Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2014: Tomboy Taghrooda is up for the fight

Filly to revel in rough and tumble of Arc, says her jockey Paul Hanagan

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The Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is not just the richest race in Europe, it is also quite often the roughest, but Paul Hanagan is sure that tomboy Taghrooda will be able to take care of herself.

“She won’t shy away from anything,” said the two-time champion jockey, who will be bidding to add an Arc to his already impressive portfolio of 2014 big-race triumphs. She’s a big filly and kind of rides more like a colt. It doesn’t worry me at all. She can definitely hold her own.”

Hanagan acknowledges that Taghrooda’s high draw is not ideal, but with most of the major contenders held up for late runs, the bigger issue might be fighting for precious space in the home straight as others make their charges simultaneously; her unladylike toughness will stand her in good stead.

This is one of the most open Arcs for years and one dominated to a large extent by top-class fillies from around the world, including France’s Treve (the reigning champion) and Avenir Certain; Japan’s Harp Star; and Ireland’s Tapestry.

Tapestry beat Taghrooda in a sensational Yorkshire Oaks, but Hanagan shrugs that off: “It was a blip. She was coming into season. This is a tough race to win, but with all she has done she has earned the right to go there as favourite.”

There was a time, not so long ago, when fillies seemed to be merely making up the Arc numbers, but they have won the past three races and there is a very good chance that the best filly in this afternoon’s contest will also be the best horse in the race full stop.

There is apparently a French saying, famously repeated by Arsène Wenger in one of his verbal jousts with Sir Alex Ferguson: “Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home.”

The Arsenal manager was responding to a Ferguson boast about Manchester United, but the sentiment of the Gallic proverb rings true across sport, particularly racing, where it can actually be safer to insult somebody’s spouse than their horse.

Certainly Hanagan and trainer John Gosden have enormous affection for Taghrooda and wouldn’t swop her for any other filly, while Aidan O’Brien would not welcome a trade for Tapestry, either.

There has been no shouting from the Ballydoyle rooftops, but splashing out the supplementary fee of ¤120,000 (£95,000) for a trip to Paris suggests a conviction that Tapestry’s defeat of Taghrooda on the Knavesmire was not just down to Ryan Moore’s tactical nous.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Rouget, who trains in the shadow of the Pyrenees, says his unbeaten filly Avenir Certain has something “extra-extra... she reminds me of Zarkava.” There could hardly be a higher compliment: Zarkava is one of the all-time great fillies, the winner of all seven career starts, culminating in the 2008 Arc, when she ended the colts’ 15-year stranglehold on the race. Avenir Certain has pretty much trod the same path to this dream date at the Bois de Boulogne, also winning six from six, including the French 1,000 Guineas-Oaks double.

The Japanese are already besotted with Harp Star, perhaps the most potent of their three-strong challenge, and if she can finally break their well-documented Arc jinx she will be elevated to deity status.

It’s an impressive line-up: Taghrooda the tomboy; Tapestry the late Irish bloomer; Treve the reigning Queen; Avenir Certain, the country girl with a certain je ne sais quoi; Harp Star, the young lady everyone in Japan is mad about. But now comes the moment of truth. They can’t all be the prettiest. And anyway, in the end it might just come down to Taghrooda’s toughness.

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