Analyzing the Arc: four win contenders besides Treve
Treve's momentum toward an epic three-peat in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) continued unabated Friday, as she drew a fine post 8, while three of her most significant rivals -- Golden Horn (14), Found (15) and Free Eagle (12) -- are all in double-digit land. The only other win candidate who landed in a plum spot was New Bay (post 5).
The draw was one possible factor I discussed in "Can anything thwart an Arc three-peat for Treve?" With that concern eliminated, Treve is looking even tougher to dethrone if she runs up to her devastating best. That said, although she's a likely winner, value hunters will find her price (odds-on in some quarters) prohibitive.
And since horse racing is crammed with variables that often conspire to produce a surprise, we're bound to consider the others with legitimate claims.
Found might be the best-priced alternative at about 16-1 (as high as 25-1 with Coral). The Aidan O'Brien blueblood gets the significant weight concession as a three-year-old filly, and members of that demographic have won three of the last seven Arcs. At 120 pounds, she receives 11 pounds from the older males, eight pounds from Treve and the other older females, and three pounds from the sophomore colts. More important, Found looks talented enough to take advantage of it.
By Galileo and out of multiple Group 1-winning miler Red Evie, Found captured last fall's Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) in her only prior start at Longchamp. Despite looking raw, unfurnished, and sure to improve with maturity, she handily defeated a top-class rival in Ervedya.
Since Found already needed a mile at two, it was no surprise that distance was on the short side for her this season. Even so, she was a fine second to Pleascach in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) and to old foe Ervedya in the Coronation (G1) at Royal Ascot. We learned little more about her when she trounced a couple of older males in the 1 1/4-mile Royal Whip (G3) at the Curragh, but she proved herself versus elite males at the same trip when second to Golden Horn in the Irish Champion (G1).
Found looked like a filly who'd progress further over 1 1/2 miles, and she'll get her chance here. Note also that this is her third start back from her midsummer holiday, part of the grand design for her ultimate target. If you back Found to win, you're projecting that she's got more up her sleeve at the added distance. Given her proximity to the leaders of her generation over inadequate trips, it's not a bad hypothesis that she can bridge the gap at a more favorable trip.
Golden Horn is obviously the most accomplished alternative to Treve. Unbeaten through his first five starts, the John Gosden trainee was a scintillating winner of the Derby (G1) in his only previous try at this distance. He had to be supplemented to Epsom after his comprehensive victory in the Dante (G2), with owner/breeder Sir Anthony Oppenheimer convinced that he was a 1 1/4-mile type. Because of that early scruple about his stamina, Golden Horn had to be supplemented to the Arc as well.
Back at about 1 1/4 miles in his past three starts, the son of Cape Cross had to set his own pace in both the Eclipse (G1), where he saw off a stiff challenge from The Grey Gatsby, and in the Irish Champion, where he veered out badly and mauled Free Eagle before holding on comfortably.
In between, Golden Horn tried to use a pacemaker in the Juddmonte International (G1), but the best laid plans backfired, and he suffered his lone loss at the hands of the 50-1 Arabian Queen. To be sure, Golden Horn had excuses – his pacemaker bumped him early and made him rank, he raced too far back, the ground was a mess – but none of that obscures the fact he had every chance to get by the unheralded filly. Worse, he actually headed Arabian Queen, and was simply outdueled to the line. While I'm probably holding too much of a grudge from that race, I still can't get past the fact that he lost the battle of wills. Compare Sea the Stars in 2009, who refused to let Mastercraftsman upset him in the same race.
At any rate, back up in trip to 1 1/2 miles on reasonably good ground, and able to let Treve's pacemaker do the dirty work, we could see the impregnable Golden Horn of Epsom.
New Bay is the other logical win contender from the sophomore brigade, as the record-setting French Derby (G1) winner who's since flaunted his class in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (G2) and the Prix Niel (G2) at this course and distance. A major factor in his appeal is trainer Andre Fabre, winner of a record seven Arcs. And thanks to his pitch-perfect post, he should carve out a favorable trip.
As sensible as New Bay is, however, I have a nagging question about the depth of his French form, compared to the Anglo-Irish form. Also, the Timeform experts have made an interesting point about his victory in the Niel: instead of viewing that as proof he stays 1 1/2 miles, they've pointed to the dawdling early pace that turned it into a sprint for home, and leave the question open whether he'll be as effective in a truly run 1 1/2-mile race. For my part, I'm willing to cut any son of Dubawi plenty of slack in the stamina department. Yet the Timeform caution does give another reason not to go overboard on the New Bay bandwagon.
Free Eagle may be up against it as an older male trying to give weight to the mighty Treve and the talented three-year-olds, and I'm sure my card-carrying fandom is influencing my opinion in naming him a win contender. At the same time, like Found, I can't escape the idea that we haven't seen the best of him yet.
Off the course for a year, Free Eagle missed the classics. In his belated reappearance in the fall of 2014, he spread-eagled the field in the Enterprise (G3) at Leopardstown and finished a brave third, on bottomless ground he detested, in the Champion (G1) at Ascot. Trainer Dermot Weld looked forward to a 2015 campaign, only to have his highly regarded colt miss his comeback due to illness. That meant he was running out of time to make the Prince of Wales's (G1) at Royal Ascot, but he got there. Although short on fitness, Free Eagle was all heart to hang on from The Grey Gatsby by a nose. He wasn't seen again until the Irish Champion, where he moved forward markedly. Appearing to be serving it up to Golden Horn in midstretch, he got body-slammed and wound up third.
Free Eagle tries 1 1/2 miles for the first time here, but as a son of High Chaparral, the Moyglare Stud homebred ought to be at least as effective over the added ground. And his half-sister, Irish highweight Sapphire, scored her signature win in the 1 1/2-mile British Champions Fillies & Mares (G2). For a horse who's had limited opportunities in a stop-start career, Free Eagle may have more to offer.
Tomorrow: The Arc's exotics players and longshots worth knowing.
Treve photo courtesy of Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com