Good day from the Major who writes from the office in glorious Cheltenham where the fine conditions betray the mind into thinking it is late August.
Yesterday was a mixed bag and probably edged by the enemy if being fair. Today though, in conjunction with the skies bright dawning, I shall share the riches of my mind for Longchamp Arc day. Let’s get stuck in to the big one.
Longchamp – The Arc
Any racing fan and punter who has any notion of improving their staking strategies focus their energies on value. The most likely winner is less important than the biggest disparity between price and chance. Thus, our aim always is assess chance as remotely and impartially as we can. I would concur that good advice is often to do this before seeing the market, then you can back your own view independent of others.
That said, the market itself is often a great indicator and can reveal useful information in its own right. In the instance of the Arc, the market is an opportunity in itself. The Japanese have such a fixation on winning the Arc that they flood the PMU with bets for their own runners, thus Orfevre and Kizuna will be the subject of sustained betting, making the pot imbalanced. If you want a value punt, then baking anything other than these two on the PMU represents value. Secondly, if you have the time and the energy, it would not be too difficult to use this market disparity to put yourself into a no-lose situation. Backing Orfevre and Kizuna in the UK and the remaining lively hopes on PMU should be a strategy to which you could return a profitable book regardless of outcome.
Regardless of this nuance to the day, I am sure you are more interested in the race itself so here are some thoughts.
Ruler of the World
I was not that impressed with the Derby this year, I felt at the time that the classic crop was poor (Dawn Approach and Talent being the exceptions) and that thought remains. Yet Ruler of the World performed with some credit in his trial where he was pipped by Kizuna. In fact, he was doing more work at the death… Interesting.
Here is a thought though – I think the trials which are held just a few weeks before Arc weekend give a false sense of certainty. We tend to place too much value in them. consider this, just four of the Arc winners from this century have won an official trial on the way, plenty of Arc winners were not tuned up for their trial and plenty more did not bother with one.
If you like Ruler of the World then surely you must like Kizuna. I think this horse brings some of the best form into the race and has a profile that would befit an Arc winner. According to the trainer, there was plenty left to work on when he won his trial.
The Prix Niel though asked more questions than it gave answers. Yes Kizuna beat Ruler of the World but the latter was doing more at the finish. However, Kizuna probably had more to give and I do not think was fully extended, in fact I would argue the horse had a fairly gentle race.
You pay serious money to be supplemented for the big race, couple that with the profile of Leading Light, a certain stayer and many will be hoping that this horse can get to the front and stay there. That in itself is an interesting conundrum.
Longchamp is an interesting course, the wide bend they take can catapult a well timed runner from the back into the momentum needed to win and generally, those coming from the middle of back of the pack fare better than those in front. Thus to win the Arc from the front you have to be special or lucky. I think Leading Light would have to be in the second group.
Should he get to the front, I would be relying on better horses not getting their run combined with bad timing from other challengers to see him as the winner.
That said, it has happened plenty of times before and since I believe Talent to be very good, I would be disingenuous to suggest that Leading Light is a forlorn hope. I thought Talent might have got to him with a clear run in the St Leger and having tweeted Mr Beckett to suggest she be supplemented if Leading Light was, I got a two word reply…. ‘next year’
What of the favourite then. He is going to popular and unpopular depending on the partisan camp you find yourself in. I have already observed the near fanatical home support he will receive. Suggesting he will be beat to a true Orfevre fan is to place your life in danger! There is also a significant camp that believes he would have won the race last year if it had panned out slightly differently, reminding myself of the race, it seems impossible with 300m to go that any other result than an Orfevre win was possible. Yet the leader tied up after showing us that explosive burst of speed…
In the ‘agin’ camp, you have the trends argument. Five year olds do not do very well, no Japanese horse etc etc – I always have an issue with trends and the people who use them – They need to be grounded in something! It is clear that with Japanese racing amongst the best quality in the world, it is a matter of time before we have a winner of the Arc from their quarters, thus as a trend it is of no use to me. The five year old trend also needs some context – There are not that many highly fancied five year olds that compete in the race so pound for pound you would expect them to have a sparse record.
I am not put off by the trends, I am slightly concerned for him in the ground and against a better Arc field than last year. In fact the 2012 Arc has a very shaky look to it, won by a long shot, with Masterstroke third(anyone?). In fact, St Nicholas Abbey finished down the field but it was not his day and overall, I am against Orfevre not because of his age but because I doubt the form. His Arc was weak and his trial the weakest of them. I think that weakness also provides succour for those that support him and point to last years wide draw… My argument is that in a very weak Arc, draw is less important (as it is if you are a natural hold up sort)
Clearly he is very talented and he has a blistering turn of foot but I am going elsewhere.
She is good and is yet to be beaten and there was a time where the three year old filly allowance would have given her a significant advantage. Yet that gap has been narrowed and I think it is a big ask for her. It is easy to be swayed by her unbeaten record and she is in fine fine hands, I just think this might be too much for her.
The most unsettling part of her profile is the year she has had – If she were top class why not be campaigned as such?
Will Intello stay? that is the key question about this runner. Fabre / Pelier are a formidable pair and seeking their third Arc win (although first this century!).
On the subject of stamina, my view is that Intello should be fine. He was a ready winner of the French Derby and that was in good to soft ground – He stayed on fine that day and although this is an extra 300m, it is a trip into the unknown and in the breeding there are mixed messages.
It is also an odd course he has charted to the race and last time must have been set up as a confidence booster. He is a hard horse to assess because we have not seem him in the top races recently and we have not seen him extended in distance, a definite question.
There seems no easier of the main players to back than Al Kazeem following a tailing off of his form in the last two runs and a wide draw. Seriously, the way people have written him off seems a tad unfair.
I don’t see him as a winner myself either but that is not to discredit his positives. I think he has a style of running that would suit the Arc, right up until the end. Watching the race last year, Orfevre drifted right quite badly and Al Kazeem suffers the same. He has done it on a few of his wins, most notably his last G1 at Sandown and I wonder if his tailing of form is connected to that.
Not for me but give the boy credit.
My antepost book is focussed on Flintshire and I wish it were not the case. The Dansili colt needs decent ground and I think that will be his undoing. This seemed apparent in his trial and on similar ground, I think he does not have the racing style to glide to victory.
If you believe Orfevre to win, you have to think any Arc is quality and that he was unlucky last year and that the age and returner stats are less important – I have some sympathy for that view but not at 2/1.
If you think Ruler of the World then you must overcome a slight ground concern but believe he was better than Kizuna for the bare result in the Prix Niel – I can accept that too.
For you to back Kizuna 15/2, you have to think that there was plenty left off for his trial where he was treated lightly and travelled much the best. this I have significant sympathy for and thus he gets my nod.
As a post script – What a shame Novellist is not there, he would have carried my money.
The Rest of the Card
12.45 – Maarek 8/1 – Likes the cut and needs some luck
1.20 – Veda – 8/1 – Seriously sinister profile – Once raced and thrown into this!
1.55 – Charm Spirit – 7/1 – Can win from the front, looked mighty impressive here latest.
2.30 – Silasol – 7/1 – Time for some revenge over Tasaday over this more suitable trip
4.40 – Moonlight Cloud – Evens (Coral) – Easily the best in this field
5.10 – Tac de Boistron – 6/1 (Ladbrokes) – Unexposed at marathon distances and in good heart