Racing: Pentire can tame the runaway Helissio

Richard Edmondson expects Britain's challenge to overwhelm the favourite
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The Independent Online
It is a syndrome that traditionally applies to policemen, but now it seems that jockeys too are getting younger by the year. For decades the collision between Britain and France in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe was symbolised by the meeting of Lester Piggott and Yves Saint-Martin, men whose jowels had dropped to bloodhound level by the end.

Tomorrow the jewels of the nations will be Olivier Peslier and Frankie Dettori, who, while the rest of us contemplated plane, ferry or tunnel as a means of negotiating the English Channel, just carried on walking when he reached the Kent coast.

Peslier, at 23, is two years younger than Dettori and he too has had a season to remember. The former L'Etrier d'Or (champion apprentice) has built a large lead in his homeland this year and a first Cravache d'Or (jockeys' championship) is close to an inevitability.

The son of a stonemason from south-west France, Peslier now lives in a thatched house in Lamorlaye's elegant 6th Avenue. It is said that when he went to view the property, the vendors asked when his parents would be along, but if maturity does not show in his features it is certainly evident in his riding. Peslier has been entrusted to partner France's great bay hope, Helissio, in the race his countrymen treasure above all others.

Helissio has failed just once in six starts this season, in the French Derby, when he pulled so hard it appeared he had spotted a cart full of carrots just beyond the finishing line. It will be of some source of concern to his connections that the colt's only disappointment was on his previous high-octane engagement. Peslier has intimated that if the pace is not sufficient he will run from the front, which is rarely a fruitful tactic in a championship race such as the Arc when so many good animals are seeking a tow in behind.

Swain, the other French warrior of note, showed last year what the Arc can do to a horse, producing the sort of erratic behaviour in the parade that would lead to a human being fitted for a straitjacket. He did nevertheless finish third to Lammtarra and will have much support as he is considered a stronger beast this time around by his trainer, Andre Fabre.

Apart from Darazari (whom even his jockey, Gerard Mosse, thinks is a fruitcake), that is virtually it as far as the host challenge is concerned. The rest of the 10 horses at the head of the betting are travellers. The two that come furthest sound as though they should originate from central Europe, but Oscar Schindler and Zagreb are products of Ireland.

The former won the Irish St Leger and is likely to find it all a bit too nippy tomorrow, while Zagreb has certain prospects on his Irish Derby victory. However, he seemed to go, in the space of two and a half minutes, from a lazy old devil to the best horse Dermot Weld has ever trained that day, and if that transformation is a jot implausible then so is the form as a whole (a 50-1 shot was third).

Team Britain is led by the first three in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes: Pentire, Classic Cliche and Shaamit. Dettori's mount, Classic Cliche, showed signs that he felt he had done enough for one year until turning in improved work on Thursday, while those behind Shaamit will care to dwell on the fact they have a fresh horse rather than one that ran poorly in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Pentire, despite his Ascot win, can be backed at double figure odds, partly because he was beaten in an Arc trial which should have had Brian Rix hopping along with them with his trousers down, and partly because he is considered vulnerable on soft ground. However, Geoff Wragg's colt did perform with great credit on a cloying surface at the Dubai World Cup and, as his form was close to Lammtarra's last year, PENTIRE (2.50) must be backed here. Tamure, another who has form linked to last year's Arc winner and a horse who will appreciate the going, is the each-way value.

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