Angus McNae
Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
Saturday 27th September 2014
Racing UK - 1 Channel - 3 Devices - 1 Price - Racing UK

Ectot the pick from operation Chantilly

And so it began. Our quest to find this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner.

You may remember that last year we embarked upon the same mission and we came up with Treve. A lucky guess some people may say, hard work I would say.

Our first visit was a return to Criquette Head-Maarek’s yard to see Treve. Is the mare finished after a disappointing season? Or can she bounce back to her brilliant best?

Head-Maarek allowed us to film Treve doing some very gentle exercise. As was the case last year she did not move very well, but that is her way.

Head-Maarek is happy with her, she believes that her run in the Prix Vermeille on Arc Trials day this month when finishing fourth was a fair prep run and she has come out of the race well.

Tellingly she says the filly is not as good as she was last year. She believes she lacks the devastating turn of foot that won her the Arc. It's not going to be Treve this year folks, if she does do it the trainer will have pulled off the most remarkable piece of training in Arc history.

After leaving the yard we went to interview Gregory Benoist, the jockey of Ectot.

Ectot won the Prix Niel on Arc Trials day impressively and is a fresh horse having had a lay off due to a minor stress fracture. Benoist is adamant the horse was only doing enough in that race, and as such did not have a hard race, which is good news if you are a believer in the bounce theory.

We know he stays a mile and a half and Benoist seemed very keen on his chances.

As for the unbeaten Avenir Certain he acknowledged her class, after all she is a French Guineas and Oaks winner, but there has to be a doubt about the 12-furlong trip for her in the Arc. She is by no means a guaranteed stayer and she may be found out in a strongly run race. I am convinced this factor influenced Benoist’s in his decision to ride Ectot.

Ectot is trained by Ellie Lellouche, who won the Arc with Helissio and has sent out numerous placed horses in the race. Lellouche allowed us to watch Ectot in his work and to be fair he is not flash in any way, but he is so laid back and lazy you would never get a real handle on his ability at home.

Lellouche likes the fact that he does not do a tap at home as this means he saves it all for the racecourse. I asked Lellouche about extraneous factors such as the draw and he dismissed them all saying this horse is the real deal. Calmly he told me this horse is better than Helissio was and is so good factors such as the draw will make no difference. Confidence oozed out of him and we would be daft not to take the hint.

What of the Japanese challenge? Well, they are treble-handed with Goldship, Harp Star and Just a Way. We saw them all.

Goldship is a big robust colt, whose form shows that he is a relentless galloper. His connections like him but are far from bullish.

Harp Star is faster than Goldship, indeed she beat him last time out. Her late running style and turn of foot will be best employed on fast ground. It seemed to us that connections prefer Harp Star to Goldship.

As far as Just A Way is concerned, he is the classiest of them all. Connections seem to think that his class will help him see out the mile and a half trip of the Arc. While this displays admirable confidence, it could also be put down to misplaced faith. He showed in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan in March that he is very fast and nothing he has ever done has pointed him to being a mile and a half horse. Class is a non-quantifiable and bogus way of assessing horses, just the sort of thing that people in racing like, but few know what it means.

It was clear to me that Harp Star is the best of the Japanese raiders this year but one word of warning. I spoke to Gerald Mosse at length whilst on this trip, something you will be able to see on on Tuesday and he felt that she may have too much speed for an Arc, and not enough stamina.

We then moved on to Alain De Royer-Dupre’s yard in Chantilly and he likes Dolniya. Her main asset is that she is a very strong stayer and this type of horse often runs well in the Arc.

Ardross and Westerner are but a couple of strong stayers who have run well in the race. She will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon, and will be galloping when many have cried enough. She could make the frame and should be backed accordingly.

Incidentally Monsieur Dupre told us that Shamkala is back to her best and may run in the Prix De l'Opera on Arc weekend. If she does, the hint should be taken.

Finally I must pass onto you the best bet of Arc weekend and that is Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix Dollar on Saturday. We visited Corine Barande-Barbe, his trainer, and she left us in no doubt that Cirrus is back after an injury scare and is better than ever.

He looked magnificent and when I asked her if he would win the Prix Dollar she calmly said, "yes.”

Say no more.

Our mission is now complete and we have four bets sorted out for next weekend. The answer to the Arc puzzle last year was Treve.

This year it is Ectot.

Angus McNae's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend bets:

Ectot to win the Arc.

Dolniya for a place in the Arc. 

Lay Treve for a place in the Arc.

Cirrus Des Aigles to win the Prix dollar.