It is the biggest horse race in Europe and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2020 run over a mile and a half on turf at Longchamp, Paris on Sunday is set to be a stiff test in the very soft ground (10.05am ET, Sunday).
Track conditions led to the withdrawal of the long-term favorite, Aidan O’Brien’s all-conquering three-year-old filly Love. Her defection leaves the two UK trainees at the head of the Arc betting, both are saddled by the John Gosden who has won this race three times. His six-year-old mare Enable is the clear Arc favorite for good reason. She scored here as a three and four-year-old and was only beaten by a late closer on very soft ground last year.
Enable’s resume is second to none and Gosden reports that she is in good shape but is worried about the ground for her. She is bidding for a record breaking third win and stands a very good chance of achieving it under her regular partner Frankie Dettori. Expect a particularly spectacular flying dismount if they manage to make history.
Gosden’s brilliant, ultra-consistent Stradivarius is most effective over longer distances than this and is the second favorite. This six-year-old son of Sea The Stars has rewarded his owner and breeder Bjorn Nielsen by winning both the group one contests run over two miles or more in the UK for the past three years.
Stradivarius was last seen finishing second, a short neck behind O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyck, over course and distance in the group two Prix Foy on September 13. He was also beaten when run over an inadequate trip earlier this season but both those runs were on good ground so stamina was not at a premium.
Stradivarius prefers quick ground but has surprised his trainer by coping with very testing conditions before. Over this distance, slow ground should help his cause and the booking of the top French jockey Olivier Peslier has to be a positive too.
O’Brien’s chances of achieving his third Arc win reduced dramatically with the withdrawal of Love but, like Bob Baffert, he always has plenty of alternative ammunition and saddles four sons of Galileo. Mogul, a three-year-old who cost over £3 million as a yearling, is the choice of stable jockey Ryan Moore.
Mogul most recently won over course and distance in the Grand Prix de Paris but benefited from being patiently ridden along with the two horses who finished closest behind him. It was his first group one score and his second victory from six runs this season. Mogul started as the favorite in two of them and failed to fire, he cannot be described as reliable.
Mogul’s four-year-old full brother Japan finished fourth in the Arc last year but has been disappointing ever since. He has attracted support and been the pick of Moore who has plenty of choice but he presumably does not replicate on the racetrack the quality of his work at home. Japan is a magnificent physical specimen who scored twice at the highest level as a three-year-old but he may have been irreparably damaged by his previous Arc experience. He will be ridden by Yutaka Take from gate 11.
O’Brien’s Serpentine was a 25/1 shot in the Epsom Derby in July and won easily, unchallenged at the front under Emmet McNamara. He was ridden forward and set the most perfect fractions while his rivals believed he would come back to them as he had only scored in a maiden.
In his one outing since this three-year-old finished four lengths behind Mogul in fourth place in the Grand Prix de Paris under Christophe Soumillon – but he was the first of the prominently ridden horses to cross the wire. Drawn widest of all, Soumillon will partner him again.
The O’Brien contingent is completed by the four-year-old Sovereign who was the surprise winner of the Irish Derby at 33/1 last year. He was sent off as a pacesetter for a more fancied stablemate and did not come back to the field. He may well fulfil a similar function on Sunday but recent history suggests that it would be unwise to ignore him completely even though he was disappointing when last seen in the Irish St Leger.
In Swoop won the German Derby over this distance on good to soft ground and has attracted support even though the merit of that victory has been questioned as half the pack went too fast. Trained by Francis Graffard, he was last seen finishing second to Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris on much drier turf, beaten two and a half lengths.
This three-year-old son of the German sire Adlerflug out of a Tiger Hill mare was owned by his breeders the Von Ullmanns until July. He will run in the red and blue silks of Gestut Schlenderhan who owned and bred his sire.
Gold Trip is yet to score at the top level but has performed well on soft ground, winning a group two contest over a mile and three furlongs on it at Lyon Parilly in June. In Swoop finished over a length behind him in third. Last time out this three-year-old son of Outstrip finished third in the Grand Prix de Paris, a short head behind In Swoop.
Saddled by the less well-known Fabrice Chappet, Gold Trip is available at three times the price of In Swoop whom he has beaten and finished alongside last time. His race record suggests that he can handle testing track conditions too. He starts from gate nine under Stephane Pasquier and provides an outstanding each-way prospect.
Jean-Claude Rouget’s Sottsass is the most popular French trainee with bettors. This four-year-old son of Siyouni finished third here last year and most recently ran well when beaten two lengths in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 12. He will probably run well again under Cristian Demuro but why should he reverse the placings with Enable without the benefit of the weight allowance he enjoyed in 2019?
Rouget is very positive about the chances of his other trainee Raabihah. She is the only three-year-old filly in the race and they have a great record in the Arc. The 4lb weight allowance can prove decisive and testing ground makes every pound count even more than usual. This daughter of Sea The Stars is not bred to enjoy testing ground but Rouget thinks it will not be a problem for her.
Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, Raabihah was last seen over course and distance on September 13 in the group one Prix Vermeille for fillies and mares. She was a beaten favorite, taking second place behind Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa but finished strongly suggesting the distance is within her compass. She will start from gate two under Maxime Guyon.
The four-year-old Persian King trained by Andre Fabre was last seen winning the group one Prix du Moulin de Longchamp on September 6 which is run over a mile. This talented son of Kingman has a number of top-level scores to his name but was beaten by Sottsass when tried over a mile and a quarter in June 2019 and has not been tested over that distance or further since.
Persian King tends to race keenly which could compromise his chances of coping with an extra two furlongs. Pierre-Charles Boudot is tasked with managing his enthusiasm.
The 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is likely to be an emotional one as the withdrawal of Love enhances Enable’s record-breaking bid. Love will now be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup but this is Enable’s swansong. The racing world is hoping that this legendary mare goes out on a high.
So to a betting pick and the climax of this preview’s Arc predictions:
- Gold Trip looks ignored at around 50/1 with the sportsbooks. The testing conditions could blunt the speed of some of the better-fancied horses and play into his hands. At generous odds, bet on Gold Trip both to win and make the first three places.
Fiona Derek is our horse racing expert. She has lived and breathed horses from a young age, having been involved in the horse racing industry both riding out for racehorse trainers and in an amateur training capacity.