Behkabad still tops for ‘Arc’
A maximum field of 20 looks set to bid for “Arc” glory at Longchamp on Sunday after 26 horses, including seven from Ballydoyle, were left in the €4 million Qatar-sponsored French flagship event with the strong likelihood of two additions tomorrow.
It's also almost certain that this middle-distance championship of Europe will be staged on soft ground with further heavy showers forecast in the coming days in the Paris region as some of the leading trainers involved opted to hold fire on their plans.
English Derby winner Workforce's participation won't be confirmed by Michael Stoute before tomorrow at the earliest, at which stage French ace Andre Fabre is expected to fork out €100,000 to supplement local Guineas and Derby hero Lope De Vega.
The Aga Khan's Behkabad continues to head the ante-post betting on the mile and a half contest with his retained jockey Christophe Lemaire not surprisingly choosing Jean-Claude Rouget's charge over Serafina which Gerald Mosse partners.
Next best in the betting is Aidan O'Brien's Fame And Glory in the hands of Johnny Murtagh with Christophe Soumillon, twice an “Arc” scorer for the Aga Khan, taking over from Seamie Heffernan aboard Cape Blanco.
Midas Touch and Dixie Music which has acted as pacemaker for Fame And Glory on his five outings so far this year could get the go-ahead from O'Brien as well rather than Joshua Tree, Bright Horizon and Flying Cross.
The champion trainer has been happy to tune up Fame And Glory for the Longchamp spectacular at home, preferring a low-key preparation rather than sending the colt there earlier this month for the Prix Niel in which Behkabad narrowly defeated Elie Lellouche's Planteur.
His decision to entrust Cape Blanco to former title-holder Soumillon is no surprise as he guided Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava two years ago to success in the glamour event and won the 2007 Prix Ganay for Aidan on Dylan Thomas before that horse returned to land the “Arc” with Kieren Fallon up.
This will be yet another busy weekend for both the Ballydoyle horses and jockeys as O'Brien will likewise be challenging for Group-race honours on the domestic front at Dundalk on Friday and at Tipperary on Sunday.
A close fourth to Poet's Voice and stable companion Rip Van Winkle at Ascot last Saturday, Beethoven which is now rated 117 would seem the pick of the yard's entries for the Diamond Stakes at Dundalk won by their odds-on Mastercraftsman 12 months ago.
This extended mile and a quarter affair could attract a couple of English challengers with Gerard Butler thinking of saddling Deauville winner Dansant and Newmarket-based Marco Botti planning to give Gitano Hernando a first outing since the Dubai World Cup last March.