Mecca's Angel, Limato loom large on Arc undercard

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October 1st, 2016

The high-class racing action isn’t over after the Arc trophy presentation, for Sunday’s Chantilly program concludes with two more Group 1s over shorter trips. Both feature heavy favorites in Mecca’s Angel and Limato, the respective one-two from the Nunthorpe (G1) (pictured), whose paths now diverge.

As an about five-furlong dash, the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) is made to order for the brilliant Mecca’s Angel. The five-furlong specialist comes off a repeat victory in the Nunthorpe, where she had too much speed for the six-to-seven furlong aficionado Limato. Mecca’s Angel left several Abbaye rivals in her wake – Take Cover (third), Cotai Glory (fourth), Profitable (sixth), Goldream (seventh), and Washington DC (17th).

Those males are not lacking in class themselves. Profitable had beaten Mecca’s Angel a couple of times early in the campaign, memorably when she flopped in the King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot. Cotai Glory, the King’s Stand near-misser, recently won the September 17 World Trophy (G3) at Newbury. Take Cover is a two-time winner of Goodwood’s King George (G2), edging Aidan O’Brien’s sophomore Washington DC in this summer’s renewal. Goldream appears to have lost a step in 2016, but he captured both the King’s Stand and Abbaye last year.

Aside from the depth of the field she drubbed at York, there was her blistering final time of :56.24. A Mecca’s Angel in full flight is simply too good for them; hence her very short price for the Abbaye, which could be her grand finale.

The proviso is “in full flight,” for she can have the odd off day. Trainer Michael Dods has cited unsuitably fast ground as the culprit in the past, but Chantilly promises to be in the “good” spectrum. If anything, it might have a little more give than expected after the Saturday evening rain, and that would be ideal for her. Conditions were thought to suit in the King’s Stand, but Mecca’s Angel had a completely different reason for her Royal Ascot debacle – she was in season.

The sprint scene can turn up surprises, especially in crowded fields on big days (like the 17-horse Abbaye), so it’s worth looking at better priced alternatives in case.

Progressive three-year-old filly Marsha qualifies. After scoring back-to-back listed wins at Ayr and York (beating Easton Angel and the frustrating older male Muthmir in the latter), she was fifth to Take Cover in a blanket finish in the King George. Marsha was dispatched as the favorite in the September 11 Prix du Petit Couvert (G3) at this track and trip, but she couldn’t catch the 16-1 front runner Just Glamorous, who blasted in :56.30.

Just Glamorous, formerly a handicapper, was a revelation in his Group debut. If the sophomore runs back to that on Sunday, he’s a proper threat to turn the double. But in this division, I’d rather see him do it again before trusting him to deliver at an even higher level. Now Marsha is the more attractively priced of the pair.

Course specialist Son Cesio has longshot appeal. Five-for-six at Chantilly, he garnered the Prix du Gros-Chene (G2) at this track and trip two starts ago. And if Just Glamorous can jump up, why not fellow handicapper Harry Hurricane, who just beat the horse who’d beaten Just Glamorous in his prior start?

Ardad aims to become the first two-year-old since Sigy (1978) to upstage his elders in the Abbaye, a bid deserving closer scrutiny since it’s John Gosden being bold enough to try. Unbeaten over five furlongs, Ardad upset the Windsor Castle at 20-1 and recently added the Flying Childers (G2) to his resume. As a compensation for his tender years, the juvenile gets a 14-pound weight concession from the females and 18 pounds from the males.


In the ensuing Prix de la Foret (G1), Limato returns to a more congenial trip of about seven furlongs. Anything resembling his usual high standard would put him comfortably on top, and give connections more reason to follow through on Breeders’ Cup ideas.

The Henry Candy-trained star was beaten as the even-money favorite in last year’s Foret at Longchamp, where he was slowly away and had too much to do to on a course that was conducive to forward types. Limato still ran with great credit, rattling home for second to Make Believe in course-record time.

As good as Limato’s looked throughout his career, the Tagula gelding has arguably hit new heights this season. The four-year-old thrashed them, virtually on the bridle, in the six-furlong July Cup (G1), and proved he had the speed for five when beating all bar Mecca’s Angel in the Nunthorpe. That’s quite a result for a horse who excels at up to seven-eighths, and even performed creditably over a mile as the fourth-placer in the Lockinge (G1).

If there’s an Achilles heel, and there always is, it’s his prerequisite for quick ground. The forecast was initially favorable for him, but with the arrival of the weekend rains, watch for the course condition Sunday.

Several of his rivals won’t mind a bit of ease. Consistent three-year-old filly Spectre, who won the seven-furlong Prix Imprudence (G3) on heavy at the start of the season, has been holding her own in Group 1 miles ever since. Fifth to La Cressonniere in the French 1000 Guineas (G1), Spectre was third to the colt Zelzal in the Prix Jean Prat (G1) (beating Nemoralia), fourth versus top males in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1), and second to Cox Plate (G1)-bound Vadamos in the Prix du Moulin (G1).

Suedois, runner-up to Limato in the July Cup, was most recently third in the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1). Jimmy Two Times, beaten a head by outstanding sprint filly Quiet Reflection here in April, has gone on to take the Prix de la Porte Maillot (G3) and checked in third in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1). Multiple Group 3-winning sophomores Attendu and Trixia have likewise been on the fringes at the Group 1 level.

More international flavor is provided by the South African imports Harry’s Son and Same Jurisdiction. The Australian-bred Harry’s Son, a champion juvenile in South Africa, had a productive Dubai Carnival. Although he didn’t win at Meydan, his highlight was a bang-up second to Safety Check in a course-record Al Fahidi Fort (G2). Perhaps significantly, that was Harry’s Son’s first start off a layoff, and at seven furlongs – exactly the pattern here. Of course, the Foret is a far stiffer challenge, and he’s debuting for a new trainer in C. Alonso Pena.

Same Jurisdiction, successful in two Group 1s in her homeland, makes her second European start here. In her debut for Ed Dunlop, Same Jurisdiction was a useful fourth in the Sceptre (G3) at Doncaster, and stands to improve a good deal off that comeback.

Birchwood hasn’t had great success since transitioning from two to three, while Karar, Coulsty, and Moon Trouble would need career-bests to make their presence felt.

Photo of Mecca's Angel outsprinting Limato courtesy of Racing UK via Twitter