Stare at the form long enough and you’ll find a reason almost any horse could win the 93rd running of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1)…and almost any reason to not be confident in that selection. The entire field, bar one, has a blemish on their ledgers. So let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Why they could all win:
#1 FLINTSHIRE has raced into shape and loves firmer ground.
#2 RULER OF THE WORLD showed a new tactic last time and could get first run.
#3 AL KAZEEM is relatively fresh this season and if he reclaims his best form, he’s a player.
#4 IVANHOWE beat Germany’s best last time.
#5 SPIRITJIM is very rarely out of the frame and is a course and distance winner.
#6 GOLD SHIP should sit a great ground-saving trip and his back-form best makes him a threat.
#7 JUST A WAY is the highest-rated horse in the world and could just keep going.
#8 TREVE is healthier now than any time this year and we know she loves Longchamp.
#9 CHICQUITA ran huge second-up last season when behind a perfect Treve.
#10 SILJAN’S SAGA is a winner over the trip.
#11 ECTOT cruised to the lead, perhaps even too soon, last time and could be getting better.
#12 MONTVIRON will likely lead them to at least the false straight, after that, it’s a prayer.
#13 PRINCE GIBRALTAR has never run a bad race.
#14 KINGSTON HILL has shown versatility and the extra ground he’ll cover could fit his style.
#15 FREE PORT LUX is a winner at the course and his trainer has plenty of success here.
#16 AVENIR CERTAIN has never been beaten.
#17 DOLNIYA is completely unexposed against these, but never been out of the frame.
#18 TAGHROODA has the most impressive win of a Euro 3YO in the race, her King George tally.
#19 HARP STAR has been consistently explosive and beat older males, including Gold Ship, in last race.
#20 TAPESTRY is only horse to beat Taghrooda, which surely counts for something.
Here’s why they won’t win.
#1 FLINTSHIRE is winless since last July.
#2 RULER OF THE WORLD may have had it easy on the lead last time and everyone will be full out this time.
#3 AL KAZEEM has yet to get back to his best form of the past.
#4 IVANHOWE is inconsistent.
#5 SPIRITJIM has barely lasted in top company and folded against some better last time.
#6 GOLD SHIP is also quirky, leaving you wondering which horse shows up.
#7 JUST A WAY might not get the distance.
#8 TREVE is a shell of her former self, off all year.
#9 CHICQUITA in toughest race of her life and just second start of season.
#10 SILJAN’S SAGA hasn’t been close on quality.
#11 ECTOT labored late and was nearly caught by a horse whose best success was in America on turf.
#12 MONTVIRON is a rabbit for Ectot.
#13 PRINCE GIBRALTAR failed against lesser in his last few.
#14 KINGSTON HILL is drawn way out in 20.
#15 FREE PORT LUX faces much tougher elders.
#16 AVENIR CERTAIN has distance concerns and gets firmer ground for the first time.
#17 DOLNIYA gets the class test against males.
#18 TAGHROODA showed kinks in her armor last time.
#19 HARP STAR has a jockey unfamiliar with this big international scene and can occasionally be left with too much to do.
#20 TAPESTRY has a lone really top race in her recent record and was listless last out.
This is actually a fairly cathartic process. We know not everyone in this field really could win, but honestly, there would be very few surprises. So who really is among the contenders. You have to find a way to narrow things down. Here is a chance.
#19 Harp Star has been the most consistently impressive horse running in the Arc. She’s done it against big fields (notice how very few in this field have) with circumstances that have both been in her favor and gone against her. She’s never been worse than second, beaten a neck and nose in two defeats. Yuga Kawada is a concern on the international stage, but has the highest winning percentage of any jockey in Japan right now. He has 31 Group-level wins in his career, and outside of a recruiting trip to Longchamp, has not been in a situation anywhere near this. Her ability to settle out the back and make a long run gives us enough confidence that Kawada will manage the race well. She is the on top pick.
#1 Flintshire is a course, distance, and condition winner – landing last year’s Grand Prix de Paris (G1). He split the field in last year’s race over softer ground that is obviously not his preference. Trained into this race off three runs this year, including just one since June 29, and with a legitimate pacemaker to chase and a good draw, he seems incredibly legitimate at a dandy price.
#11 Ectot did things too easily last time to be ignored, leaving the impression he was completely healthy and ready to take a step forward. His fragility is obviously a concern, but just looked the part last time.
#5 Spiritjim is simply much too overlooked at say, 66-1, but has just been too consistent. He was disqualified for a drug positive after nabbing Noble Mission in the final strides of the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. Take the consistency, maybe a good trip, some pace to run at and top connections – he’s legitimate.
#18 Taghrooda might be over the top after such a big win back in July. Rested since then, you have to think she is a chance if she bounces back to her best.
If you think Harp Star can run well, you really can’t ignore #6 Gold Ship.
So we are playing Harp Star on top and will use the following, in order, underneath: #1 Flintshire, #6 Gold Ship, #11 Ectot, #5 Spiritjim, #18 Taghrooda.
As for Dubai-related connections on the card, the remarkable Sole Power is favored in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1). Second in the Dubai Kahayla Classic, Djanika Des Forges is drawn widest of 20 for the Qatar World Cup (G1), the world’s richest race for purebred Arabians.