The best race in the world? Well, that’s a question largely disputed between racing enthusiasts across the globe. For many in Australia, it’s between the Melbourne Cup, The Cox Plate and now The Everest. Americans may believe it to be the Breeders’ Cup Classic; for those of us in Europe, it’s a landslide vote for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The 2022 running of Europe’s premier race currently has a whopping 94 entries, although a handful of these have already been withdrawn. I’m sure there will be many more withdrawals over the next week, ensuring that only the best of the best take to Paris’ Longchamp stage. Five runners all with a fighting chance of adding Europe’s premier race to their CV and earning the biggest prize fund in the European flat season with €5million on offer, are analysed below.
The five-year-old daughter of Frankel holds the hopes of the British nation in her hooves. Unbeaten in her last six starts, five Group 1s and a Group 2, the Sir Mark Prescott-trained filly is definitely the UK’s biggest hope. She comes into the race after triumphing over Tuesday in the Yorkshire Oaks, despite giving her adversary 9lbs. The Grosser Preis von Baden and Prix Vermeille this year have been fought by rivals Alpinista has previously beaten and another of her opponents, Bubble Gift, was a recent second in the Prix Foy. The filly’s victories in the German and St Cloud races boast her sharp change of foot, high cruising speed, and exceptional temperament, all of which are qualities required to win Europe’s premier race. As short as 5/1 for Arc weekend her connection’s state, “She is in great form, but Luxembourg looks the horse to beat.
Ireland’s star of the season, Luxembourg, has made it 5 wins from 6 starts after demolishing the field in the Irish Champion Stakes in early September. The son of Camelot displayed impressive stamina; closing a three-furlong sectional in 38.97secs, indicating that it was in fact his high staying ability, rather than his finishing speed, that won him the race. His only defeat came in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the start of the British Racing Season, whereby it became apparent in post-race vetting, that the colt was not in optimum health; trainer A.P. O’Brien subsequently sent Luxembourg to the paddock for a 105-day break.
Based off his recent success though, the extra two-furlong requirement of the Arc seems well within the colt’s compass and after taking Ireland’s premier flat race his jockey Ryan Moore remarked: “We went a good, even, fair pace and the race opened up turning for home. He was still raw and babyish but always doing enough when he hit the front. I think there’s more to come.”
Another contender from A.P. O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard, is the four-year-old staying legend, Kyprios. The son of Galileo is unbeaten this season and heads into the Arc after five back-to-back wins that include both the Ascot Gold Cup and The Goodwood Cup. Most recently, the colt followed his older half-sister’s hoofprints by gaining classic glory in the Irish St Leger. The Leger closing sectional of 37.55secs highlights Kyprios’ limitless abilities as a stayer with a strong turn of foot. The ground seems no issue for the chestnut, being victorious on good, yielding, and heavy in previous starts. Irish St Leger winners typically fare well in the Premier French race.
The Aga Khan stud’s Vadeni failed to fire against Luxembourg in the Irish Champion Stakes but managed to get his head in front of legendary globe trotter, and Saudi cup winner, Mishriff in the Coral Eclipse. It’s the son of Churchill’s resilience and consistency, however, that has earned him a place in the Arc and his highly impressive performance in the Prix du Jockey Club is reflective of his abundant talent. Stepping up to one mile four furlongs for the first time, connections are adamant that the three-year-old will need better ground to favour but have limited concerns on his ability to stay the distance.
Georges Rimaud manager of Aga Khan’s studs in France said: “Hopefully the ground will be suited in Paris as that is an element of importance for this horse. He doesn’t need good ground as such, but he doesn’t need to have it very slow or deep or challenging. We will find out on the day about the distance, but we feel that with his pedigree and his dam being by Monsun, and his sire by Galileo, there is no-evidence that he cannot stay.”
There is no hiding the fact that Verry Elleegant’s European Campaign has been anything short of anticlimactic. Although, the seven-year-old has started to display similar traits on the track to those of her Southern Hemisphere days in the Qatar Prix Foy (Group 2) most recently, placing third in a six-runner field. The daughter of Zed has the ability to run on all ground conditions, previously demolishing fields on both good and heavy.
With eleven Group 1 wins including a Grade 1 triumph in the Melbourne Cup, the mare can easily be competitive on Arc Day if she has retained any of this ability. Connections have paid the late entry fee of €120,000 and booked Group 1 winning jockey, Mark Zahra, who previously piloted VE to glory in the 2020 Caulfield Cup. Brae Sokolski, part of the syndicate which owns the mare said, “We had a call with the whole ownership group and Francis Graffard, the trainer, and with all the facts on the table we decided unanimously that we wanted to progress to the big race and we will pay the late entry fee. So, while we’re not confident in any respect about her winning, we’re certainly confident she will run well and represent Australia and New Zealand with pride and distinction.”