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News from Europe

Great Heavens loves soft turf: may win the Arc

All four Group II races on Saturday won by France-based horses

By Tom Krish

Rain would not let up on Saturday. Good going became soft as the races were gone through. About 7:45 pm Saturday, there was an official announcement from Longchamp that the going on Sunday will ‘very soft.’ That would mean the 91st running of the Arc de Triomphe would be in testing conditions. Sunday’s forecast calls for overcast skies and there are likely to be some sunny spells.

Making a living as a weatherman in Paris, I can see, is difficult. The question is not whether there will be or will not be rain. The big question is how soft Longchamp’s grass will be and fans, I believe would be burning the midnight oil to see who the mudlarks are. The Aga Khan, discussing the chances of Bayrir and Shareta who are frontline contenders, referred to the Longchamp surface as sticky.

Yes, the betting market in London has undergone dramatic changes. Camelot continues to be the leader but he’s now a 7/2 chance. Orfevre has not offered evidence that he will manage a soft track. The Japanese start drifted to 9/2. Saonois and Great Heavens are available at 7/1.

Frankie Dettori was plying his trade in New York on Saturday. He was supposed to be in Paris on Sunday to ride Camelot. These jockeys are amazing human beings. Don’t you think?

Since 2000, I have had my share of winners in the Arc. Sakhee in 2001 justified my confidence. Dalakhani in 2003 was my pick and the 7/5 favorite as well. I liked Zarkava in 2008 and so did a million others. I will mention that I fancied Sea The Stars in 2009 for what it is worth. The Jon Oxx-trained and Mick Kinane-ridden Sea The Stars was an odds on proposition.

Post 18 is the reason that there has been a dampening of my enthusiasm for Orfevre. Post 18 has not provided an Arc winner in 35 years. Camelot, many experts say, will find the task beyond him. He did not beat much in his victories in England. The going will be too soft for him. The St Leger at Doncaster took too much out of him.

Shareta, second in the Arc last year, is in good form. I believe the ‘very’ soft going will blunt her effectiveness. Saonois is in fine fettle but may have to find more to be a major player.

I am taking Great Heavens. The Galileo filly, trained by John Gosden, has a glittering record. She won the Irish Oaks at the Curragh on a rain-ravaged course. Great Heavens has been supplemented to the big race. I am sure that John Gosden took the rain and the going factor into consideration and took a calculated risk. He and Buick have been teaming up and winning major stake races in Europe this year.

There are seven Group I races including the Arc on Sunday at Longchamp. The Prix d’Abbaye is a straight five-furlong dash. There are 19 runners.

Ten sophomore girls go postward in the Marcel Boussac over a mile.

Then we have the seven-furlong Jean-Luc Lagardere for freshman boys. Nine of them will answer the starter’s call.

Fillies and mares, 14 of them, will line up in the Prix de l’Opera over a mile and a quarter.

The Arc follows. The next event is the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs for three year-olds and up.

The last Group I is a marathon. It is the Prix du Cadran over a mile and seven furlongs. It is for four year-olds and up. Eleven horses go to the gate.

On Saturday, there were four Group II races run at Longchamp. All four races were won by horses trained in France. ‘Home court advantage’ was the name of the game. Canticum, at 126/10, set the ball rolling in the Prix Chaudenay. Gregory Benoist rode for trainer D Smag. Gerald Mosse and Zinabaa combined to score in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein for trainer M Mace. Zinabaa was a 61/10 chance.

Cirrus Des Aigles returned from a layoff and gave his rivals a thrashing in the Prix Dollar. The 2011 Champions Stakes winner at Ascot on Champions’ Day, Cirrus Des Aigles was the 11/10 favorite. Olivier Peslier rode for trainer Madame C Barande Barbe. There is every reason to think that Cirrus Des Aigles will head to Ascot to take on Frankel on October 20 in the Champion Stakes.

Dalkala made it all under a smart Christophe Lemaire steer in the Prix de Royallieu. Dalkala is trained by Alain De-Royer Dupre. She was a 3/1 chance.


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