TWO statistics stand out ahead of the race of the year when John Gosden’s champion Golden Horn takes on the hat-trick seeking Treve, the pride of France, in tomorrow’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race at Longchamp.
The first is champion trainer-elect Gosden has never won Europe’s showpiece race – he will surely not get a better chance. The second is no horse has won three renewals of this supreme mile and a half test since it was inaugurated in 1920 and Criquette Head-Maarek’s horse of a lifetime stands on the brink of history.
As for the draw which could be critical, Treve will start from stall eight in the middle of the field while Frankie Dettori will have his work cut out from stall 14 towards the outside to ensure that Golden Horn is not forced too wide around the Paris track where tactics – and luck – play a crucial part.
However Gosden is bullish. He has hailed owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer’s colt as “probably the best three-year-old middle-distance horse I’ve ever trained and I’ve had a few through my hands”. He’s right – the roll of honour includes Epsom Derby winner Benny The Dip and fillies such as The Fugue, Dar Re Mi and Taghrooda who was a creditable third to Treve 12 months ago.
He can also draw confidence from the fact that the ground has been drying out all week for Golden Horn who came to prominence in York’s Dante Stakes in May before showing his class by winning the Derby, Coral-Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes on his most recent outing. The only blip was the Juddmonte International on the Knavesmire when an errant pacemaker, and tacky ground, enabled outsider Arabain Queen to claim a shock win.
“His best surface is good to firm, there’s no doubt about it, he has great acceleration,” said Gosden who also saddles King George second Eagle Top.
“The Dante and the Derby is the way he likes to race. Unfortunately in the Eclipse and the Irish Champion they were both small fields with no front runner and he was drawn in one, on the rail, in both cases. He’s shown his versatility that he can do it from the front and fight them off but he’s also shown if they go a great pace he’s got a good turn of foot.”
Frankie Dettori knows the task facing Golden Horn well, having ridden Treve three times. “I was pleased more for the horse in the Irish Champion. After York people were scratching their heads and now he is back to where he was,” he said.
“Ground is key with him. Treve loves Longchamp, she hasn’t got the problems she had in the past and she has looked very, very good. But you have to go into the race with the Derby winner thinking you can beat her. He’s quite a versatile horse so I don’t see much of a problem with tactics.”
As for Treve, the fabulous filly’s trainer could not be happier after the big race favourite won last month’s prep race at Longchamp in spectacular fashion. “I’ve got no pressure. I’m taking her to the race like I would take any other horse. I am not someone who is nervous. For me it doesn’t make any difference,” said Head-Maarek.
“It is a blessing for a trainer to get a horse like that and you enjoy every moment of it. Fingers crossed, somebody up there is looking down on us favourably.
“I’ve received people from the street. One day I was walking in the street in some area in Paris and this guy said ‘that is Mrs Head’.
“So I went over to him and he said ‘how is Treve?’, I said ‘very well’. I said ‘come see her’ and the next day they were with me. He loved it and went racing, and he had never been to a racecourse before. That’s how it should be.”
Hopes for Yorkshire success in the chief supporting races are high – Leyburn’s Karl Burke saddles Redcar winner Katie’s Diamond in the Prix Marcel Boussac while stablemate Odeliz, a Group One winner at Deauville last time out, takes her place in the Prix de l’Opera.
As for the Prix de l’Abbaye sprint, Nawton-based David O’Meara’s Move In Time bids to defend the race that he won so dramatically last year. Danny Tudhope, The Yorkshire Post’s Friday columnist, is once again in the saddle. Other Yorkshire contenders include O’Meara’s Watchable, the David Griffiths-trained Take Cover, David Barron’s Pearl Secret and Monsieur Joe for Paul Midgley.
The one to beat, however, is Mecca’s Angel who was a spectacular winner of the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York’s Ebor festival. She will once again be ridden by Boroughbridge jockey Paul Mulrennan.
Later on the aforementioned O’Meara is double-handed with Custom Cut and G Force in the Prix de la Foret while Salateen represents Hambleton’s Kevin Ryan.
Meanwhile, Ebor winner Litigant is due to reappear in the Prix du Cadran.