ParisLongchamp Saturday

1.33 Qatar Prix de Royallieu (Group 1) (3yo+ Fillies & Mares) 1m 6f

The Arc weekend race where I am most emotionally invested comes right at the start, but the strength of my feeling has nothing to do with any potential financial gain, or rigorous form study, just a passionate desire for sporting fair play.

So, here’s hoping that Verry Elleegant lands the Group 1 Qatar Prix de Royallieu, allowing her gallant owners the winner’s podium platform to voice their disgust at how their 11-time Australian Group 1 scorer has come on a 10,000-mile odyssey only to be denied the chance to end her glorious career with participation in the world’s most prestigious mile-and-a-half race.

The sorry saga of how her suddenly shrunken international handicap rating has coincided with the first over-subscribed Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe since 2014 is something French racing officials should be thoroughly ashamed about.

For the good of the global sport, a rule change to accommodate intercontinental champions in future Arcs should take place post haste.

Caustic wit

I know how my much-missed predecessor, Desmond Stoneham, would sum up the episode with his inimitable caustic wit – ‘if you don’t buy our submarines, don’t expect us to welcome your champion mare into our big race!’

Sadly, Verry Elleegant may still not prove good enough, even in this much lesser race. William Haggas saddles the worthy favourite in the form of the dual Group 2 scorer Sea La Rosa, while Aidan O’Brien’s dozen-strong weekend raid kicks off here with both St Leger fifth Emily Dickinson and Down Royal listed winner Perotan.

But, at a decent price, it could be worth siding with the Pascal Bary-trained Jannah Flower given that she stays very well, was a fine second to Quickthorn here in July and was ill-suited by the combination of a slow pace and a drop in trip on her only start since.


Next best: Sea La Rosa

3.25 Qatar Prix du Cadran (Group 1) (4yo+) 2m 4f

Kyprios, a Galileo sibling to four pattern-race winners including two who were successful at the highest level, out of the brilliant Moyglare Stud mare Polished Gem, should complete a perfect six-from-six season here by landing a fourth straight Group 1 of his own for O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.

Those previous three top-level victories have each been secured by slender margins of less than a length.

Yet Kyprios gives the firm impression that he only ever does the bare minimum required to win and, with Moore riding better than ever this term and highly unlikely to get him into a tight spot, his status as Europe’s undisputed staying champion should be confirmed with another triumph.

The Tony Mullins-trained Princess Zoe enjoyed her finest hour when landing this in 2020 but she was only fifth 12 months ago and had been some way off her best of late, so the runaway Lonsdale Cup winner, Quickthorn, trained in England by Hughie Morrison, is the leading candidate for the runners-up spot.

Should the ground come up really soft, another British visitor, Brian Ellison’s Tashkan, would come into calculations, especially if the application of sheepskin cheekpieces sharpens him up.


Next best: Quickthorn

Saturday’s undercard includes three Group 2 races, each one boasting €200,000 in total prize money, and the initial Irish challenger is the Dermot Weld-trained Duke De Sessa in the first of them (and the weekend’s pipe opener – due off at an ungodly 12.23pm), the Qatar Prix de Chaudenay.

A recent Leopardstown Group 3 winner, Duke de Sessa faces six opponents and should go well again but may have to give best to Jean-Claude Rouget’s promising young stayer, La Mehana.

The Francis Graffard-trained mudlark The Revenant goes for an unprecedented third victory in the Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein over a mile and his recent third on much faster ground in the Prix du Moulin should have put him spot on for a fourth try at a race he finished a close second in last year.

However, he faces a high-class and cosmopolitan collection of nine rivals including the Irish pair, Glounthaune and Raadobarg, second and fifth in the Group 2 Boomerang Mile last time out.

The pick of two British representatives is Kevin Ryan’s Triple Time, who recently returned from a year off with victory in a four-runner Haydock Group 3. But preference is for another member of the Rouget yard, Erevann, who finished a superb third in the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois on his latest outing.

Strong hand

Rouget holds a strong hand in the other Group 2 as well, the Qatar Prix Dollar over 1m 1f 165yds, saddling both the fast-improving three-year-old Lassaut and the five-time group-winning older horse Wally among a field of 12.

The €4 million-earner Addeybb makes his first appearance since July here but the veteran eight-year-old is not the horse he once was, so it may be left to fellow British visitor Anmaat, who is trained by Owen Burrows and won by four lengths on his pattern-race debut last time, to halt the Rouget bandwagon.

The final two Irish hopes on the card are a pair of two-year-olds: O’Brien’s comfortable Naas maiden victor Denmark, and Fozzy Stack’s Tipperary listed second and Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes sixth Papilio.

They could easily fill the first two places in the 17-runner Haras de Bouquetot Criterium Arqana, an incredibly valuable mile contest restricted to horses purchased at the Arqana Yearling Sales.