When the World Number One jockey rides the best horse on the planet for the World’s Number One trainer, it seems like an irresistible combination. According the latest iteration of TRC Global Rankings, that’s what the 11 rivals of Enable have to beat in Sunday’s G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp. James Willoughby assesses the great mare’s main rivals.
Top choice: ENABLE
Value pick: WALDGEIST
Enable bids for a historic third victory in the race against a small-but-select field. It is likely that her chief opponents are the 3-year-olds Japan and Sottsass, but a potential surprise packed exists in the shape of 4-year-old Ghaiyyath.
Japan is trained by #4 Aidan O’Brien (two wins), who also saddles the filly Magical, a 4-year-old who has been defeated by Enable four times. Perhaps her best effort against the champion came in last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs, where the winning margin was under a length. Magical’s trainer has been on top of our rankings for more weeks than any other, and the same comment applies to Magical’s sire, Galileo, in his classifications. But Magical won’t have the services of current #2 Ryan Moore, for it is easy to see why he prefers the claims of another by #2 Galileo, Japan.
Three-year-olds proven at the highest level like Japan have an outstanding record in the Arc, for they receive six pounds from older males under the terms of the weight-for-age system. Japan has already used the 3-year-old allowance successfully when winning the G1 Juddmonte International at York in August – a race with an outstanding average winning Racing Post Rating.
Japan has to go well, but his French contemporary, Sottsass, could do even better.
His trainer #46 Jean-Claude Rouget (peaked at #6 for two weeks in October 2016) has had some tough times with his string the last few years, but we know he can get one ready, and it really does appear this colt comes into Sunday’s race with the perfect preparation.
While the G1 Prix du Jockey-Club hero did not impress everyone with the fluency he won his comeback in the G2 Prix Niel over the Arc course and distance, there was something undeniably classy about the way he put his seal on the race in the closing stages.
Rouget, who also runs the overmatched Soft Light, will be hoping there is plenty of pace up front for Sottsass, in the hope that the two-shades-of-green colours of owner Peter Brant’s White Birch Farm flash home in front. Such is the run of success Brant has enjoyed that he has recently been as high as #6 in the owner rankings.
Sitting at the top of that particular hierarchy is, of course, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation. Their sole runner, Ghaiyyath, is trained by #2 Charlie Appleby and is a son of our top-ranked sire, Dubawi.
Can #5 jockey William Buick steer the colt to a repeat of his wildly impressive 14-length G1 Grosser Preis Von Baden win? Many assume he will recoil from that big effort in the same way he could not repeat a similar romp in April’s G2 Prix Harcourt when favourite for the G1 Prix Ganay later the same month. But, one thing we have learned from a close study of the world’s best horsemen is that Appleby is a man who can make the magic happen.
The top German form has worked out well in this race before, and so too has German breeding, and it is this that brings us to value pick Waldgeist.
TRC Global Rankings offers some confidence in the 5-year-old not just because he is another by Galileo. Trainer Andre Fabre (seven wins) has been racking up the points this year and has climbed back to #6 (was #5 for 15 weeks combined in 2014 and 2015) at the moment. He used the traditional French prep for older horses of the G3 Prix Foy, which Waldgeist won easily.
But it is the trajectory of Waldgeist’s form that intrigues. Simply put, he seems better every year, and since last year’s fourth in this race – beaten under two lengths – he has earned two more personal bests, including when a sharp third to Enable in the G1 King George at Ascot in July (see video below).
Watching the film, it is easy to see why the Royal racecourse may not suit Waldgeist as much as ParisLongchamp. Discount his two midsummer races at Ascot, which were fine efforts anyway, and he is the easy winner of his last two starts elsewhere, including the aforementioned Ganay.
Can a Japanese horse finally win Europe’s greatest race?
Orfevre has come closest, when beaten a neck by Solemia in 2012 (he was also second to Treve the following year). Three runners take on the challenge this year: Kiseki (trained by #54 Kat Sumii), Fierement (trained by #223 Takahisa Tezuka) and Blast Onepiece (trained by #87 Masahiro Otake).
Blast Onepiece and Fierement warmed up for this when running 1-3 in the G2 Sapporo Kinen in August. The latter – a son of the late, former #1 Deep Impact – was set a bit to do and ran on well. He could make a bid for a place.