Springtime is the season which supposedly captivates those who travel to Paris, but autumn will not be far behind, for turfistes at least, after the activities of the weekend.
The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe never does less than it says on the tin and the end-of-season championship is beginning to compile a richly layered cast that would do justice to a cinematic blockbuster. Longchamp's 11, they might call it.
The long-term favourite for the dance through the Bois de Boulogne, Hurricane Run, remains in pole position following his facile success in the Prix Niel in Paris yesterday. Motivator too is still around despite defeat in the Irish Champion Stakes, while Shawanda, Alkaased and Scorpion are others to emerge through the battlefield smoke of the weekend with their Arc pretensions still intact.
Motivator is beginning to cut a strange figure. He remains a solid second favourite for the first Sunday in October despite the fact that he lost, once again, to Oratorio. Once again, it was not an entirely satisfactory race for Michael Bell's colt. Motivator ran round the outside at Leopardstown, largely divorced from the front-running pair of Temple Place and Hazarista. They offered him none of the benefits which are meant to accrue from pacemakers.
The shape of the race then meant that Motivator was left in front far too early and easy prey to the late surge of Oratorio and Kieren Fallon. Yet the cold conclusion is that Motivator has now been revealed as nothing more than a very good horse. He is not, as we were once able to imagine as he murdered a Derby field, the next hooved coming.
Still, Motivator is in one piece and was by no means booed on his way back to his digs at Newmarket's Fitzroy House. "He's on his way back this morning," Bell said yesterday, "but I spoke to my travelling head lad and he said he's eaten up well and is absolutely fine. We will give him a couple of easy days now and then we will line him up for Paris.
"He put in a very good run and I certainly think that's the best race I have been involved in. He's proved he is a very good horse at a mile and a quarter. Hopefully, he will now get his optimum ground back at his optimum trip in Paris and let's hope he can collect the spoils."
Scorpion looked a tricky customer before and during his success in Saturday's 229th St Leger. The son of Montjeu (also the proud father of Motivator and Hurricane Run) went down to the start sideways in the hands of Frankie Dettori and, during action proper, decided to take on the Town Moor infrastructure as well as his opponents. Scorpion recovered rather admirably from his swerve towards the running rail and it may be that Dettori will get the opportunity to test his balance again on 2 October.
That possibility remains alive as Fallon is likely to partner Hurricane Run in the Arc. Having his first run since winning the Irish Derby, the André Fabre-trained colt won comfortably from his eased-down stablemate Runaway yesterday. "I think the horse is just coming back to himself. He's appreciated a break and he had a spring in his step," Fallon said. "It's all systems go for the Arc now."
Shawanda advertised her big-race claims on the same card with an effortless victory in the Prix Vermeille. The Aga Khan's filly took the lead after two furlongs from Royal Highness and was always going easily for Christophe Soumillon.
Fallon's mount, Dash To The Top, trained by Luca Cumani, finished fourth after being very slowly away, while the other British raider, David Elsworth's Something Exciting, was last of the six runners.
"Provided she takes this race well she will go for the Arc," the Aga Khan said. "She was pretty impressive. She has something of Sinndar about her - her stride and her ability to accelerate."
Soumillon added: "She was pretty good, but it was just exercise for her. I hope with this run she will be 100 per cent at the Arc."
Alkaased's Arc hopes were little damaged when he was beaten by Pride in the Prix Foy. "This was a proper-run race unlike the other two trials," Cumani, his trainer, said. "He travelled extremely well and came to win his race, but he obviously needed it and he got tired. It's disappointing to lose, but we know where we stand now and we will be back for the Arc."
PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE (Longchamp, 2 October): William Hill: 5-2 Hurricane Run, 7-2 Shawanda, 4-1 Motivator, 8-1 Azamour, Scorpion, 10-1 Bago, 12-1 Pride, 14-1 Alkaased, 20-1 Imperial Stride, 25-1 Cherry Mix, Grey Swallow, Runaway, Shirocco, 33-1 Walk In The Park, Warrsan, Westerner, Yeats, 50-1 others.
Coral: 11-4 Hurricane Run, 3-1 Shawanda, 5-1 Motivator, 9-1 Bago, 10-1 Scorpion, 14-1 Pride, Alkaased, 16-1 Yeats, 20-1 Runaway, Grey Swallow, Shirocco, Warrsan, 25-1 Cherry Mix, Doyen, 33-1 others.
Nap: Dhekraa (Musselburgh 3.50)
NB: Bolton Hall
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