YOU’D have been forgiven for checking to see if there was any rumour about whether Love was out of the Arc after glancing at her odds yesterday.
The double classic winner, who had been a 6/4 shot for the race for weeks beforehand, is out to 11/4 now, not due to any doubts about her participation but due to a curious worry about her ability to handle likely soft ground.
An unsettled weather forecast in Paris has led to an unsettled Arc market which has seen Enable hop to the top in her bid for history. Yesterday, Aidan O’Brien told the Racing Post soft ground would not be an advantage to his filly because she is such a good mover. That might well be the case but matter-of-factly speaking, Love hasn’t had the chance to run on soft ground.
Yes she was beaten in the Debutante Stakes and Fillies Mile on ground described as yielding but that was last year, and what she has done last year compared to what she has done this year suggests 2019 is immaterial. We’re dealing with a different filly now.
So while it would probably be better to have good ground for Love, soft ground is probably not the negative people are making it out to be because she hasn’t yet had the chance to prove herself. More pertinent points O’Brien made included the solid fact that Love is a much stronger filly now and the observation that she is out of a Pivotal mare which is likely to be plus for her ability to handle a testing surface.
By going descriptions, the most testing ground Enable has faced to-date has been in two of her three Arcs. She won her first Arc on ground described as soft at Chantilly and last year, when she finished second, she raced on ground described as very soft. They say going descriptions in France are often overplayed in comparison to what you get in Britain and Ireland. I don’t know if that is the case but it’s interesting that when she raced on soft ground for her first Arc win, she posted her quickest mile-and-a-half time of the season, despite racing on ground described no worse than good to soft at Epsom, Ascot, York and the Curragh beforehand.
Last season connections pointed to the very soft ground as an excuse for Enable getting tired late on in her defeat to Waldgeist. But she still ran a brilliant race to be second and maybe if things had played out only a little differently she could have won.
In truth, I just don’t think the ground is as big a factor as it is being made out to be for both fillies. The biggest factor in this race is the one we’ve known all season and all this decade - the record of three-year-old fillies in the race.
There have been three three-year-old female winners of the Arc in the last decade. This category has also provided two runners-up and two third placings. That return has come from a paltry total of 20 runners. Three-year-old fillies receive 10lb from older males in the Arc. They receive 7lb from older fillies and 4lb from three-year-old colts. If you have a top class three-year-old filly, you should be in the Arc. While you can legitimately crab Love’s form, and in turn her rating, I don’t think you can say she isn’t a top class filly, easily the best of her sex and generation and therefore the one to beat.
There are others to consider at bigger prices. Stradivarius is an intriguing runner fully tuned up at a mile and a half while Sottsass was a very good third in the race last season but they, and the rest of the likely field, have plenty to find with the front two and I expect the market to correct itself in the coming days, with Love back on top come post-time at ParisLongchamp.
Another two juvenile Group 1s came and went this weekend without any major impact made by Aidan O’Brien's runners. Lipizzaner was his only representative in the two top level contests on Saturday and he failed to land a blow in the Middle Park.
The Ballydoyle juvenile collective has not been up to previous year’s high standards so far this term but there is plenty to play for still and, with the longer distance Group 1s on the horizon, starting with the mile contests of the Prix Marcel Boussac and Prix Jean Luc Lagardere on at ParisLongchamp this weekend, they should find more suitable targets for the staying influenced pedigrees on hand.
This theme played out in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday, a race O’Brien was winning for the 20th time and 10th time in a row. High Definition looked all at sea late on in that mile contest but he came through with a late blast that carried him to the front to win comfortably and it was really impressive.
In recent seasons O’Brien has won this Group 2 with the likes of Saxon Warrior, Capri and Japan who all went on to be top class at three. High Definition definitely has that sort of trajectory potential now. O’Brien suggested that the winner could be put away for the season now but I wonder if the Coolmore partners will think differently in a few weeks' time if they have no juvenile Group 1 winner on the board? Perhaps then the Vertem Futurity Trophy might prove tempting.