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News from Europe

Christophe Lemaire seeks first Arc win with Sarafina

Field of 16 declared for the Longchamp showpiece

By Tom Krish

A field of 16 will go postward in Sunday’s Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Thirteen stood their ground from the final forfeit stage and three were supplemented on Thursday at a cost of one million euros each. Seville, a candidate from Aidan O’Brien’s barn, was a scratch. Masked Marvel, winner of the English St. Leger at Doncaster early in September, will represent John Gosden. Trainer Gosden has cited the firm ground at the Paris course as the reason for Nathaniel’s withdrawal. Danedream and Meandre are the other two supplemental nominations. Post positions will be drawn Friday morning.

The French showpiece carries a winner’s purse of 1,970,345 euros. Post time for the Arc is 3:15 pm Paris time. It will be 8:15 am on Sunday in Chicago. It is a 2400-metre contest for three-year-olds and up on the grass. As a matter of fact, all action over the Arc weekend is on turf.

Two fillies, the Aga Khan-owned Sarafina and the Weirtheimer Brothers-owned Galikova, are two frontline contenders. Sarafina, to be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, has the been the favorite for some time and comes off a win in the Prix Foy, a traditional Arc prep. Galikova, from Freddie Head’s yard, sparkled when taking the Prix Vermeille, another significant prep race for the Arc. Goldikova, the illustrious stablemare of Galikova, takes her chances in the 1400-metre Prix de la Foret as she prepares herself for a four-peat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile Turf.

Jockey Lemaire is yet to win the Arc. Galikova will be handled by the incomparable Olivier Peslier, a three-time winner of the Arc. Trainer Head has won the Arc four times as a jockey. On Sunday, he’ll be attempting to break the Arc duck as a trainer.

As I flew into Charles de Gaulle Wednesday morning, it was a chilly 15 celsius-59 farenheit. There was a big time warm up later in the day as I made my way to the heart of Paris by train. Thursday has also been warm. There is no rain in the forecast. Sunny weather has been predicted for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A high of 81 farenheit is expected on Saturday, the first day of the Arc Meeting. Sunday’s high is pegged at 79 Farenheit. Fast ground is in the cards at Longchamp and there is news emanating from Sir Michael Stoute’s camp. The legendary trainer has said that the ground is a major concern for Workforce, the Arc winner in 2010. Longchamp has a watering policy but whether there will be enough moisture to satisfy Stoute remains to be seen. In The Breeders’ Cup last year at Churchill Downs, Workforce was withdrawn from the 2400-metre turf race as the track superintendent could not meet Stoute’s standards.

There are two noteworthy news items about the Arc this year. Christophe Soumillon will not be in action. Jockey Soumillon, twice winner of the Arc in 2003 and 2008 with Dalakhani and Zarkava, has been found guilty of causing serious interference in a race on Arc trials day and has been suspended. I’ll miss the ebullient Soumillon.

Ryan Moore returns to action after the fall at Glorious Goodwood in late July. He rides on Friday at Ascot. If Workforce tries to defend his Arc title, it will mark jockey Moore’s first high profile ride on his return.

Trainer Ed Dunlop has confirmed that Snow Fairy, his dual Oaks-winner last year, is an Arc starter. Snow Fairy, an Intikhab progeny, ran one half length behind So You Think in the Irish Champion Stakes. Frankie Dettori will be the partner. Aidan O’Brien has three left. They are Treasure Beach, the winner of the Irish Derby at the Curragh and the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park (in Chicago) in mid-August. St Nicholas Abbey is another O’Brien representative. So You Think, the Australian star, is the strongest of the O’Brien trio. After a shocking loss in the Prince Of Wales, So You Think, by High Chaparral, beat Workforce in the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and got an encore in Leopardstown’s Champion Stakes. Though it will be the first time that So You Think will travel 2400 metres, there is no dampening of enthusiasm on the part of his fans. In the wagering, So You Think is receiving as much support as Sarafina.

Here’s a note about an opinion on So You Think. Kieren Fallon, no stranger to the Longchamp winner’s circle, has written in the Racing Post that twelve furlongs will not pose a problem for So You Think. Fallon has further said that 90 percent of the jockeys, if given an option, would ride So You Think.

There are four Group II races on Saturday. Five run in the Qatar Prix Chaudenay over 3000 metres. There are six runners in the 2500-metre in the Qatar Prix de Royallieu. The Prix Dollar has lured 11 runners and it is over one mile one furlong and 165 yards. Let me please ask you to do the metric conversion. The 1600-metre Prix Daniel Wildenstein has attracted 11 participants.

There are seven Group I events in Sunday’s Longchamp card. Here they are: the 4000-metre Prix du Cadran; the 1000-metre (straight) Prix de l’Abbaye; the 1600-metre Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches; the 1400-metre Jean Luc Lagardere Grand Criterium; the 1400-metre Prix de la Foret; the 2400-metre Arc de Triomphe; and the 2000-metre Prix de l’Opera.

An interesting fact about Hiruno D’Amour, an Arc runner from Japan. A Shinji Fujita pupil, Hiruno D’Amour was a neck off Sarafina in the Prix Foy. To be ridden by Mitsugu Kon, Hiruno D’Amour turned in a sparkling workout on Wednesday. The British bookmakers cut the Japanese runner’s odds from 20/1 to 16/1.

Nakayama Festa, second to Workforce last year, has stood his ground. His core support has not wavered.

Trainer O’Brien has not revealed the riding assignments for his three runners. Colm O’Donoghue and Seamie Heffernan are available. The latter has had considerable winning experience with So You Think. O’Donoghue has twice ridden Treasure Beach to victory in Group I contests. I am guessing that Fallon will be asked to be aboard So You Think. Fallon knows every blade of grass at storied Longchamp.

Thursday has been a busy work day for me. I did my Sun-Times racing column and typed this piece. I want you to know that my sources are the Racing Post and Sporting Life. On Friday, I will look at Paris Turf and gather whatever I can understand. It is not an easy task. I will make a phone call or two. On Saturday and Sunday, Racing Post will be available in Paris news stands.

I am going to Saint Cloud on Friday. There is a flat meeting in the afternoon. I will be able to meet some of the jockey-trainer friends in a relaxed environment. Time permitting, I will go to Vincennes for the Friday evening harness card. Racing begins under the lights at 8:10 pm and the last race is let go a few minutes after 11:00 pm. That is putting a lot on my plate with a long Saturday and Sunday looming large.

All wagering in France is done on the tote. There are betting shops in Paris and around the country. There are big screen television sets. The shops are in a restaurant setting and you buy a snack or a beverage to be able to sit. Paris Turf, all in French, gives you the past performances of both flat and harness cards any given day. At the tracks, a sheet is given free that lists the runners, trainers, jockeys and finish positions in the last nine or ten starts.

Arc weekend attracts a huge throng from England and Ireland. Every Eurostar train is full. Plane tickets must be booked well in advance. It has been unseasonably warm this year. There are buses providing transportation for three train stations to Longchamp. I alight at Porte Autueil and board the free bus. My route takes me on a route in which I get to see Roland Garros, the site of the French Open Tennis Championships.

Paris is beautiful and the warm weather makes walking a great exercise. The next three days hold a great deal of excitement.


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