Even as the dust settles on the first, tumultuous defeat of the best colt of his generation, the merit of one of his maligned contemporaries seems to emerge with compensatory clarity. Barely 24 hours after Camelot had discovered his limitations at Doncaster on Saturday, Saonois continued his transformation from ugly duckling in what has historically proved a far more reliable trial for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. And he has had to overcome such discouraging antecedents – his first success came in a claimer, while both trainer and jockey are new to this level – that odds of 10-1 for the Arc suggest a lingering reluctance to accept his quality.
There is certainly a familiarity to his preparation. Like so many past Prix du Jockey Club winners, Saonois has returned as a fresh horse for the autumn. Few observers, however, had taken his Chantilly success in June at face value, several rivals having met interference in a very rough race. Moreover, his reconnaissance of the Arc course and distance in the Prix Niel on Sunday entailed a step up to a new distance.
Admittedly, the usual, diffident tempo of the trial hardly provided a searching test, but the way he settled the resulting dash to the line was deeply impressive. For a long time, he remained trapped on the bridle behind rivals, but he broke out yards from the line and burst clear.
Yesterday that performance received a significant endorsement from trainer André Fabre, whose seven Arc wins essentially provide the manual for Jean-Pierre Gauvin. Fabre saddled Last Train to finish third in the Niel, and has no intention of a rematch in the Arc. "I was very impressed by the winner," he said. "When he won the Prix du Jockey Club, he showed he had a fantastic turn of foot – but people did not believe it. It is a tribute to the Jockey Club, which everybody said was a bad race this year. The winner is a very good horse."
But Fabre will reoppose Orfevre, length winner of the Prix Foy on the same card, with Meandre – albeit with limited expectations of reversing form with the Japanese raider.
"It was an awful race to watch, they went no pace at all," he said. "The result made sense, though. The horses probably finished in the correct order. Everyone can make excuses after slow races, but the best horse usually wins as they have to show a turn of foot. I've always thought Meandre good enough to be placed in the Arc, but maybe not quite good enough to win."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Suegioo (4.10 Thirsk) Least exposed in field and this first run over a turning track should allow him to settle better.
Thecornishcowboy (Folkestone 5.20) Caught up in heavy traffic before staying on for third at Wolverhampton the other day.
One to watch
Strictly Silver (Alan Bailey) Warrants perseverance after a rough run at Doncaster last week, almost losing his rider.
Where the money's going
Liber Nauticus, an impressive debut scorer at Goodwood for Sir Michael Stoute, is 16-1 from 20-1 with Paddy Power for next year's Investec Oaks.Reuse content