Timeform's Ben Fearnley takes a look at Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
"Treve was back to her very best in the Vermeille, and her six-length victory was not only immensely impressive on the eye, but it was also a remarkable performance on the clock, with her finishing speed of 109.1% (end speed compared to average-race speed) turning a respectable overall race time into a top-notch one by sectional standards."
The Arc has been the crowning glory of many of the great racing careers- from Ribot's back-to-back wins in the '50s, to the valedictory successes of Sea-Bird and Dancing Brave over some of finest fields ever assembled and, more recently, the flourishes of Zarkava and Sea The Stars. A great middle-distance racehorse is lucky to get one such send-off, but Treve could be about to have her second- remember that she was briefly retired last year after winning the Arc for a second time.
Of course, there is a bigger slice of history at stake for Treve on Sunday. She's already in an exclusive club of seven dual Arc winners. Should she win a third, she would stand alone.
That third win is expected in just about all corners. Treve's Prix Vermeille win last time was her most impressive since she took her first Arc in 2013 and her unbeaten 2015 season could not lie in much greater contrast to last year, when she failed to win before her successful defence at Longchamp. Treve was back to her very best in the Vermeille, and her six-length victory was not only immensely impressive on the eye, but it was also a remarkable performance on the clock, with her finishing speed of 109.1% (end speed compared to average-race speed) turning a respectable overall race time into a top-notch one by sectional standards. As boring as it sounds, Treve is clear of this field on Timeform Ratings, and we can only echo the overwhelming consensus that she is the horse to beat on Sunday.
This year's Derby winner Golden Horn looks increasingly likely to take his chance in the Arc on Sunday, given Longchamp's dry forecast this week. On our ratings, he would theoretically provide Treve with the biggest challenge she has yet faced- only Just A Way, disappointing in last year's Arc, has met Treve while rated as high as 133, Golden Horn's current figure. Golden Horn has been on the go for a long time this season, having run the first of his six races back in April, he has gone on to win three times at Group 1 level, with the only blot on his record being defeat in a muddling Juddmonte International at York in August. Golden Horn has not been at his top-class best on his last two starts, including when cannoning into Free Eagle in the Irish Champion most recently, but his Derby win will stand him in good stead for this sort of test, and he will surely be the most likely to take advantage if Treve is in any way off-colour.
We see Golden Horn as a more legitimate threat than the other joint-second favourite at the time of writing, New Bay. Admittedly, the French Derby winner has more scope to improve, lightly-raced and progressive with it. His only defeat this year was also excusable, draw and an over-patient ride doing for his chances in the Poulains back in May. A by-product of his unexposed profile is uncertainty over his suitability for this test, which may seem a strange thing to say given New Bay's a C&D winner, but the Prix Niel he won last time was hardly a full dress rehearsal for your typical Arc. It was New Bay's speed that won the day three weeks ago, and given both his sire and dam were best at a mile, it's not for certain that the Arc, which usually demands ample stamina for the 12-furlong trip, will play to his strengths. Still, we haven't quite plumbed the depths of New Bay's considerable ability, so he adds an interesting third dimension to the race.
In terms of finding the Arc winner, we probably start and end with the three we've talked about already. Treve is a worthy favourite to win a third Arc, but her chance is, of course, well-advertised, and duly reflected in the betting. Golden Horn should be ahead of New Bay as far as we're concerned, but that offers only a little leverage and there is a bit more wriggle room, certainly where each-way or place betting is concerned, beyond the three main players.
If you're looking for such a play, Flintshire and Dolniya should be top of the shortlist. We know Flintshire as runner-up in this last year and in the meantime he's never been out of the first three, landing a couple of Group 1s into the bargain. There are plenty of examples of horses faring well in the Arc time and again, not least in Treve herself, of course, so another bold showing by Flintshire seems likely.
Dolniya actually had Flintshire behind her three times earlier in the season, including when she won the Sheema Classic in Dubai, but he has strode on where she has stumbled. Nonetheless, there was plenty to like about the way she shaped in the Prix Foy last time, and it should also be remembered that she has been taken a very similar route this year than to last, when she finished fifth in this race as a raw three-year-old. Bigger, stronger and better-prepared now, Dolniya could well be involved and makes some appeal at 33s, but, as ever when we look at this year's Arc, the foreboding shadow of Treve makes a win-bet on anything else seem unlikely.