Barely did the door of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe shut in Richard Hughes's face, than it has sprung open again. Last week the rider was jocked off Youmzain, on whom he was beaten a head in the Paris showpiece 12 months ago; yesterday he was booked for Look Here, who has emerged as a surprise contender for Sunday's glittering prize.
The filly, winner of the Oaks and third in last month's St Leger, has been rated a 12-1 shot by bookmakers after her trainer Ralph Beckett revealed that she could well be added to the big-race field. "She is likely to run in France at the weekend," he said, "and although she is still a possible for the Prix de l'Opera, we are considering supplementing her for the Arc."
The competition in the 10-furlong Prix de l'Opera would be less formidable, but the mile-and-a-half distance of the Arc would suit the lightly-campaigned daughter of Hernando better. Whichever race is chosen, Hughes will be in the saddle. "He has considerable experience of Longchamp," added Beckett.
Look Here, home-bred by Julian Richmond-Watson, has thrived since her fine effort against colts at Doncaster, her first run since Epsom. And though no Oaks heroine has won an Arc, the last three to try have finished in the frame: Ouija Board, third four years ago; Intrepidity, fourth in 1993 and User Friendly, who came closest of all when beaten a neck by Subotica in 1992. Fourteen others have run in the year of their Epsom triumph, of whom Monade (1962) and Sun Princess (1983) finished second.
At yesterday's declaration stage, 23 remained in contention for the Qatar-sponsored race, the world's richest turf contest with its €4m (£3.2m) prize fund. The warm favourite Zarkava, who numbers the French Oaks among her four Group One successes, has her own pages of history to overturn; she will be trying to become the first female to win since Urban Sea in 1993 and the first of her age and sex since Akiyda in 1982.
In 87 runnings, only six horses have defended an unbeaten record in this most competitive of contests, most recently Lammtarra in 1995. Something will give on Sunday; the French Derby winner Vision d'Etat also brings a perfect record to the fray.
Aidan O'Brien, going for a rare enough Arc double after Dylan Thomas's success last year, has left seven in, likely to be whittled down to Duke Of Marmalade, Soldier Of Fortune and a possible pacemaker. Soft ground would rule out Duke Of Marmalade who, with his trainer's eye on the Breeders' Cup Classic, holds an alternative entry on the Dundalk all-weather on Friday night but though rain swept across Britain yesterday, the weather is set fair for Paris for most of the week and the ground at Longchamp is likely to be no easier than good to soft.
André Fabre, seeking an eighth victory, relies solely on last year's fourth Getaway, who bounced back to form at Deauville late in August. The last three winners to travel from Britain – Marienbard (2002), Sakhee (2001) and Lammtarra – all hailed from the Godolphin stable, which will be represented this time by former German star Schiaparelli, eyecatching in narrow defeat by Zambezi Sun in his trial last month, his first outing for nearly a year.
The four-year-old could be ruled out by any firming of the ground, and the underfoot jury is similarly still out for Ask, whose trainer Sir Michael Stoute also has Papal Bull still engaged. The other remaining British raider is Mick Channon-trained Youmzain, on whom Richard Hills will replace Hughes.
The international challenge is set to be completed by Japanese champion Meisho Samson, who has won nearly £5m in his native land and has been based at Chantilly for the past three weeks, It's Gino from Germany, Cima de Triomphe from Italy and no-hoper Normen, second in his local Derby two years ago, for the Czech Republic. There were 126 non-acceptors yesterday and the field will undergo further pruning today.Reuse content