Jamie Lynch's Monthly High-Fives: October 2017

The Arc at Chantilly is one of October's highlights
The Arc at Chantilly is one of October's highlights

Timeform chief correspondent Jamie Lynch picks out five important dates coming up in October...

"From Cracksman to Winter and Order of St George, several A-listers are grabbing a headline by flirting with the idea of Chantilly, and they're ready and willing, but they're not Enable."

There's an inner geek within everyone who works at Timeform that makes for a natural assumption that we all love Star Wars, but, sadly, it's not the case. I say sadly because, in fact, it's only me, left shunned and isolated in the Halifax canteen when talk turns to the Mos Eisley Cantina. 'It's a kids' film,' is the legitimate decry, but it's also the very reason why I think it's unfair that The Return of The Jedi is always near the top in polls of movies with the worst endings, as everbody - including the teddy-bear Ewoks - lives happily ever after.

Far bigger culprits, for my money are, The Departed and No Country For Old Men, which are as good as movie-making gets for 90%, before a deflating final act that lets the side down, a wild wrap-up with a killing spree in The Departed and no wrap-up whatsoever to speak of in No Conclusion For Old Men. In racing, like films, the denouement is in many ways the be all and end all, the producer of pay-outs in a race, and the shaping of stars in a season, which is where we're at with October, all set for a classy culmination of 2017 all over the continent...


1. Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, Chantilly - October 1

The Usual Suspects. Now there's a film with an ending. A smokescreen of convincing characters, drawing you in, when the answer was in front of you all along. That's sort of where we are with the Arc. From Cracksman to Winter and Order of St George, several A-listers are grabbing a headline by flirting with the idea of Chantilly, and they're ready and willing, but they're not Enable.

At least Ulysses is pot committed, Stoute putting the majority of the chips in the middle, with a few kept back for America, but it's hard to heat up a head-to-head that was so one-sided in the King George. The year has almost been defined by Enable, and the Arc is almost Enable's defining race, for the completion of a perfect season.

If the Arc is all for one, the Group 1s that surround it are one for all, a free for all, including a rematch of the non-match in the Nunthorpe, Battaash having a score to settle in the Abbaye, and a tempting 9/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook, remembering that he was a third of the price of Marsha at York, with good reason.

It has been Limato light this year, the diluted version of the 2016 monster who gobbled up the Foret, coming to it this time with a wobble rather than a swagger, but all that's needed is a little fine-tuning, as we know of the big engine in there.


2. Sun Chariot, Newmarket - October 7

Though a Group 1 since 2004, the Sun Chariot has struggled for identity in an action-packed autumn, moving weekends more than once. It still feels a little like a Group 2 masquerading as a Group 1, boosted by a formidable filly last year in Alice Springs, but even then it smacked of more of a maintenance race for her between bigger bashes.

Nevertheless, it's a Group 1, and it's up for grabs, within range for a Gosden grab, never letting an opportunity go by. Rarely, rather then never, says Cracksman. Persuasive is first up, and the case if persuasive, as she's been knocking on the Group 1 door for a while, her finishing flourish in the Matron hinting that she's ready to charge through it, but it's very interesting that Gosden also has So Mi Dar still engaged. She has been underwhelming since returning belatedly in August, but a change would do you good, according to Sheryl Crow, and a mile would definitely be a change for her, potentially a smart move, as she's often wanted to go quicker than the tempo of her races, keen by nature.

Aidan O'Brien is lining up one or both of Roly Poly and Hydrangea, and names like Andre Fabre (Usherette) and Freddie Head (Siyoushake) jump off the entries page, as France have won the Sun Chariot in five of the last eight years, but keep in mind the game-changing So Mi Dar, as there's still a sense of unfinished business about her.


3. Fillies' Mile, Newmarket - October 13

When is a Fillies' Mile not a Fillies' Mile? When we still don't know what Aidan O'Brien's head girl is. And neither, it seems, does he. By this stage, the order is normally pecked, Rhododendron 5/2 last year and Minding 5/4 in 2015, forecasting the brewing storm.

It's less conclusive going to Newmarket this year, as the two lead-up races - the Debutante and the Moyglare - have featured the same three Ballydoyle beauties without much in the way of clarity, Magical beating Happily in August before Happily beat Magical in September, with even Ryan picking wrong both times. The only constant has been September playing third-fiddle, but the soft ground has blunted the sharp tools that saw her run away with the Chesham on firm, highly likely that her advancement is delayed rather than abandoned.

And so everything is still in the mix as we await the white plumes of smoke from the Rowley Mile to reveal the anointed one, with an eye on the Guineas. But their juvenile queen may be crowned the day before October begins, as it's the Cheveley Park on September 30th, a date Clemmie's had in the diary for a long time.


4. Dewhurst Stakes, Newmarket - October 14

The National Stakes' loss is the Dewhurst's gain, as the divisional decider for the two-year-old colts. It just wasn't cricket at the Curragh, Expert Eye injured in practice and rain stopping play for Gustav Klimt, but both are limbering up for a big swing at Newmarket.

In their absence, Verbal Dexterity made the biggest statement of the year for a juvenile, shining on a slimmed-down and sodden stage, but a non-staying Beckford was very different competition, and probably conditions, from what he'll face in the Dewhurst.

Expert Eye is on the easy list, but he'll have enjoyed watching events since the Vintage, with the third, fourth and fifth all shining a reflective light on him, Mildenberger winning a listed race, Seahenge winning the Champagne, and James Garfield all but winning the Acomb.

It's all the play for in the two-year-old league, and it could be a vintage crop, spearheaded by the Vintage winner.


5. Champions Day, Ascot - October 21

It's hard to believe that British Champions Day is still an infant, in only its seventh year, as it has all the prestige and pulling power of any of the championships around the world. Frankel gave it a considerable kick-start, but standards through the card have gone up and up, for quality and quantity.

Take, as an example, this year's Champion Stakes, which has such strength in depth that it's 11/2 the field with the Betfair Sportsbook. Admittedly, it's a fluid field for now, the unknowns generating the wide-open betting, but there's a host of star names amongst the possibles.

A definite is Harry Angel, the king of the sprinters, a title that has rarely been harder earned in a season, given the trailblazers that have flashed fire at various points in 2017. Harry Angel has proved the dominant force in the second half of the campaign, whereas Ribchester did it from the start, in the Lockinge, since when he hasn't missed a beat, bar when he missed a boat in the Sussex waterway. Champions Day reflects the best of British and reverberates around the world. That's some achievement for a seven-year-old.


Monthly Wager

The Champion Stakes will get more closed as it gets more close, and half the battle for a betting edge is to find a certain runner, for which Barney Roy fits the bill. The case for him is far beyond playing percentages, however, as he has developed all the time, just unable to show it all under a needlessly attacking ride in the International.

With lessons learnt from there, and relationships remembered from the Eclipse, where there was nothing between him and Ulysses, Barney Roy makes all sorts of sense, available at 6/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook now and easy to envisage him going off half that price on the day.

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