Talking Horses: 100th running of Arc has strong field worthy of occasion

·6 min read

The 100th running of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday looks certain to have a lineup worthy of the occasion after 14 horses were left in the race at the first forfeit stage on Monday with both of this year’s Epsom Classic winners, Adayar and Snowfall, also due to be added to the field at the supplementary stage on Wednesday.

Related: Talking Horses: Modern Games may jet to the US for Breeders’ Cup

Following news that Hurricane Lane, the St Leger winner, is expected to take his place in the field thanks to the arrival of some much-needed rain at Longchamp, we can now look forward to at least seven runners with a Timeform rating of 122 or above going to post on Sunday afternoon. That group includes Love, last year’s Oaks winner, who has more Group One wins to her name than anything in the field but is currently priced up at around 33-1, such is the quality of the opposition.

It is just what France Galop needed to shift as many tickets for Sunday’s event as possible, and an added incentive for any British fans considering a last-minute booking is that from next Monday morning, a “Day 2” PCR is the only test required for travellers returning from France. The fact that there are still Eurostar tickets available this morning for £74.50 each way for anyone making a long weekend of it suggests that many British racegoers who made the trip in the past are still reluctant to return, but as the saying goes, you only regret the things you didn’t do …

If there is a missing piece in this year’s Arc field, it is a legitimate contender from a French stable, as even André Fabre, with a record eight Arc winners to his name between 1987 and 2019, is struggling to find a runner this time around. But French racing’s greatest showman, Christophe Soumillon, will at least have a ride with a favourite’s chance, as he replaces Colin Keane on Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa.

St Mark’s Basilica, the highest-rated horse in the world this season, has been retired to stand at Coolmore Stud in Ireland, in the hope that he can take on the mantle of Galileo, the most influential stallion in European racing until his death in July.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt was Europe’s top-rated juvenile last season, ending a five-race campaign with a convincing success in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.

He then won all four of his starts in 2021, opening his campaign with two Classic successes in the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains [French 2,000 Guineas] and the Prix du Jockey-Club [French Derby]  before taking on older horses in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. His three-and-a-half length success there was followed by a defeat of Tarnawa, the favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown earlier this month.

St Mark’s Basilica is a son of the miler Siyouni, a product of the Aga Khan’s breeding operation, who won the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere as a juvenile but failed to add to his Group One tally in six runs at three. He is a half-brother to another Group One-winning miler in Magna Grecia, the 2019 2,000 Guineas winner, as both were out of the mare Cabaret, a daughter of Galileo who was a Group Three-winning juvenile.

"St Mark's Basilica is possibly the best horse we have ever had in Ballydoyle,” O’Brien said on Monday. “He relaxes and quickens and has all the determination from Galileo and all the speed from Siyouni.”

The retirement of St Mark’s Basilica was not unexpected, as the world’s most successful breeding operation attempts to move on from the loss of Galileo.

"He's the most exciting prospect we've retired from Ballydoyle since his late grandfather, Galileo,” Coolmore’s David O’Loughlin said on Monday. “He has everything and he'll get terrific support from his owners' broodmare band too.” Greg Wood

For some, Soumillon’s move into Tarnawa’s saddle might seem a little unfair, as Keane has done nothing wrong on her last three starts, including a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland last November.

Newton Abbot 1.00 Magical Thomas 1.30 Loved Out 2.05 Fifrelet 2.37 Docpickedme 3.10 Espinator 3.42 Hooper 4.12 Dino Velvet

Hamilton Park 1.10 Manila Scouse 1.40 Global Humour 2.15 Lady Celia 2.45 Tilsitt (nap) 3.20 Caballero 3.50 North Of Amazing 4.20 Daawy 4.50 Letmestopyouthere

Bath 1.50 Bicep 2.25 Firth Of Clyde 4.55 Cuban Cigar 3.30 Snow Berry (nb) 4.00 Mostallim 4.30 Bearwith 5.00 Ruby Cottage 5.35 Street Jester

Newcastle 4.55 Aradena 5.30 Aunt Bethany 6.00 The Menstone Gem 6.30 Outsmart 7.00 Lord Of The Glen 7.30 Musahaba 8.00 Cool Dandy 8.30 Gorgeous General

His replacement for Sunday’s race was all but inevitable, however, as Soumillon is contracted to ride for the Aga Khan in France, and while Keane is the reigning Irish champion and seen as a live contender to be Aidan O’Brien’s No 1 as and when the job is available, no-one rides or seizes a moment at Longchamp quite like Soumi.

As yet, however, he has just two Arc winners on his CV, on Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (2008), and the memory of Orfevre’s defeat in 2012, having gone clear under Soumillon with less than a furlong to run, is more fresh in the memory than either.

Ayr 1.00 Gweedore 1.35 Blind Beggar 2.10 Belle Of Annandale 2.45 Beechwood Emily 3.20 Zip 3.50 Myristica 4.20 Haveyoumissedme

Worcester 1.43 G'Day Aussie 2.18 Frau Georgia 2.53 Imperial Knight 3.28 Blue Sans 3.58 Call His Bluff 4.28 Witch From Rome 5.00 Matewan

Sedgefield 2.00 Ramure 2.35 Mr Caplan 3.10 Brother Pat 3.42 Strong Team 4.12 Lucky Robin 4.45 Countister 5.20 Freddie's Frontier

Wolverhampton 5.30 Jackstar 6.00 Nomasee 6.30 Degree (nb) 7.00 Petal Power 7.30 Dreamseller 8.00 Pretty Sweet (nap) 8.30 Join Forces 

It is also worth recalling that Keane only picked up the ride on Tarnawa at the Breeders’ Cup last year when Soumillon tested positive for Covid-19 two days before the race (and he also missed the winning ride on Order Of Australia in the Mile). Soumi is due a change of luck, and the 100th Arc would not have been quite the same without Longchamp’s biggest crowd-pleaser on a fancied runner.

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