Arc at Chantilly: Postponed with a strong dash of Savoir Vivre
Postponed is the deserving favorite and most likely winner, but even with six consecutive victories dating back to July 2015 he's not a slam dunk considering the weight he must concede and other factors.
The mare Found is incredibly consistent, yet a constant string of minor placings this year makes her look like the female equivalent of Youmzain, who famously ran second in the Arc three times.
Dual Derby winner Harzand arguably had an excuse when failing to fire in the Irish Champion (G1), but overcoming a slight injury incurred in that race means his preparation for this has not been smooth.
New Bay, a solid third in last year's Arc behind Golden Horn and Flintshire, won the 2015 French Derby (G1) over this course, but has only won a minor Group 3 in three tries this year. I backed him in the Irish Champion, where he finished fourth, but I wasn't wowed by the performance.
Makahiki could give Japan its first Arc after taking the Prix Niel (G2) when clearly not at his best. This isn't the deepest European bench the Arc has ever attracted, but conventional wisdom suggests Makahiki is not the strongest Arc representative Japan has sent over either.
Left Hand, a close second at long odds in the French Oaks (G1) to La Cressonniere, who would have been no worse than second choice here, enters off a narrow win in the Prix Vermeille (G1). As a three-year-old filly, she carries the lightest impost and is on the improve.
Order of St George is a talented sort of the staying variety, while Highland Reel seems fairly exposed. Silverwave has come on in recent months, winning the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) and Prix Foy (G2), though I'm still a bit wary of his relative class.
Of the above mentioned contenders, I'd be most comfortable sticking with Postponed, who, let's face it, hasn't made a mistake all year. But what fun is betting chalk?
My longshot each-way play will be on Savoir Vivre (#15, 40-1), who impressively rallied from far back over very heavy ground to finish second in the German Derby (G1), and then followed up with a wire-to-wire score in the Grand Prix de Deauville (G2).
Granted, those two races are hardly traditional stepping stones to Arc success. On paper and visually, Savoir Vivre doesn't look like a Marienbard or Danedream, recent Arc winners with German form lines, nor a Sea the Moon, the exciting German colt who had to take a pass on the Arc a couple years back.
A brief downpour on Saturday likely softened up the ground a touch, which should help Savoir Vivre as long as he employs the tactics he displayed in Hamburg. Forget it if he tries to win on or close to the pace like at Deauville.
You'd expect an Arc participant to have a decent pedigree, and Savoir Vivre has some compelling, extended kin: American turf champions Steinlen and Stacelita (the latter also a three-time Group 1 winner in France, including the French Oaks), Irish Derby (G1) winner Zagreb, and French Derby runner-up Super Celebre.
I definitely get the apparent class discrepancy between he and most of the others. However, Savoir Vivre does get the three-year-old weight allowance and is a progressive type. So taken was I by his German Derby rally, you'll have to excuse me for taking a flutter here.
My vertical wagers will be a hodgepodge of combinations, generally using Postponed, Savoir Vivre, and Silverwave in the top slot and the usual suspects underneath.
Oh, and I can't end this without mentioning Savoir Vivre's jockey. Freddie Tylicki, who rode his first Group 1 winner at Deauville in August, happens to share a unique surname with my bride of 13 years.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this partial hunch measures up against the big bears of the continent.
(Ron Flatter photo)