David Cleary reflects on performances at York last week, very much with the Arc de Triomphe in mind, and selects 12/1 chance Mishriff as the value option...
"Mishriff had looked the likely winner in both the Eclipse, when he wasn't fully fit, against St Mark's Basilica, and the King George, where Adayar stayed slightly better than he did; purely on form he ought to be a significantly shorter price for the Arc than he is."
It's under six weeks until Europe's most important all-aged middle-distance race, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, a sign that autumn will soon be upon us. There are still major races that could well have a bearing on the market, particularly the main French trials and the Irish Champion Stakes, but the top races at York's Ebor Festival last week had a significant say in that regard.
Snowfall: A case of style over substance?
Principally, that was a result of Snowfall's taking victory in the Yorkshire Oaks, her third successive win at Group 1 level, following her romp on soft ground in the Oaks itself and another easy win in the Irish Oaks. It was hard not to be impressed by the manner in which Snowfall picked up when Ryan Moore asked around three furlongs out. However, the win was more style than substance, with her major opponent on form, Wonderful Tonight, not at her best on ground that was evidently firmer than ideal.
The proximity of the pacemaking La Joconde in third is an obvious concern with the York form, and though Snowfall beat some good fillies a long way at Epsom, she will still face her toughest assignment when she takes on the colts at Longchamp. She looks plenty short enough.
Mishriff: York win the best of the year?
The previous day, in the Juddmonte International, Mishriff had put up arguably the best performance of the summer in beating Alenquer six lengths with plenty in hand. Again there are holes to be picked in the form, Love doesn't seem the filly she was as a three year old; Group 1 miler Alcohol Free looked a non stayer over an extra two furlongs; Alenquer himself appeared to show improvement, despite the shorter trip catching him out at a crucial stage.
All that said, Mishriff had looked the likely winner in both the Eclipse, when he wasn't fully fit, against St Mark's Basilica, and the King George, where Adayar stayed slightly better than he did; purely on form he ought to be a significantly shorter price for the Arc than he is. It's true that he has an alternative engagement in the Champion Stakes at Ascot, and the trainer was talking about the ground after the International, as trainers do.
Mishriff was an impressive winner on very testing ground at Deauville last summer, but his defeat in last year's Champion has been put down to soft ground (see also Stradivarius). Wet conditions in Paris might mean no Arc. They are also likely to increase the emphasis on stamina, which might not be ideal. But still, his form stands comparison with the best in the field.
Adayar: Derby winner ought to be favourite?
When it comes down to it, Adayar is always likely to beat Mishriff if stamina is the main requisite. And Adayar's form is right up there with the best of the likely contenders in the Arc. His form is less easy to pick holes in than Snowfall, too. Frankly, he should be favourite, ahead of the filly. Adayar's form also looks stronger than that of his stable companion Hurricane Lane. The latter seems likely to contest the St Leger first - he's a short price for that classic - but that ought not to stop him running at Longchamp also.
St Mark's Basilica: Pedigree says he'll stay, but will he run?
While mentioning three-year-old colts, it would be fascinating to see St Mark's Basilica in the Arc. He had to miss the International after picking up a cut during exercise the weekend before. He seems likely to return in the Irish Champion and presumably has loads of options beyond that. With Snowfall such an obvious candidate, and St Mark's Basilica a less obvious one, but with stronger form, he's a bigger price than he should be.
So, can St Mark's Basilica stay a mile and a half? Well, he's by Siyouni out of a Galileo mare, as was the 2020 Arc winner Sottsass. His dam Cabaret won the May Hill Stakes over a mile at two, then contested the Musidora, Oaks and Ribblesdale. She didn't train on from two to three, but her trainer, Aidan O'Brien, clearly regarded her as a middle-distance filly. There is a fair bit of encouragement for the step up in trip from Cabaret's wider family as well.
Tarnawa: Is she the pick of the older fillies?
Beyond those mentioned, the other main contenders seem to be older fillies. Wonderful Tonight clearly didn't give her running at York and soft ground would bring her much more into the reckoning. Her form in the Hardwicke reads well. However, soft ground isn't exactly going to be a problem for Snowfall.
The Japanese-trained filly Chrono Genesis is clearly a serious player. She was just touched off by Mishriff in the Sheema Classic at Meydan in the spring. There isn't much in the prices of the pair for Longchamp and the filly has the Arc as her clear target. However, Mishriff looks to have improved since Meydan and has stronger claims, if he turns up.
However, the older filly with the best claims may be Tarnawa. She won the Prix de L'Opera on Arc day last year, just prevailing in a messy race, and looked good in routing some inferior rivals on her return at Leopardstown earlier in the month. She could well clash with St Mark's Basilica in the Irish Champion.
French stables appear to have a pretty bare cupboard for their premier race, particularly with In Swoop, last year's runner-up, having been retired due to injury. The 2020 Arc fifth Raabihah is the most obvious French-trained candidate, and she won nicely at Deauville last time, her first success in over twelve months. However, she was no match for Tarnawa when they met last in the Prix Vermeille before the Arc last year.
In summary, then, Adayar deserves to be favourite ahead of Snowfall. Mishriff and St Mark's Basilica are the pair that look obviously overpriced. Neither could be called a definite runner, though Mishriff seems the more likely. He's been campaigned ambitiously over the last two seasons, and very well rewarded for it. With a choice between the Arc and the Champion Stakes - in which he disappointed last year - the Arc seems much the more likely option, ground and John Gosden permitting. Mishriff is 13.012/1 with Betfair Sportsbook, which looks a generous price.
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