We're less than three weeks away from what promises to be a fascinating Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and our resident tipster Tony Calvin has an antepost play...
"He may have disappointed some when only fourth at the weekend, but that was obviously a very strong Group 1 over 1m2f, and we know last year's French Derby (he beat Persian King by 2 lengths that day) and Prix Niel winner has been there and got the T-shirt when it comes to running well in an Arc and around 1m4f at Longchamp."
It tells you everything you need to know about the lack of depth in the Arc de Triomphe field, and market, that three horses beaten in their trials on Sunday remain the next trio in the betting after the golden girls, Love and Enable.
In fact, make that four.
So surely there must be a bet lurking somewhere?
If there is, I will endeavour to find it here but let us deal with the pair dominating the market first, and whether they deserve to.
Question marks hanging over super fillies
We all know how strong the claims of the front two (compared to the opposition at least) are and Love, with that sex and age allowance, is ideally placed to follow in the footsteps of the 3yo fillies who have won this race in recent years; Zarkava, Treve and Enable herself in 2017.
She has clearly looked imperious in her three Group 1 victories this season, and has done it on the clock at Epsom too, but the fact remains that she has beaten three fillies who are some way removed from the top table.
Beaten them pointless, yes, but the runners-up in 1,000 Guineas and Oaks have not won any of their combined eight starts since, and One Voice didn't advertise the Yorkshire Oaks form at the weekend, either.
And Love hasn't had to dig deep for her any of her victories this season, which she will surely have do in Paris next month. It could well be a shock to her system to have horses bearing down either side of her in the heat of an Arc, though I appreciate she had a few tussles at two.
So if not a shock, then a real battle.
Enable found that out when clinging on in 2018 and when denied by Waldgeist in her hat-trick bid last season, and you can certainly question exactly what the 6yo has achieved this season.
She was beaten easily by Ghaiyyath (basically ruled out of the Arc after his Leopardstown defeat by Magical at Leopardstown, though never say never perhaps) first time up in the Eclipse, with subsequent disappointments Japan and Magic Wand close in behind, while her defeats of Irish St Leger also-ran Sovereign in a three-runner King George and the then 98-rated Kirstenbosch at odds of 1/14 at Kempton have proved next to nothing.
For me, the jury is certainly out on whether she is anywhere close to her 2017 and 2019 best in her fifth season of racing.
So even though Love and Enable cast a massive shadow over the betting market, currently trading at 2.962/1 and 3.65 respectively on the exchange, they are hardly horses that you would be afraid to meet down a dark alley in Paris on October 4.
Love is rated 123 in Ireland (122 in UK) and Enable is currently on 128, which is very arguable on her form this season.
However, as I touched upon above, the problem is the opposition is hardly the stuff of Dancing Brave. Or even guaranteed to line up.
Arc dream still very much alive for star stayer
Raabihah and Stradivarius are vying for third favouritism at around the 18/1 mark on the exchange despite weekend defeats.
The former is clearly held in huge regard by Jean-Claude Rouget but the facts of the matter are she has been beaten in both Group 1 starts, including by the not small margin of 3 lengths by Tarnawa in the Vermeille on Sunday, and has merely won a Group 3 this season.
Being a 3yo filly or not, that is not a strong profile when it comes to a potential Arc winner. However, she at least appears a definite runner, health and fitness permitting, and that counts for a lot in the exchange market.
I thought Stradivarius did not lose much bar the race itself when touched off by Anthony Van Dyck in the steadily-run Prix Foy on Sunday, and surely he will be seen to better effect with a bigger field, stronger gallop and probably softer ground next month.
His Arc dream is still very much alive, and his official rating of 125 puts him firmly in the ballpark from a class and form perspective.
Serpentine still trades at the fifth favourite at 19.018/1 despite only finishing fourth to stablemate Mogul in the Prix Foy, though to be charitable he was not ridden with the same imagination or force he was at Epsom and that was his first start since winning the Derby on July 4.
Progression may be likely but it would have to be considerable.
Trial winners not certain to line-up in Paris
In normal circumstances, you would look towards the winners of the weekend trials, but there is considerable doubt whether they will even rock up.
That is especially true of 2019 Epsom winner Anthony Van Dyck who is one of six of Aidan O'Brien's due to be put into quarantine on Wednesday with a view to travelling to Australia, alongside Irish Derby 1-2 Santiago and Tiger Moth (who I thought could be chanced in the race after his impressive Group 3 Leopardstown win on Saturday), who would also normally be Arc possibles in a barren year.
You'd have definitely thought Tarnawa would be given her chance in the big race after her hugely impressive win in the Vermeille, a victory which has led to her being raised 4lb to a mark of 117 by the Irish handicapper today.
But, reading between the lines, connections seem to be favouring a shot at the 1m2f Prix de l'Opera at the Arc meeting or the British Champions Fillies And Mares at Ascot next month, which seems mystifying to me.
I know she has to be supplemented for the Arc at a cost of 72,000 euros but we are talking about the Aga Khan here, and not some owner who services gas cookers for a living and Khant afford it.
Sorry (if that got through the edit, that is...).
Mogul put up his most impressive performance of the season when beating the German Derby winner In Swoop by 2 ½ lengths in the Foy but, once again, it appears that he and Irish Champion Stakes winner Magical also have Ascot in mid-October as an alternative engagement.
And the betting backs that up, with Magical, fifth last year and 10th in 2018, trading at 30.029/1 on the exchange and Mogul 24.023/1. Those prices are clearly too big on first viewing, but perhaps not so if you consider they may only be evens to turn up.
Then again, neither are on the quarantine list, so the Arc is clearly in the reckoning still.
All told, it is a very confusing picture, and the theme of beaten weekend horses retaining an elevated status in the Arc market is underlined by the fact that 2-length Irish Champion fourth Sottsass is a 23.022/1 chance at the time of publishing.
He was the fourth one referred to at the start of the piece, by the way.
However, he finished third to Waldgeist and Enable (1 ¾ lengths behind the mare) in the race last season and maybe the longer trip and likely easier ground next month will see him in a much better light once again.
I could return to him shortly.
Surprised that connections haven't supplemented Mishriff
After that, I am really struggling for plausible contenders - surely last year's St Leger winner, and Doncaster match scorer, Logician won't be going anywhere near the race after his problems - which is why I can't believe that connections of Mishriff are not supplementing him.
Apologies if you listened to me on The Weighed In Podcast this week and heard the following arguments, but it bears repeating.
The fact is that Mishriff (currently 200.0199/1 on the exchange) would be third favourite in single figures if owner Prince A A Faisal has second, more logical, thoughts, as his horse looked great when winning the French Derby and when beating the same horse, The Summit, by even further at Deauville last time.
His is untested over 1m4f and is not sure to stay in pedigree, but the manner in which he has finished off his last two races - especially over an extended 1m2f when winning his Classic - leaves me in no doubt that he would last home.
Indeed, I said at the time - I wonder if Prince Faisal's initials stand for Aftertime Ansell, too - that he should have been heading to Epsom and not Chantilly.
They really need to have a re-think, as the 72,000 euros supplementary looks a very good risk to reward to me.
I know John Gosden has two strong candidates, but Mishriff could easily be his best chance of beating Love.
However, I don't get even heard, or listened to, in my own household, so I am not holding my breath to hear of a Mishriff volte face.
Last year's third looks the current value
I don't think I have missed out any left-field contenders - though I would love to see Pyledriver given his chance, as he was the best horse in Saturday's St Leger, and Persian King stepping up to 1m4f for the first time would be something else - so it is time to sum up and stump up.
Stradivarius is a still a big player for me, but I have a feeling that the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday could provide the answer.
Even though he is a Galileo and may well stay if tried at 1m4f, I don't think the Arc will be next on Leopardstown third's Armory's agenda - and is one of the six of AOB's due to be quarantined, anyway - so the overpriced horse in the market is Sottsass at 23.022/1.
He may have disappointed some when only fourth at the weekend, but that was obviously a very strong Group 1 over 1m2f, and we know last year's French Derby (he beat Persian King by 2 lengths that day) and Prix Niel winner has been there and got the T-shirt when it comes to running well in an Arc and around 1m4f at Longchamp.
He has run better than Magical has in the race, too, and I have to assume it is his target now once again (indeed his trainer said in an August stable tour on ATR that this is his main target, though admittedly that was before the Irish Champion came into the equation).
I prefer him over his stablemate Raabihah, anyway. He went off at 11/2 when third last season, and he looks the current value in the market at 20/1+.
Even the 16/1 or bigger each-way on the fixed odds front looks very fair.
Back Sottsass at 23.022/1 or bigger for the Arc