There are few places more delightful than the Bois de Boulogne on a golden early autumn afternoon. But the eyes of those on this side of the Channel will be less concerned with the delightful sight of sunlight glinting on the marroniers and their fat mahogany fruits than the effect it will be having on the green strip of turf that is Longchamp racecourse. This week the weather will be a more particular topic of interest than usual for the countless fans in Britain of Sea The Stars, the hot favourite for Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
It is well documented that the outstanding Irish-trained colt, who takes a five-for-five Group One record to the climax of the European middle-distance season, will not be risked on ground considered too soft. But those still considering a trip to Paris (and there were Eurostar day returns still available yesterday) can take encouragement from this week's forecast for Paris. Seasonal mists in the mornings are predicted, followed by long spells of sunshine and temperatures up to 22 degrees.
A threatening cold front may be the cloud (or should that be clouds?) on the horizon, but it is not due until Saturday night at the earliest, and may or may not bring rain with it.
Interestingly, the official going descriptions at Longchamp tend to err on the side of softness. Over the past 10 years the ground has never been judged anything approaching firm by the course inspectors, yet those weighing it up for the unbiased racing "bible" Timeform reported at least three instances of good to firm ground.
The connections of one of Sea The Stars' putative French-based rivals, Beheshtam, were yesterday leaning towards a clash with John Oxx's charge. The three-year-old was doing his best work at the finish when going down by only half a length to Cavalryman in the principal Arc trial, the Prix Niel, and his owner the Aga Khan likes to have a runner in the autumn showpiece he won last year with Zarkava. "The final decision will not be made until later in the week," said trainer Alain de Royer-Dupré, "but there seems no reason not to run."
Sea The Stars is odds-on for the Arc in most betting lists, with his old rival Fame And Glory, from Ballydoyle, second choice and reported to have thrived since the colts' last meeting, at Leopardstown earlier this month. "Fame And Glory was coming off a break last time, and has come forward since then," said his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, "and we're looking forward to having another crack."
Another Classic winner, Ghanaati, has been installed as 6-4 favourite for the top-level feature at Newmarket on Saturday, the Sun Chariot Stakes, but a youngster with designs on next year's elite events, Derby fancy Coordinated Cut, is to sidestep the valuable Timeform Million the same afternoon in favour the Racing Post Trophy, a contest taken by his trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam with subsequent Derby hero Authorized three years ago.
Turf Account: Sue Montgomery
Howdigo (5.10 Warwick)
Progressive over middle distances last year and his recent belated seasonal debut in much better company should have removed any ring-rustiness. Trying this trip for the first time but his half-sister Rising Cross won the Park Hill Stakes over it.
Ghost Dancer (2.10 Warwick)
It will be interesting to see how this winner over course and distance last month, goes for the champion, his eighth different rider in as many runs.
One to watch
You'll Be Mine (A P O'Brien) had a stressful journey from Ireland to Ascot on Saturday – she ran with superficial gashes on her face after banging her head – but still finished third in the Group One Fillies' Mile and looks a top Oaks prospect.
Where the money's going
Charm School is the universal favourite at 10-1 for Saturday's Cambridgeshire after yesterday's declarations.
*Chris McGrath's Nap
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