Taghrooda and Kingston Hill, England’s Classic-winning cross-Channel challengers for tomorrow’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, were two of the biggest losers at yesterday’s draw when both were allotted unwanted high-numbered stalls.
John Gosden’s Oaks winner, drawn 15, has consequently been ousted as favourite by Ectot in some lists for Europe’s richest race, while Kingston Hill, a popular choice with punters since triumphant in the St Leger three weeks ago, has drifted out to as high as 20-1 after being drawn widest of all in stall 20.
A high draw, however, is not in itself a reason to give up on either. Being drawn 15 did not stop Treve from winning by five lengths last year, while Orfevre, drawn 18 of 18, would have won in 2012 had he not downed tools with the race apparently in his pocket.
Even so, André Fabre will be more optimistic still of extending his record Arc haul to eight with the outsider Flintshire, a horse he was already quite bullish about on his preferred quick ground, even before the bonus of a stall four draw.
In the meantime, Fabre has big business to attend to today. The master trainer does not send many horses over from France these days, but you wait and wait and suddenly three come along at once, a nuclear attack on Newmarket’s Group One Sun Chariot Stakes.
And they are all serious players. Esoterique and the 1,000 Guineas winner Miss France, first and second in a Deauville Group One in August, have first-rate credentials, but Fintry (3.30 Newmarket), though winning a lesser contest at Sandown later that month, displayed a sharp turn of foot and was deeply impressive.
Muthmir (2.05 Ascot) would have been one of the favourites for tomorrow’s Prix l’Abbaye at Longchamp, but connections have settled instead for the easier pickings of the Rous Stakes. Jockey Paul Hanagan was left shaking his head in wonder after the lightly raced four-year-old overcame serious traffic problems to win the Portland Handicap at Doncaster last month, quite easily in the end. This is quite possibly a champion sprinter in the making.
Hardly a Saturday has gone by in the second half of the campaign without a high-profile victory for trainer David O’Meara (G Force, Louis The Pious and Custom Cut among them) and once again the trainer holds strong cards in the main betting attraction of the afternoon, the Totepool Challenge Cup.
Fort Bastion, a new acquisition at O’Meara’s North Yorkshire yard, should not be dismissed lightly with a visor fitted for the first time, but his ace is surely Highland Acclaim (3.50 Ascot), who has been shaping all season as though there is a good race like this in him.
Caspar Netscher (3.15 Ascot) and Lucky Kristale are two big outsiders with better chances than might seem apparent in the Group Three Bengough Stakes.
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