Racing: High Chaparral has grit to repel Dalakhani's drive

Prix De L'arc De Triomphe: Europe's premier race promises a gripping contest between the French champion and a formidably tough Irish colt
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Opposites Should provide a glorious attraction tomorrow afternoon in the 82nd running of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the Bois de Boulogne.

Opposites Should provide a glorious attraction tomorrow afternoon in the 82nd running of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the Bois de Boulogne.

It will be a day of unrivalled quality at Longchamp, six sumptuous Group One races spread across a card with an intriguing Arc as its ace. For here we have two formidable camps on either side of the battlefield, the frighteningly fast Dalakhani for France and Ireland's relentlessly functional High Chaparral.

The first is the beacon of the Classic generation, the other the past master, the champion middle-distance horse of the previous campaign. Even in the prosaic matter of the draw they are apart, High Chaparral in box one and Dalakhani on the wide outside of the 14-strong field. It is a factor likely to shape the whole race.

High Chaparral has many estimable qualities, but instant acceleration does not count among them. He will have to be bustled along early by Michael Kinane to reach his favoured striking area of just behind the leaders. The fate of Dalakhani appears pre-ordained. It seems he must linger as far back as the daring of Christophe Soumillon will allow before the afterburner is turned on. A compelling denouement awaits.

"We have a very bad draw, but not too bad because of the way he can be ridden," Soumillon said yesterday. "If we come out of the gate last then we will wait there. I know he has a very good finish and I know how much ground he can make up in the last 400m.

"It is a very good race because High Chaparral is a very good horse. And Ange Gabriel has had a great season. My horse is very good at the moment and now we will see if he can do what everybody wants on the big day."

Alain de Royer-Dupré, Dalakhani's trainer, is happy his job is done. "The horse looks okay and he did a good gallop this week," he said yesterday. "But now it's the race and anything can happen. He has been giving confidence to the jockey and the trainer because he is very calm.

"He has done what we want and I am relaxed. But there is Ange Gabriel, High Chaparral and Doyen. Plenty of danger."

The menace of High Chaparral is already in the book. The winner of two Derbys and the Breeders' Cup Turf last season, he has returned to defeat the mighty Falbrav in the Irish Champion Stakes a month ago.

Nevertheless, the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt remains a slightly forgotten athlete, partly because of his relative inactivity and also because of the emergence of the new comets flashing across the racing firmament. Today, however, he will be difficult to ignore.

It is, of course, absurd to bill this entirely as a two-horse race, even if several of tomorrow's runners have not been entered with the intention of winning. First Charter is in situ to make the running for the Derby winner, Kris Kin, while Diyapour will perform a similar function for Dalakhani.

It nevertheless seems that O'Brien has identified stamina as the key frontier against Dalakhani as he apparently saddles two pacemakers, Fontanesi to do the dirty work initially and then Black Sam Bellamy to collect the baton when he is done. There will be no time to tarry.

Kris Kin was third three weeks ago in Dalakhani's Prix Niel, a formidable historical springboard for the Arc. There was further proof that day that Michael Stoute's colt does not possess the essential nimbleness that tomorrow will require.

The Niel runner-up, Doyen, has another go at Dalakhani and has formidable men in his corner, namely André Fabre, five times the victorious trainer here, and Frankie Dettori, who now goes for a hat-trick in the race following the successive exploits of Sakhee and then Marienbard 12 months ago. Doyen, however, has none of their experience and could well be sucked up in the whirlwind.

Ange Gabriel already has the consistency badge on his lapel and has place prospects, while the predicted slugfest in sloppy ground should also suit another Irish horse, Dermot Weld's Vinnie Roe, who is the best each-way bet.

Yet when the finale is played out, it will be gravely disappointing if the opposites are not attracted to each other at the head of the field. Dalakhani, ears flat back aerodynamically, will be charging late. It should be, though, that he finds High Chaparral (4.30) has already flown.