Friday 8 september 2017

QATAR ARC TRIALS, SUNDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER AT CHANTILLY

The final rehearsal

This Sunday 10th September, Chantilly racecourse will stage the final rehearsal for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which will take place on the 1st October at the same location.

Three of the nine races on this exceptional race day, baptised the Qatar Arc Trials, are prep races for the biggest race in the world. They are run over the same course and distance as the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, 2,400 meters, and represent different categories of horses. The Qatar Prix Vermeille, a Group 1 race that is also the 6th leg of the EpiqE Series, in for fillies 3 years and older. The Qatar Prix Niel, Group 2, is dedicated to 3 year old colts and fillies, whilst the Qatar Prix Foy, also a Group 2, is for horses aged 4 and over.

The game is simple: get to know the track before the big day, improve in condition, and not use up too much strength in the race three weeks away from the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The Sunday, other prestigious races will be staged at Chantilly, but they do not lead to the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Qatar Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, a Group 1, is one of the biggest objectives in the calendar for the European milers. The Qatar Prix Gladiateur, Group 3 over 3,000 meters, can lead the best stayers (specialist horses over long distances) to the Qatar Prix du Cadran, Group 1, which takes place the day before the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In the Qatar Prix du Petit Couvert, Group 3 over 1,000 meters, the best sprinters will be seen on the course, those who will meet again in three weeks time in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines. Finally, the Qatar Cup his a race for Purebred Arabians. It is a Group 1 race, but it also serves as a prep for the Qatar Arabian World Cup, the biggest Purebred Arabian race, which also takes place on Arc day.

THE QATAR PRIX VERMEILLE

The Qatar Prix Vermeille, 6th leg of the EpiqE Series, is, unlike the other two prep races for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a Group 1 race. It is therefore not just a step on the way to the big race, but an objective in itself.

The previous five doubles of Vermeille & Arc

Year                         Horse

2013                         Trêve

2008                         Zarkava

1979                         Three Troikas

1972                         San San

1945                         Nikellora

The last six winners of the Qatar Prix Vermeille and their finishing position in the Arc

Year           Vermeille Winner                            Arc Placing

2016           Left Hand                                        12th

2015           Trêve                                                4th

2014           Baltic Baroness                                Did not run

2013           Trêve                                                1st

2012           Shareta                                             9th

2011           Galikova                                          9th

Left Hand is running to keep her title in the race. It is rare that this race is won by the same horse twice. The last to do so was none other than the great Trêve, the unforgettable winner of two Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes. The champion won the Qatar Prix Vermeille at 3 years old, then again two years later. Until 2003, this race was for 3 year old fillies only, hence why there are so few to have their name appear twice on the list of past winners.

Left Hand, who carries the colours of Écurie Wertheimer & Frère, won the race last year at the age of 3, but she was unable to follow up in the Arc. This year, Left Hand took some time to come back to her best, as if often the case with fillies, as the step from 3 to 4 can be a difficult one to master. Radically beaten on her seasonal debut, in the Prix Corrida (Group 3), in May at Saint-Cloud, she showed some improvement in the Grand Prix de Chantilly (Group 2), in which she took fourth place, and in the Saint-Cloud equivalent (Group 1), where she finished an honest fifth. However it was above all her most recent start, in the Darley Prix Jean Romanet, a Group 1 run over 2,000 meters at Deauville, that gives confidence. The filly, who is trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias, a was hampered in the final turn only to come back strongly and go down by the smallest of margins for second place.

THE QATAR PRIX NIEL

Historically, the Qatar Prix Niel is the race used as a prep by the 3 year old colts who have a first class chance in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Nonetheless, it is a long since the Niel & Arc double has been achieved, the last to date being that of Rail Link, in 2006.

From 1996 to 2005, the Niel & Arc double was achieved on six reprisals.

The last Niel & Arc doubles since 1990

Year                     Horse

2006                    Rail Link

2005                    Hurricane Run

2003                    Dalakhani

2000                    Sinndar

1999                    Montjeu

1998                    Sagamix

1996                    Helissio

1994                    Carnegie

The last six winners of the Prix Niel and their finishing position in the Arc

Year                     Horse                     Arc placing

2016                    Makahiki                14th

2015                    New Bay                3rd

2014                    Ectot                      17th

2013                    Kizuna                   4th

2012                    Saônois                  Not placed

2011                    Reliable Man          Not placed

The hot favourite in the 2017 edition will be a colt trained abroad. His name is Cracksman. He is a son of the champion Frankel. He belongs to Anthony Oppenheimer, whose colours shone in the Arc in 2015, thanks to Golden Horn. He is trained by John Gosden and will be ridden by Lanfranco Dettori. These two men are also associated on what will be the big favourite for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself, the filly of Prince Abdullah, Enable. Will the two horses meet on the 1st October? Nothing is yet decided, and Cracksman comes here on a reconnaissance mission. The somewhat late maturing colt has achieved plenty already: he finished third in the Epsom Derby, the second in the Irish equivalent, two of the biggest races for 3 year colts. But it was truly at York, on the 23rd August, when he showed his true class. That day, the colt humiliated his rivals in the Great Voltigeur Stakes (Group 2), in a style that was reminiscent of his illustrious sire, considered by many as the greatest horse this century.

THE QATAR PRIX FOY

The Qatar Prix Foy, a Group 2 race, is the prep race for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for horses 4 years old and older. The double has not been done since 1984 however certain horses came close to success in the Arc: El Condor Pasa and Orfèvre both finished second after winning the Prix Foy. Something that could change this is 2017: the weight allowance for 3 year olds has been slightly reduced. It is now three kilos, not three and a half.

The last Foy & Arc doubles

Year              Horse

1984             Sagace

1974             Allez France

The last six winners of the Prix Foy and their finishing position in the Arc

Year         Horse                          Arc placing

2016         Silverwave                  13th

2015         Postponed                   Did not run

2014         Ruler of the World     9th

2013         Orfèvre                       2nd

2012         Orfèvre                       2nd

2011         Sarafina                      7th

Satono Diamond comes from Japan. He will try to be the third consecutive Japanese runner to win the Qatar Prix Foy, after El Condor Pasa in 1999 and Orfèvre in 2012 and 2013. His trainer, Yasutoshi Ikee, has a good experience in this race as he trained Orfèvre.

Satono Diamond was bought for around € 1,465,000 as a foal – less than six months old – by his owner Hajime Satomi. All the horses owned by the latter have the prefix Satono. The suffix Diamond suits him, as the star on his head is in such a shape. Satono Diamond was a late naturing colt. He ran twice at the end of his 2 year old year, winning both. On his seasonal debut at 3, he left a strong impression in a Group 3 prep for the local 2,000 Guineas, winning easily, although still green. The Spring time Classics proved more difficult: he finished third in the Japan 2000 Guineas, still immature. In the Japan Derby, he finished well to be second to Makahiki, going down by a short head, having puled a shoe. Tired, he was sent on a break.

In the Autumn, he showed great improvement, winning a Group 2 on his comeback, then the Japan St Leger, Group 1 over 3,000 meters. But it was on Christmas Day, at Nakayama, where he had his biggest success. Satono Diamond won the Arima Kinen, an intergenerational Group 1 over 2.500 meters. He beat Kitasan Black, a champion and the most popular horse in Japan, showing a magnificent turn of foot. It is difficult for the 3 year old Japanese horses to beat their elders; these latters are tough and horses stay in training longer in Japan, as it is essential for them to succeed at 4,5, and 6 to be guaranteed a place at stud.

This year, Satono Diamond has run twice. He won a Group 2 in March, over 3,000 meters, before finishing third in the Tenno Sho – Printemps, at the end of April. This Group 1 is run over 3,200 meters and over this distance he is less effective than the Japanese stayers. His objective since the beginning of the year has been the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. His connections therefore sent him on a break after the Tenno Sho, to bring the horse to Chantilly at the top of his form.

THE QATAR CUP – PRIX DRAGON

The Purebred Arabians are also preparing for their Arc this Sunday! The best of the breed have a rendez-vous in the Qatar Cup – Prix Dragon. The race is the logical step to the Qatar Arabian World Cup, run on the same day as the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It honours Dragon, a stallion born in 1940 in the South France and who is very influential in curent pedigrees of the top Purebred Arabians.

Purebred Arabians are great travellers. The best races dedicated to them take place in Europe from the Spring to the Autumn, then move to the Gulf over the winter. The two most watched horses in this Qatar Cup have followed this programme. Ebraz, owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, won in March at Doha (Qatar), the Emir’s Sword, the biggest race in the country. Ebraz is trained by the Canadian Julian Smart, the only person to have won this race three times.

However he finds in his path a certain Yazeed, who has the disadvantage of making a comeback here. Trained by French Alban de Mieulle, who has been in Qatar for over twenty years, but brings his best horses to France for a few months, Yazeed abelongs to His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani (the brother of Mohamed). Ebraz and Yazeed met once previously at Doha, and the win went to the latter. Injured after that, he couldn’t take part in the Emir’s Sword. These two horses are not the only ones with winning ambitions. Azhar and Naziq, trained in the South West, will try their best. They have the advantage of knowing the track.

RENDEZ-VOUS SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER AND SUNDAY 1ST OCTOBER AT CHANTILLY!

If racing lovers have one date to remember it should be this: Saturday 30th September and Sunday 1st October, the weekend of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. If the 96th edition of the biggest race in the world is the main feature of the weekend, it is not limited to that.

In total, there are no less than fifteen races on the track of the princes de Condé, as we wait for ParisLongchamp to reopen. Seven Group 1s (the highest level of races), two Group 1s for Purebred Arabians, and seven Group 2s take place on these exceptional days.

The focus of Saturday 30th September will be the Qatar Prix du Cadran, run over 4,000 meters, which crowns the best stayer of the year.

The Sunday, other than the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Qatar Arabian World Cup, consists of five other Group 1s. The Prix de l’Opéra Longines, for fillies 3 years old and up, is run over 2,000 meters, and is considered the fillies Arc. The Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp Longines is for sprinters: it is run over the very short distance of 1,000 meters. The Total Prix Marcel Boussac and the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère are for 2 year olds. The first is for fillies only. The second is open to colts and fillies, but is rare for fillies to take part. They are both run over 1,600 meters. Finally, the Qatar Prix de la Forêt, which is run over 1,400 meters, allows for a meeting between the milers (1,600 meters) those who have run over shorter trips.