The autumn air in Newmarket yesterday was chill and the morning grey, but what Peter Chapple-Hyam saw on the gallops kept him warm and sunny inside. Authorized, favourite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, completed his preparation for Sunday's task in Paris with a half-mile spin up Long Hill, which rises 132 feet along its length.
The colt tackled the gradient with enthusiasm, hard against his usual work partner Adie McCarthy's hands, and finished with his ears pricked.
"That was as good as good a piece of work as he's done," said Chapple-Hyam, who watched with Tony Nerses, racing manager to Authorized's owners Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar. He just powered up there. He's in superb form, absolutely spot-on and the weekend can't come quick enough."
The three-year-old son of Montjeu, who will retire to Sheikh Mohammed's Dalham Hall Stud next spring, will be the fourth Derby winner in six years to start favourite for the Arc. High Chaparral finished third in 2002, North Light fifth in 2004 and Motivator in the same position two years ago. The last Epsom hero to win, Sinndar, was second market choice behind Montjeu, who finished fourth at 4-5 in 2000. Authorized, with his ideal good-to-soft ground forecast and Frankie Dettori in the saddle, will start the hottest favourite since then, generally 5-4 after 15 horses were left in at yesterday's penultimate entry stage.
The field for the £750,000 first prize will be finalised tomorrow and is likely to be one of the smallest in recent years, though not as sparse as last year's record peacetime low of seven. The great Longchamp showpiece is one of the few elite contests in Europe not yet on Aidan O'Brien's CV and seven Ballydoyle horses are still in, headed by the two Irish Derby winners Soldier Of Fortune and Dylan Thomas. This year's Curragh victor, the mount of Johnny Murtagh, is currently Authorized's chief market rival at 3-1, with fast-ground specialist Dylan Thomas, due to be partnered by Kieren Fallon, drifting. Of their stablemates, the other top-level performer, Gold Cup winner Yeats, has the Prix du Cadran earlier in the day as an alternative. Yellowstone and habitual trailblazers Acapulco, Archipenko and Red Rock Canyon complete the septet. Unusually, only three French-trained horses have stood their ground. The best of the home side in the bookmakers' lists is 9-2 third choice Zambezi Sun. Pascal Bary's charge was third to Soldier Of Fortune in the key course-and-distance three-year-old trial, the Prix Niel.
One place in front of him then, but still well adrift in the betting, was Sagara, from Jonathon Pease's stable. The last female to win was Urban Sea 14 years ago; the only filly this time will be Mandesha, generally a 12-1 chance. The four-year-old, in the care of Alain de Royer-Dupré, chased Manduro home in the Prix Foy last time out and is full of talent, but seemingly had a rather casual approach to her job that day. She will wear cheekpieces for the first time in public on Sunday after a practice gallop in them yesterday morning under big-race jockey Christophe Soumillon in Chantilly produced a sharpening of attitude.
"She worked well and is ready to roll," reported George Rimaud, racing manager for the Aga Khan operation. Youmzain (Mick Channon) and Dragon Dancer (Geoff Wragg) are scheduled to back up the British challenge and two entries remain from Germany, Saddex and Anton Chekov, 12th in the Derby when with O'Brien. The likelihood of easy ground in Paris means that lightning-fast two-year-old Fleeting Spirit will not, after all, take on her elders in Sunday's sprint feature, the Prix de l'Abbaye. The Jeremy Noseda-trained filly will instead face her own age and sex in Friday's Cheveley Park Stakes, stepping up to the six-furlong distance over which she has suffered her sole defeat in four outings.
* Jamie Spencer yesterday narrowed the gap to one (150-149) with Seb Sanders in the jockeys' title race when winning on Aphorism for James Fanshawe at Warwick.
Nap: East Coast Girl