Longchamp Saturday report: Ground's firmer than Treve might prefer
by RON FLATTER in Paris
There are few things certain in life. Death. Taxes. And stress about the condition of the track at Longchamp before the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
If only Joaquin could spin some of that western Atlantic weather this way. Ask Parisians when they last had a soaking rain, and the pause to think about it is answer enough.
That has left the turf here in the Bois de Boulogne in what France Galop said Saturday was "good" shape, which is about as firm as anyone will ever formally say here no matter how hard the ground.
"It's good to firm," British jockey William Buick said after the weekend's first race on the very course where Europe's richest race will be run Sunday. "It's a lot firmer than what they're saying."
Not exactly what Trêve will want.
"It's OK," Thierry Jarnet said with a shrug. He is the jockey who will try to ride the 5-year-old mare to the first-ever Arc three-peat.
The problem is that Trêve is best when the ground is "good" by American standards – not French. Not firm. "Good" is just what it was last year when she won with the fifth-fastest time in the Arc's 93 runnings.
So what will France Galop will do about this? Officials have insisted the ground would not need any more watering. But those same officials were openly expecting at least some measure of showers Saturday. They are not coming. The question now is whether the water trucks will be coming under the cover of darkness, the better to prepare the course for Trêve's heavily promoted dose of history at 9:55 a.m. Eastern time Sunday.
"It's good ground and fast," said Olivier Péslier, who like Jarnet has ridden four Arc winners but will be on long shot Frine on Sunday. "Also don't forget the rail is (60 feet) on the outside for the moment. So there will be fresh ground tomorrow (when the rail is removed). It will be firm."
The hardest ground Trêve has ever tested was at Royal Ascot in England, finishing third in last year's Prince of Wales's Stakes. The ground that day was harder than it is now at Longchamp, and Trêve was also dealing with foot and back trouble that contributed to the perception she would not win a second Arc let alone a third.
The firm ground was also a factor in Saturday's Longchamp feature – the Group 2 Prix Dollar. Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe blamed it for the fifth-place finish of three-time winner Cirrus Des Aigles – a 9-year-old that is ineligible for the Arc because he is a gelding.
"I'm not disappointed with the horse. With the highest weight and this going? No, no," Barande Barbe said of Cirrus's third consecutive loss. "If you want to win, you must be able to afford to lose. If each time Cirrus had been beaten in his life I would have been discouraged, he wouldn't have won seven Group 1s."