Racing: Eddery can brave traffic with Intrepidity: Richard Edmondson signposts qualities needed for Longchamp's unique test

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The Independent Online
IN PARIS, both on the Peripherique and in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, they always complain of traffic problems. The ring road continues to frustrate, but this year the congestion on the race-track has been eased by limiting the Arc field to 20 runners.

This move, and the prize- money qualification for a run, had this week threatened the participation of the lightly raced Richard Of York. Sheikh Mohammed's colt will, after all, go into battle, however, in no small part due to the owner's decision to take Moonax out of the race.

Despite the reduction in the field, few doubt that the event will retain its status as one of Europe's most abrasive races, an encounter to compare with the Palio in Siena.

'Any time you get 20 runners in a Group One race there is going to be plenty of bumping and boring,' John Hammond, who trained the 1991 winner Suave Dancer, says. 'The Arc is always the strongest field for any race of the year and it's rough because those guys don't want to give away too much ground.'

This strong field, as usual, has a cosmopolitan flavour. As well as the best from France and Britain, there are representatives from Germany, Italy and, with a touch of exotica, the appearance of the Brazilian champion, Much Better.

Amid the maelstrom they create, the judgement of racing speed will be essential. 'If it's a suicidal pace, you can be up there if you like, but you won't be there at the death,' Hammond says. 'If you're up front and running up that hill seeing too much daylight you simply won't finish.'

There will be no hanging around in the Bois de Boulogne tomorrow as John Hills, Broadway Flyer's trainer, has issued a pace-making declaration of intent. A half-share was bought in the colt yesterday by the Sultan Al Kabeer, who also owns Apple Tree.

Those following Broadway Flyer will have to decide if the rhythm is too strong, and this has never been an easy exercise around Longchamp.

Cash Asmussen, Suave Dancer's rider three years ago and Hernando's partner tomorrow, says: 'I've been riding in the race for more than 10 years and I tell you it doesn't get much easier. It's a track that takes a lot of riding and if I had to sit down and talk to you about all the problems it would take three days.

'Perhaps some other guys haven't learnt as much as I have about the race and that may give me an advantage. And you sure need some sort of advantage.'

This testimony hardly bodes well for Yutaka Take, whose first ride in the race is on the favourite, White Muzzle. The colt's trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, has faith in his man, even though he knows this is an incomparable test for jockeys. 'With the false straight and everything, I think Longchamp is the hardest course in Europe to ride,' he says. 'Luck is going to count for about 50 per cent in this race. In the Arc you have to have as much luck as in any other race.'

The excuses, when they come, will be hard to digest if the state of the ground is the main theme. The going is good to soft and, with Paris bathed in sunshine yesterday and the forecast favourable, conditions should be perfect.

Punters should also be wary that they are not searching for excuses on their returns. If backers in Britain do not take an individual price on their selection they will be paid out at Pari-Mutuel odds. While White Muzzle and Only Royale will be fighting it out for favouritism in British books, the shortest price on course will be combinedodds returned for Sheikh Mohammed's quartet.

This distinction is well worth noting, because, among his band, the man from Dubai has the perfect identikit of an Arc winner, an animal used to this unique battleground who is ridden by a man who has proved himself in a race in which tin hats might be preferable to jockeys' helmets. The triumphant partnership could well be Intrepidity and Pat Eddery.