that Treve was also in the race. Flintshire turned in one of his best efforts in second, with Dolniya back in third. I think that was a tactical masterpiece on the part of Flintshire's jockey Vincent Cheminaud, who jumps ship from Flintshire to stablemate New Bay (one of the "Big Five") in the Arc.
Dolniya has raced once in the interim, finishing fourth in a very soggy Prix Foy (G2) in her prep over the Arc course and distance. The Foy fifth, Free Port Lux, just came back to upset Saturday's Prix Dollar (G2) and is now under consideration for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). Dolniya is entitled to do better on faster ground in the Arc. And trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre's yard is in rattling form at the moment. He just scored a Group 2 double Saturday with Aga Khan homebreds Vazirabad (Prix Chaudenay) and Candarliya (Prix de Royallieu).
If Erupt hadn't flopped behind New Bay in the Prix Niel (G2), the Niarchos Family's homebred would have brought a much stronger profile into the Arc. So if you draw a line through that lone blemish, on ground softer than he'd ever seen before, you'll be drawn to his price here. The Dubawi colt swept his first four career starts this spring and summer, culminating in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) at this track and trip. And those formlines (through his vanquished rivals) tie in neatly with both New Bay and Golden Horn. He may not be quite as far behind those fellow three-year-old colts as their Arc odds imply. If back to his peak form, Erupt can make the frame. And up-and-coming trainer Francis-Henri Graffard has had a productive Arc weekend so far.
Eagle Top is very much in the shadow of stablemate Golden Horn (one of the Arc's "Big Five"), but he's an enticing price for a firm-turf lover, and Breeders' Cup Turf candidate, who could hit the board at his best. The John Gosden trainee has yet to win since his romp in the 2014 King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot, where he treated Adelaide with total disdain. But the lightly raced four-year-old must be capable of delivering that kind of knockout again, in the right circumstances. He appeared on the verge of success in the July 25 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), only to be outdueled by the implacable Postponed, on ground that was softer than Eagle Top would like. Postponed came back to take the aforementioned Foy. Eagle Top caught another rain-softened course in his prep, winding up third at Newbury. It goes without saying that he'll need to improve multiple lengths off that showing to get a whiff of the exotics here. But if he brings his Ascot form to Longchamp, Eagle Top can outperform his odds.