It seems sacrilege to talk statistics about a race in a city as emotionally stimulating as Paris, but the destination of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe appears to lie within two sets of numbers.
The markets, at least, dictate that tomorrow's great race will be won by one of two contestants which lead a pattern, either the modern trend or the old, either Hurricane Run or Shawanda.
André Fabre's Hurricane Run enjoyed a break after his victory in the Irish Derby. He returned, successfully, in the Prix Niel, just as six of the previous 11 winners of the Arc had, while there have been two placed horses from that contest which have gone on to lead the parade in the Bois de Boulogne as well.
Even if he had nothing else on his side (and a statistical anomaly is that Hurricane Run will emerge from the No6 berth which has never produced the winner since stalls were introduced), history seems to have given him a two-length start.
Fabre says Hurricane Run has improved since his Niel victory, which might be just flannel from another's lips but we have to take seriously from a man who has won here five times before. In addition, the colt is ridden by Kieren Fallon, who has every other medal apart from the Arc one clanging on his breast.
"I would like some rain for Hurricane Run, as he definitely likes to get his toe in to be at his best," Fallon said yesterday. That wish came partly true when light drizzle visited the French capital. Forecasts suggest the going will be on the soft side of good come post time. Yet, despite all his qualifications, there are troublesome elements to Hurricane Run. Unlike a Fabre predecessor in Peintre Celebre he does not possess switch-on speed. That might make manoeuvring difficult in a field of 15 (The Luca Cumani-trained Alkaased was withdrawn yesterday with an infected cut).
Hurricane Run may not even possess knockout form, as he was only just ahead of Scorpion in the Irish Derby. The latter did go on to collect the St Leger, but it is a rather deflating thought that a horse with the stamina to win at 14 furlongs at Doncaster could also be good enough to win an Arc. Anyway, such a double has not been completed since 1957. There is some irksome detail too surrounding the best of the British entry, the Derby winner Motivator, who has looked a rather more timid animal in two unsuccessful starts since. Even if we go back to a previous victory in York's Dante Stakes, we find he beat The Geezer by a length and a half. Is it possible that The Geezer would be a length and a half behind the winner tomorrow? Mais non.
When the second batch of numbers come chugging out of the computer we have to go back to try to predict the future. Urban Sea, in 1993, is the last filly to win the race, but from the mid-1970s until 1983 wisdom seemed to have it that an outstanding female runner could take full advantage of her sex allowance. Seven fillies won an Arc in that period.
A worthy successor appears to have arrived in the shape of Shawanda, a daughter of the millennium winner, Sinndar. Like her sire, the Aga Khan's filly moves deceptively quickly. On her shattering Irish Oaks victory she must be a consideration, even if this represents Shawanda's first assignment against both the colts and older fillies. A representative of the latter group is a stablemate at Alain de Royer-Dupré's Chantilly yard, Pride, who is drawn 14, much to the horror of her trainer. Nevertheless, Pride, winner of the Prix Foy, still offers the best place opportunity.
There are three televised races from Longchamp this afternoon and a further four Group Ones screened tomorrow, when the best is saved to last. Shawanda has the form if not the experience to win a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, while another contender has both attributes.
Bago was the winner here 12 months ago and if his form has been a little intermittent this season, it is no worse than his previous efforts in the last campaign.
The four-year-old is reported in the same good health as last autumn by his trainer, Jonathan Pease, and the ground is firm enough for delivery of his trademark burst of speed. While the focus is on the new kids on the block, the euro should be with the proven streetfighter, the money should be with BAGO (4.30).Reuse content