Sea Wave is today's guilty party, having parted company with Frankie Dettori as he veered violently left leaving the stalls in his big-race trial, the Prix Niel, three weeks ago. But a bad dress rehearsal allegedly makes for a smash-hit real thing, and Godolphin's runner can take the bouquets in the Bois de Boulogne today.
The colt has undergone intensive individual tuition, personally supervised by his owner Sheikh Mohammed, since his abberation. The Dubai-based outfit's racing manager, Simon Crisford, said: "We have tried to make sure that there will be no repetition of that laddish behaviour and he has behaved perfectly in practice."
Sea Wave, a Sadler's Wells half-brother to another who has shown squiggly tendencies, Three Cheers, has yet to tackle Group One company. But he showed the effortless powers and acceleration of a high-class colt with his eased-down four-length defeat of the wholly reliable yardstick Rabah in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August. That ranks as one of the best performances by a three-year-old this season.
Sea Wave, who will be accompanied to post by his pacemaker Happy Valentine, is one of six British challengers for the pounds 404,000 first prize. The one with the best public form is the Derby winner, High-Rise, who has been given a low-key French-style preparation by Luca Cumani, not having been seen in public since his unavailing pursuit of Swain in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July.
Fifteen Epsom Derby winners have run in the Arc as three-year-olds, but only three - an exceptional trio in Sea-Bird, Mill Reef and Lammtarra - have won. High-Rise is a thoroughly professional operator, but has yet to prove he belongs in that sort of company.
History has decreed that, when in France, side with the locals - Lammtarra was only the ninth British raider to win in 77 runnings. Andre Fabre has the best record of current trainers with four victories, though he has already acknowledged that his three contenders today are more in the class of Subotica than Peintre Celebre. His stable jockey, Olivier Peslier, has opted for the unbeaten soft-ground specialist Sagamix, winner of the Niel, in his bid to match Pat Eddery's Rainbow Quest-Dancing Brave-Trempolino three-timer.
Pascal Bary saddles Dream Well, winner of the French and Irish Derbys, and Croco Rouge. The latter has always been the trainer's darling and he avenged his unexpected Chantilly defeat by his stablemate when the pair were second and third to Sagamix on bottomless going in that Niel. But Dream Well's work has impressed since.
The only German-trained Arc winner has been Star Appeal 23 years ago, remembered more for his 119-1 starting price than his talent. But, after Lando's fourth place three years ago and Borgia's magnificent third last year the German horses should not be underestimated. Tiger Hill, trained by ex-jockey Peter Schiergen, is their representative and, on his four- length defeat of Caitano in a Group One contest at Baden-Baden last month, has a chance.
Fifteen Arcs have been won by fillies, including five in a row - Three Troikas, Detroit, Gold River, Akiyda, All Along - between 1979 and 1983. Two distaffers line up today and neither can be discounted. Leggera, for whom soft ground is a must, showed much-improved form to take the Prix Vermeille but history is against her, for, though User Friendly came close six years ago, no British-trained filly has ever won.
Zainta, beaten less than a length in the Vermeille, reopposes. She quickened well to challenge Leggera that day before fading but her presence today indicates that it might have been puff rather than stamina that was lacking.
Arc-winning fillies, incidentally, have a chequered subsequent record. Pearl Cap (1931) became dam of Pearl Diver, the first Derby winner to run in the Arc, the dual winner Corrida (1936-37) went missing, presumed eaten, during the Allied invasion of Normandy. Detroit's son Carnegie followed in her hoofprints at Longchamp but Gold River was struck by lightning in Kentucky. The yearling son of the last female winner, Urban Sea, was sold for 10 million francs six weeks ago.
The Arc is arguably the hardest race in Europe to win. It is always competitive, often rough, and the layout of Longchamp makes the course difficult and deceptive to ride. The purse is large and no quarter is given or asked by the jockeys as they fight for inches.
This year's renewal, with no obvious king awaiting coronation, has been lower-key than most. But Sea Wave can take the middle-distance crown, with Dream Well and Tiger Hill the dangers and Zainta the each-way value.Reuse content