Treve serves notice with Vermeille rout
Pretenders to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) throne have been warned: the reigning queen isn't prepared to brook any opposition. That's the only conclusion one can draw from Treve's annihilation of Sunday's Prix Vermeille (G1), her course-and-distance prep for the October 4 Arc. If the Criquette Head-Maarek mare shows up anywhere near this level, she'll win the Arc for an unprecedented third time.
Competitors have to hope that Treve simply ran too well in her prep, and will come back to earth in three weeks' time. Or they'll hope that Sunday's very soft ground played a big factor in her 4 1/2-length margin of victory, and that the course will be quicker than usual come the Arc. Otherwise, they've got to head to Longchamp knowing that a daunting task awaits.
Unlike last year's Vermeille, when Treve's body language still revealed that she was physically out of sorts, her rude health was in evidence at every stage. The daughter of Motivator was always traveling with gusto, taking a strong hold early, and Thierry Jarnet did well to restrain her for as long as he did. Treve soon dismissed a high-quality field. What's even scarier, she did so seemingly unextended. This isn't just the invincible Treve from 2013 -- this is perhaps an even more formidable model.
Consider the collateral formlines in play here. Runner-up Candarliya was a half-length ahead of Sea Calisi, who was coming off a close third in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) to Pleascach (fourth to Golden Horn in Saturday's Irish Champion [G1]). Up the track were Arabian Queen (sixth), who had stunned Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International (G1), and Diamondsandrubies (eighth), who had upset Legatissimo in the Pretty Polly (G1) two back. To be sure, both ran far below that level of form, but the point remains that this was no soft field. And Treve not only wiped the floor with them; she did so while conceding them nine pounds. Off this evidence, Treve would have had to carry steeplechase amounts of weight to make it competitive, and even that might not have been enough to stop her.
Watch how Treve dismantles them:
As far as the other two Arc trials on the card went, French Derby (G1) winner New Bay easily passed his 1 1/2-mile test in the Prix Niel (G2) for three-year-olds. I thought that Grand Prix de Paris (G1) winner Erupt would put up more of a fight, but he faded right out of it after possibly seeing a little too much daylight early. That said, New Bay was thoroughly authoritative, and even if Erupt had run right up to his best, he would probably have been no match for the winner.
New Bay's only blip this season was a second in the French 2000 Guineas (G1), where his win chance was virtually eliminated by a horrible post, and he did well to rattle late for second. The Juddmonte homebred comfortably handled Highland Reel in the French Derby, and again looked a class above when adding the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (G2) last out.
The best news about his Arc hopes is that he's in the hands of the master, Andre Fabre. Any Fabre three-year-old coming off a Niel win must be respected in the Arc, but especially one with this exceptionally good profile.
The Prix Niel:
After the one-two punch of Treve and New Bay, Postponed looked only workmanlike in the Prix Foy (G2). The Luca Cumani charge actually posted the fastest time of the three Arc trials, but that's a function of the pace. It would take a brave observer to imagine that he could have contained either Treve or New Bay had they been in the same race.
Still, Postponed is a terrific battler, as we all saw in his slog to victory in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) on ground that was imagined to be unsuitably soft. He caught another wet track here. Given his explosive performance on good to firm in last year's Great Voltigeur (G2), he's always been regarded as a horse who needs quicker conditions. Postponed hasn't had his optimal set-up of late, but found a way to win anyway, and that's a sign of genuine class.
Runner-up Spiritjim indicated that he's turning the corner after a season that hasn't matched his 2014 exploits. The disappointment of the race was Dolniya, who checked in a subpar fourth. The ground may have been a bit too soft for her liking.
The Prix Foy:
The very soft ground decimated the turnout for the one-mile Prix du Moulin (G1), with Arod, Esoterique, Territories and Dutch Connection all scratching. Although that weakened the overall field, Ervedya was very much a worthy winner. The Aga Khan homebred would have been a top threat even with all of the principals engaged, as you can see from her instantaneous turn of foot. She's briefly held up behind Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) victor Karakontie, but Germany's Wild Chief wasn't going well enough to keep her in the pocket, and once she got the split, it was over. The French 1000 Guineas (G1) and Coronation (G1) heroine, Ervedya may call it a season, but will likely stay in training next year at four.
Karakontie boxed on for third, a length adrift of Akatea, and this should bring him on for a title defense in the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. After all, setting the pace in these kinds of conditions isn't his preferred tactic. The salient fact is he's made the requisite improvement here in his second start off the long layoff.
The Prix du Moulin:
Among the sprinters, Move in Time was a convincing winner of the Prix de Petit Couvert (G3), setting himself up for a title defense in the Prix de l'Abbaye (G1) on Arc Day. The David O'Meara charge was second in this prep last year before springing a 25-1 upset in the Abbaye, and he won't be overlooked again on October 4. But waiting in the wings is five-furlong machine Mecca's Angel, who'll be tough to beat if she gets her preferred soft going in the Abbaye.
The Petit Couvert:
Finally, among the stayers, Fly with Me took off with a well-timed move and held Walzertakt in the Prix Gladiateur (G3) over 15 1/2 furlongs. The question is if he can duplicate it in the 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran (G1) on Arc Day. He was last in the 2014 Cadran, but was that due to the distance or rather was it the good ground? The nearly white five-year-old really enjoys it soft.