Horse racing tipster David Cleary has a second look at Sunday's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe and sides with Godolphin second-string Hurricane Lane..
"It's true [Hurricane Lane] didn't beat a vintage field at Doncaster, but the authority of his win in a well-run race added further evidence that he will be capable of a top-class effort under the right circumstances. Those could well be on Sunday."
A month on from the first look at the Arc as an ante-post betting opportunity, plenty has changed. The French trials, the Irish Champion Stakes and the St Leger have been run, though ironically one who didn't run in any of those races was promoted to favourite as a result. Several who might have run are heading elsewhere or have been retired due to injury. And one horse, who wasn't even a likely runner four weeks ago, is now a very serious candidate.
To begin with the absentees. Mishriff, put forward as a value option, is heading instead for the Champion Stakes which now looks a much softer race than the Arc. That is even more the case following news late yesterday that St Mark's Basilica has been retired.
St Mark's Basilica prevailed in a tight finish for the Irish Champion Stakes, and though the Arc didn't seem to be a serious option, he'd have been a fascinating runner. However, his future now is solely at stud.
The mare Wonderful Tonight, another major contender, was retired following an injury on the gallops.
Adayar: All in place for a bold show
The horse now favourite - just - is the Derby and King George winner Adayar. His form, even a month ago, suggested that was where he ought to be in the market; that he is there now is slightly by default, as he missed his intended run in thee Prix Niel but others fluffed their lines.
Adayar, who has to be supplemented on Wednesday, has a very plausible profile for an Arc winner. The form of his two wins is top class, in truly-run races and generally hard to fault. The runner-up Mishriff boosted the King George win with his success in the International and the placed horses in the Derby are among those from Epsom to perform well since.
The likely conditions at Longchamp ought to ensure that Adayar's stamina comes fully into play. With 16 runners, or thereabouts, set to take their chance a muddling race seems unlikely.
Snowfall: Drift understandable after Vermeille defeat
The former market leader Snowfall also needs to be supplemented. She consolidated her then-position as favourite after completing an Oaks hat-trick in the Yorkshire version in August, even though her form doesn't have the substance that Adayar's does.
What lost Snowfall her market position, was that she was beaten at very short odds in the Prix Vermeille. That clearly wasn't her running and the race was a muddling one, but it does raise further doubts about her chance.
Teona: overlooked with focus on Snowfall flop
The Vermeille was won by Teona, who thus entered the Arc picture herself. She'd been beaten by Snowfall in the Musidora and the Oaks earlier in the summer, but had then won a listed event at Windsor in taking fashion before scoring in the Vermeille.
Teona has a superb pedigree, has been keen in quite a few of her races, so could well benefit from a larger field and truer gallop, though she would likely benefit from rainfall in Paris being on the low side of what's predicted.
Tarnawa: Better than ever in defeat last time
With Snowfall drifting, Tarnawa emerged as the main challenger to Adayar at the head of the betting. Tarnawa was beaten in the Irish Champion, but only narrowly, and in splitting St Mark's Basilica and the Guineas winner Poetic Flare, she ran as well as she ever has.
The only concern about the piece of form is that the small-field contest was not well run and, with the winner subsequently retired and the third possibly not quite getting the trip, the form may not be quite as good as it looks.
Chrono Genesis: Meydan form puts her firmly in picture
Tarnawa's trainer Dermot Weld has identified the Japanese-trained mare Chrono Genesis as the major danger, and he may well be right. Certainly, her one piece of form outside her home country, a neck defeat by Mishriff in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, puts her bang in the shake-up. Most of her best form is on good going or firmer, but she has won on soft, though the sort of conditions that the Arc has been run under in the last two years might present more of an unknown.
Chrono Genesis might be said to represent Mishriff at one remove. So too, if more distantly, does Alenquer. Alenquer was second to Mishriff, no match, in the International, performing as well as he's ever done, despite the drop back in trip not looking ideal.
Alenquer looked that day as if he'd be worth trying in the St Leger, but connections opted for the challenge of the Arc instead. His form is hard to knock - the Classic Trial at Sandown was the best renewal of that event since forever - but he needs a big leap forward on what he's done so far. A significant increase in the emphasis on stamina will help, but it will suit others as well.
Hurricane Lane: Getting better by the run
Last but by no means least, a horse that has already beaten Alenquer at Longchamp, Hurricane Lane. Hurricane Lane has been beaten just once in seven starts, when he was third to Adayar in the Derby. That defeat, when he was the stable first string, was more about the track than anything else. Not every horse can handle the ups and downs and side to sides of Epsom's unique circuit and three appearances since have shown Hurricane Lane in a much better light.
Three weeks after Epsom, Hurricane Lane stormed home in the Irish Derby at the Curragh, doing really well to get up after things had not gone his way in the race. He then landed the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp by six lengths (Alenquer was third). That Hurricane Lane stood up so well to a busy three-race schedule mid-summer must be encouraging for his prospects of showing his form relatively soon after the St Leger.
Hurricane Lane's victory in the St Leger was even more taking than his Longchamp win, suggesting he is still very much an untapped talent. It's true he didn't beat a vintage field at Doncaster, but the authority of his win in a well-run race added further evidence that he will be capable of a top-class effort under the right circumstances. He may well have them on Sunday.
Unlike Adayar, Hurricane Lane hasn't had the chance to take on his elders, which makes caution in assessment understandable but a little misleading. Choosing between Adayar and Hurricane Lane must have been difficult for his stable's number one rider William Buick. He's been on board Hurricane Lane for all his races this year, but on Adayar for only two of the four runs. Adayar does have better form, but that may have been opportunity as much as ability.
Best bet at current prices...
In summary, the Vermeille victory of Teona looks to have been discounted a little too readily and she might spring a surprise. Alenquer will run better than his odds, but actually winning looks a bit beyond him. Buick may have plumped for the right one in Adayar, but his choice is not determined by the odds. As it stands, Hurricane Lane, available at 7.06/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, makes most appeal of the current prices.
Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples - Every Day!
Place £20 worth of Multiples or Bet Builders over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 bet to use on Multiples or Bet Builders. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.