I WAS asked recently which was the greatest flat race and it didn’t take much thought to conclude it just has to be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

There may have been grounds in the 70s and 80s for putting Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes alongside it and indeed, it was often the target of exactly the same group of top horses, but the Ascot race has suffered a decline in recent decades.

It is, though, a slight conundrum in that, as the best race, the best horse does not always win it. You could argue, however, it the overcoming of that trend, that elevates those great horses who have justified favouritism in Paris and make them even more special.

Ribot, Sea-Bird, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave, Sea The Stars, Zarkava, Enable – they sealed their careers in fabulous style and many other high-class horses like Peintre Celebre, Treve, Golden Horn were outstanding winners.

So do we have a star winner in Luxembourg or Vadeni tomorrow, or is there another shock in store? Inevitably, even after a globally warmer summer, the rain has arrived in Paris by early October.

By virtue of those changing conditions, it’s often worth looking beyond the more faniced runners.

This year’s race looks wide open as I’m not sure conditions and distance will suit Luxembourg or Vadeni, the two star three-year-olds. It has been pointed out elsewhere this week that Aidan O’Brien’s record with high-class, well-fancied three-year-olds is very poor. But Luxembourg does arrive much fresher than the usual group who had come through the summer classics.

Vadeni leads a home defence of three French-trained three-year-olds and staked a claim for the classic generation when he went on to win the Eclipse after his Prix du Jockey-Club success. He was not disgraced in the Irish Champion Stakes where he didn’t have a clear run and his rider Christophe Soumillon said afterwards he was not fit enough. His trainer won the Arc with Sottsass after he had been only fourth to Magical in Leopardstown in 2020.

The proven three-year-olds that came though the classics and Derby are absent this year with just the Derby third and Irish Derby winner Westover to carry the standard. After over two months off the track, which Westover can we expect? The dominant one from the Curragh or the boiled over one from Ascot? He had also hung fire a bit when winning the Classic Trial at Sandown and found trouble in the Derby. It’s a big ask to return into this level of competition.

Behind Vadeni in the Prix du Jockey-Club were Onesto in fifth and Al Hakeem fourth. Jean-Claude Rouget also trains Al Hakeem, like Sottsass, a son of Siyouni out of a Galileo mare. The trainer had compared him to that Arc winner after a listed win in May. He finished fourth, a neck ahead of Onesto when six and a half lengths behind Vadeni in Chantilly. Lightly raced, he is a much bigger odds (at around 25/1) than Onesto and on that Jockey-Club run, it’s quite a big discrepancy.

Alpinista is the done nothing wrong, trained for the race candidate and there is really little to knock her with but, you feel something will just find a bit more.

Torquator Tasso caused a shock last season, aided by a long season for the younger classic horses and a soft surface underfoot, he swooped through late to shock. He ran well in the King George in July and the underfoot conditions will suit again.

He is drawn wide which on the stats, is a negative but he will be played late and wide again, so it might not be that much of an issue and Dettori has the experience to sit and wait.

The Japanese appear to be the forward runners, Titleholder and Stay Foolish, but it’s surely a difficult task to judge it right from the front.

I liked Sealiway last season in this and it is his time of year and ground but his form since he moved from Cedric Rossi to Francis-Henri Graffard has been some way below that of last season. And the mile and a half may be too far.


So the old, illogical Arc theory that has landed a few tasty outsider bets in the past comes into play again. Have a bash at an outsider who may be overpriced on the basis of recent form but who, on their best form and in the conditions, has a decent each-way chance. That is the mare Grand Glory at 80/1. Her best form gives her a squeak.

It would be great to cheer an Irish winner in Luxembourg but at the odds, I’d take Al Hakeem to be best of the younger generation.