Racing: Rouge in pink of condition for Arc challenge

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The Independent Online
THERE WILL, according to Frankie Dettori, be an unusually small field for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday. The Italian believes that with Montjeu, El Condor Pasa and his mount, Daylami, calling the shots in the Bois de Boulogne several runners will be removed from the crossfire. It is an opinion which received almost immediate substantiation yesterday, when it was announced that even a dual Classic winner could find the mean rues of Paris too dangerous.

Dream Well, the winner of last year's French and Irish Derbys, could well wait instead for a race in New York six days after the Arc. "Dream Well is in good shape but he is just 50-50 to run at Longchamp on Sunday and may instead go for the Turf Classic at Belmont Park on 9 October," Pascal Bary, the trainer, said yesterday. Bary will definitely be represented at the weekend by Croco Rouge, who emerged with distinction from morning work at Chantilly. "Croco Rouge was very calm, showing me a good action," the trainer said. "He seems to be going into this year's race in the same shape as he was when he finished fourth last year."

There are doubts too about Bienamado, who was beaten a head by Montjeu in the Prix Niel. "He's in good form but if it gets too soft then he's not a certain runner," Peter Chapple-Hyam, the chestnut's trainer, said. "The ground is the only thing. I'll wait until Wednesday before making a decision, but if he runs Richard Hughes will ride."

Montjeu, who succeeded Dream Well as the winner of the French and Irish Blue Ribands, was also reported to be shipshape yesterday. "I haven't done much with him over the weekend but he's fine and on course for the race," trainer John Hammond said.

Sunday's field will leave a bit of a mess behind as soggy conditions are predicted yet again for the big race. "This morning the penetrometer measured 3.9, which is the equivalent to very soft ground," Gerard Grandchamp, the Longchamp manager, said. M Grandchamp believes the going will be similar to that on which Sagamix beat 13 opponents 12 months ago. "These things are difficult to predict, but the weather forecast for this week is not too bad and I would think the ground might have dried out a bit by Sunday."

This is hardly likely to hold any terrors for the home contingent, who are used to racing on soft going. "I'm not worried about the ground," confirmed Hammond. "He goes on the soft. It's very exciting so let's just hope we get him there in one piece. It will be good to see him going into the stalls on Sunday."

There were no tears either from Andre Fabre, who is seeking to extend his record tally of five wins in the race. The multiple French champion trainer usually sends a battery of representatives into this battle but will be represented this time solely by Borgia, who was third behind Peintre Celebre two years ago. "She has come on for her run in the Prix Foy and she acts well on this type of ground," Fabre said yesterday.

The French may launch something of a pre-emptive strike at Newmarket this afternoon when Criquette Head sends over Mall Queen for the Cheveley Park Stakes. It is a contest of which Mme Head is fond, having taken it with Ma Biche, Ravinella and Pas de Reponse. However, her representative this autumn has it all to do with Moon Driver, her compatriot.

Jonathan Pease's filly, the mount of Cash Asmussen, was three lengths ahead of Mall Queen in the Prix d'Arenberg at Chantilly earlier this month. Another in-form yard is the Ballydoyle premises of Aidan O'Brien, who saddled his 50th two-year-old winner of the campaign when Royal Kingdom collected the Royal Lodge Stakes over a mile at Ascot on Sunday.

Of his three entries O'Brien now relies on Warrior Queen, who won a Listed race at the Curragh last time. That, though, may not be good enough.

The home side is likely to be led by Giles Bravery's Torgau, who was a winner over course and distance in the Cherry Hinton Stakes in July. "She seems in great form and has been working well," the trainer said yesterday. "She's the one they all have to beat."