Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Taghrooda out to deliver the goods
Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
- Longchamp racecourse
- Sunday 5 October
- 15:30 BST
- Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live; TV: Channel 4, At The Races, Racing UK
They say this is as open a running of the Qatar-sponsored Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as there's been since Comrade and Frank Bullock won the first in 1920.
Three-time winner Frankie Dettori believes "you can name 10 horses that can win this year".
The filly, the mount of Paul Hanagan, has a massive weight concession because of her age and sex, and is the narrow favourite as she attempts to bounce back from a sole defeat (in five starts), inflicted by fellow Arc challenger Tapestry in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Victory would make Taghrooda the fourth successive female horse - and the third aged three - to land the Longchamp feature's spoils after, working backwards, Treve, Solemia and Danedream.
Her wide draw in stall 15 is higher than ideal, but certainly not the end of the world.
|Previous Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners|
|2009||Sea The Stars||Michael Kinane|
|2007||Dylan Thomas||Kieren Fallon|
|2006||Rail Link||Stephane Pasquier|
|2005||Hurricane Run||Kieren Fallon|
Breathing down Taghrooda's powerful neck are a string of other hopefuls including Ectot (stall 10), successful in the often informative Prix Niel and the choice of jockey Gregory Benoist, who rejected another leading contender, the unbeaten Avenir Certain, in his favour.
Also there is Treve, back again. A disappointment in each of her three races since last year's win, she has, insists her trainer Criquette Head-Maarek "rediscovered a big part of her powers".
After the first two defeats, Head-Maarek, who also won with Three Troikas (1979), insisted to the four-year-old filly's owner Sheikh Joaan Al Thani that his number one jockey Dettori should be replaced by original rider Thierry Jarnet.
Although the Sheikh recently part-purchased Ectot, a condition of sale was that Benoit kept the mount if he wanted it, so Dettori is on Ruler Of The World, the outsider of his boss' runners.
That said, the Aidan O'Brien-trained winner of the 2013 Epsom Derby - owned by Sheikh Joaan with the Coolmore partners - is no forlorn hope, having had success under Dettori in the Prix Foy at Longchamp in September.
"He's a Derby winner with low mileage this year," said former champion jockey Dettori, who missed last year's winning ride on Treve because of injury.
"He won well last time but this year looks a vintage Arc. You have the best three year olds, the best older horses, on a beautiful racecourse. It doesn't get any better."
Dettori's fellow Italian Andrea Atzeni, enjoying a breakthrough year, again partners the St Leger victor Kingston Hill.
No horse has completed the Leger/Arc double, and being on the outside in stall 20 is a minus, but Atzeni and Roger Varian, trainer of the colt who was runner-up in the Derby, are making the right noises.
Atzeni said: "He's ready to go again. He feels as good if not better than before the St Leger."
Each the above, plus two or three others, are right in the mix for what is - however much the British and Irish authorities might protest - European racing's most prized trophy.
Indeed, so prized is this mile-and-a-half long feature, staged among the fallen, autumnal leaves of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, that somewhere else wants it badly too.
Japan, a growing superpower on the racing stage, is becoming positively obsessed with landing it after achieving no less than four runners-up spots since 1999.
Just A Way, the highest-rated horse in the world, heads a charge that also includes Harp Star, a three-year-old filly enjoying the same weight allowances as Taghrooda, and Gold Ship.
There's little doubt the Japanese will soon do it, and with question marks over the stamina of Just A Way and the temperament of Gold Ship, Harp Star - second in their Oaks - might be the pick.
Once again, a large contingent of Japanese fans - Orfevre attracted an estimated 6,000 followers in 2012 and 2013 - are expected, but they may well go home disappointed again.
Because although the draw has not been particularly kind to Taghrooda, the conditions as regards weight could be hugely significant.
Treat last time out as a forgivable blip, and she's fancied to add the Arc to an already glittering CV.