To the inward-looking followers of the Parisian racing circuit, Millkom, from a yard which is closer to Spain than the French capital, is an outsider. To the British bookies, however, he is anything but, and in Ladbrokes' Arc betting he is now 12-1 from 14-1, with only Andre Fabre's Carnegie rated a more potent home challenger.
The puzzle for backers is whether Millkom's stamina will stretch to the Arc's 12 furlongs, a trip he has yet to attempt. Both his sire and dam were sprinters, but yesterday's mile and a quarter contest offered no more clues to the limits of their son's endurance.
After taking up the running over a furlong out under his regular rider, Jean-Rene Dubosc, Millkom held on by only a head from the fast-finishing Volochine, with Sand Reef a short-head third.
It was not, on the face of it, an Arc winner's form, but it must be recalled that Millkom has had the classic Arc preparation and yesterday's race was his first since winning the Grand Prix de Paris in late June.
After almost three months' patience, Rouget was hardly likely to bring Millkom to his peak a fortnight early, and the trainer admitted as much in the winner's enclosure. 'It was important that he had an easy race,' Rouget said. 'He didn't take too much out of himself and he would have won more easily if he had hit the front sooner.'
His jockey concurred. 'He was a little rusty today,' Dubosc said, 'he'll be spot on for the Arc. This was just like a routine gallop for him.'
Millkom's potential stamina problem will be just one of the talking points in the days leading up to a fascinating Arc. Pedigree experts will insist that his chance of getting 12 furlongs is slim at best, but their understanding of the physiological factors which determine a horse's staying power (let alone the degree to which these are inherited) is equally minimal.
Millkom's trainer saddled more winners than Fabre last season, and has given his colt a textbook preparation. The 14-1 offered by Hills is at least a fair price, and British punters should perhaps be more concerned by the skinny odds about White Muzzle (4-1 favourite), Only Royale (5-1) and King's Theatre (10-1).
With three winners in the last 13 years, the record of British-trained horses in the Arc is hardly inspiring, and in any case our runners will almost certainly be longer on the Pari-Mutuel come race day.
Anyone looking for value now must concentrate on the French-trained runners which, Millkom apart, all but means those from Fabre's stable. Carnegie, at around 10-1, looks the yard's principal hope, but while his breeding - Sadler's Wells out of the 1980 Arc winner, Detroit - will satisfy purists, his achievements to date are minimal. The form of his success in the Prix Eugene Adam, for instance, gives him something to find with Millkom.
Intrepidity's appetite for competition has apparently been exhausted, but Richard Of York, who beat last year's Oaks winner and Apple Tree in the Prix Foy last weekend in the fastest time of the day's three Arc trials, makes some appeal at 16-1 with Sporting Index.
He must surely have a better chance than Ezzoud, who was 17th last year and will surely not get home, but is just four points longer at 16-1. The rain which tends to visit Longchamp in late September should also work in Richard Of York's favour, and his splendidly British name may be as close as this country will get to the season's most important winners' enclosure.
Lemon Souffle, the leading juvenile filly of 1993 worked well after racing at Newbury on Saturday. The Richard Hannon-trained filly heads for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot next Saturday and then the Prix de La Foret at Longchamp on 16 October.
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