Most of the Arc-based headlines in the last week have focused on a horse that won't be running in the race, but even without Cracksman - and last season's champion three-year-old Almanzor (who'd been second favourite in the betting before his disappointing reappearance and subsequent retirement) - we still have a cracking race in prospect, centring around four-time Group 1 winner Enable, who is now odds-on to take her winning streak to six in a row.
Enable will reportedly be supplemented on Wednesday (at a cost of €120,000), and considering that she would be 3 lb clear of her nearest rival on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings, that looks a good move, especially given that she remains open to further improvement, and is probably capable of an even bigger rating given the right race/set of circumstances. Given that she had second favourite (and the second highest rated horse in the race) Ulysses - himself the winner of the Eclipse and International Stakes this season - four and a half lengths behind her in the King George at Ascot in July, in truth it is hard to see anything in this field beating her if she runs her race again.
Without Almanzor, the French challenge doesn't look particularly strong, either, with Cloth of Stars and Zarak (who were separated by just a short neck when filling the first two places in the Ganay earlier in May) both having a bit to find with the principal British-and Irish-trained horses, and Silverwave having been well beaten in each of the last two renewals. Prix du Jockey Club winner Brametot is the shortest price of the home challenge, though he was disappointing when well beaten by Eminent in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville last time.
The main Japanese challenger is Satono Diamond, the winner of four of his starts as a three-year-old, including the Group 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) at Kyoto and the Group 1 Arima Kinen at Hanshin (by neck from Japan Cup winner Kitasan Black). He'd been prominent in the betting for the Arc before his slightly underwhelming fourth in the Prix Foy, though he ultimately shaped as though he'd come on for the run, and may well do better come Sunday. He's in the right hands, too, with his trainer Yasutoshi Ikee having been responsible for Orfevre, who was second in the Arc in 2012 and 2013.
The Prix Foy winner was the Markus Klug-trained Dschingis Secret, one of two German entries currently in the race, who took his record to four wins from five starts when taking that particular trial. Dschingis Secret had beaten Hawkbill by a length in the Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten in August, and is clearly worthy of a place in the field.
The other nation represented is, of course, Ireland, and Aidan O'Brien currently has seven entries, including two of the runners that gave him a one-two-three in the race last year. Highland Reel was beaten a length and three quarters into second by Found in last year's Arc and would have place claims here once again, having had a lighter campaign than the one he had during 2016. The current ground (described as soft on the 25th September) and forecast rain would be a concern for him, however, usually kept away from softer conditions and well beaten by Enable in the King George on soft when last seen. Last year's third Order of St George won't mind testing going, and he showed himself to be in good form coming into this year's race, winning the Irish St Leger by nine lengths. His placed effort had come in what was probably a weaker renewal than this is going to be, however.
O'Brien's other entries include dual-Guineas winner Winter, though it remains to be seen whether she will take her chance over a mile and a half (two furlongs further than she has tackled before) if conditions are on the testing side (she's out of a sprinter, after all). Cliffs of Moher has been shaping up as though a return to a mile and a half would suit him, and may interest some punters at big odds given his best form to date came over that trip when finishing second in the Derby, though testing ground is an unknown (beaten on debut on heavy and yet to face soft or heavy since). Capri had to dig deep to win the St Leger and a 15-day break may put some punters off, though he is such a likable sort that he is likely to give a good account if he turns up, while he is also proven on soft ground.
However even if O'Brien runs all seven of his current entrants, they will all have a job competing with an on-song Enable, who looks to have very solid claims. Short-priced favourites in fairly big fields can make for nice each-way betting material, but in truth it is hard to land on a bigger-priced rival to back against Enable, with second favourite Ulysses also looking very solid. Based on that pair's effort in the King George, soft ground won't be a hindrance to their chances (though heavy ground would be an unknown), but it would be an unknown for several of the other principals, including Highland Reel, Zarak and Brametot, while it's unlikely to think that Guineas winner Winter will be seen to good effect in a real slog.
All of Satano Diamond's top-level form has come on a fast surface, but he won his debut on soft going, and is proven over further than a mile and a half, both of which will stand him in good stead for Sunday should things get testing. The bookmakers seem to have overreacted to his performance in the Prix Foy last time, where he shaped as if he needed the run after four months off (travelled well and wasn't given a hard time once beaten), and at odds of 20/1 he makes some each-way appeal, offering something slightly different than some of the European contenders who on known form don't have much hope of getting near Enable.
Back Satono Diamond win and place at 21.020/1