Limato, the Foret favorite, courtesy of Champions Series via Twitter.
Unless you have something better to do after the Arc on Sunday morning (like running off to church), stay tuned for three more Group 1s at Longchamp.
Mecca’s Angel is the best on merit in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) (10:40 a.m. EDT), a five-furlong scramble down the straightaway. But her supremacy is imperiled on two counts: possibly drier conditions than she prefers, and by her drawing on the extreme far side in post 19. Trainer Michael Dods will reportedly make the trek to Longchamp Saturday to assess the course, but as of Friday evening, chances are the brilliant filly will be withdrawn. If showers materialize in time, and she stays in, the daughter of Dark Angel is the one they’ve all got to beat. An absolute machine over five furlongs with some give in the ground, Mecca’s Angel was a course-and-distance winner of the May 10 Prix de Saint-Georges (G3) in her reappearance. The gray was last seen catching Wesley Ward’s Amazon juvenile Acapulco in the Nunthorpe (G1) at York.
[Saturday update: as expected, Mecca’s Angel is officially out.]
If the ground rides quick, then Muthmir and the venerable Sole Power enter calculations. Muthmir’s ideal scenario is a barn-burning pace that he can draft right behind and quicken off. The William Haggas charge is plenty capable when he gets his preferred set-up, as illustrated by his course record in last September’s Portland, the May 31 Prix du Gros-Chene (G2) at Chantilly and the King George (G2) at Goodwood.
Eight-year-old Sole Power was for some time the five-furlong kingpin of Europe, but he’s been beaten in all four prior appearances in this race. A couple of times the soft ground was to blame, and the other times he found costly trouble. My fear is that his deep-closing style could work against him again in this madhouse. On the other hand, Sole Power finally ended his winless streak in Dubai when taking the March 28 Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on World Cup night, and the old warhorse recently defied yielding ground to edge Maarek in the Curragh’s Flying Five (G2). Might he solve the Abbaye puzzle at last?
Move in Time must be mentioned as the defending champion who just took the local prep, the Prix de Petit Couvert (G3), and has yet to finish out of the top two over this course. Since the Abbaye has a penchant for throwing up upsets, two outsiders worth using are Take Cover, who missed narrowly to Muthmir in the King George, and Son Cesio, a useful French colt who was beaten only a couple of lengths by the all-conquering Muhaarar when fifth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1).
King’s Stand (G1) hero Goldream will enjoy the drying ground, but since his most notable performances have come over stiffer tracks like Ascot and Newmarket, he might be outfooted in this test of raw speed. Stepper Point fits well on class, but a liver infection waylaid him over the summer, and it’s questionable whether he’s up to this now. Steps is in the form of his life since adding blinkers, but steps up in class and won’t want the course to dry out. Gutaifan, who chased the superb Shalaa in the Prix Morny (G1), just set a juvenile course record in the Flying Childers (G2), but it’s tough to tackle the older sprinters.
The Prix de la Foret (G1) (11:50 a.m. EDT) provides red-hot favorite Limato with an opportunity for a first Group 1 tally. Massively promising when going unbeaten through his first five starts, the Henry Candy trainee lost his perfect mark when second to Adaay in the Sandy Lane (G2), and lost no luster when best of the rest to Muhaarar in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot. The stretch-out to seven furlongs last time in Doncaster’s Park Stakes (G2) was the making of him, as he simply bolted home over a solid group of older horses. Although coming off a scintillating score, there’s no persuasive reason why he won’t unleash another top effort.
Another sophomore in with a solid chance is Make Believe, who beat the poorly-drawn New Bay in the French 2000 Guineas (G1). I was expecting a bold show from him in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, but he trailed on ground that in hindsight was too firm for him. Freshened in the interim by Andre Fabre, the Makfi colt promises to do himself justice in this more congenial setting. Fellow three-year-old Taniyar captured the course-and-distance prep, the Prix du Pin (G3), over La Berma and Ride Like the Wind. This is a tougher task, but the Aga Khan homebred is going the right way.
Two older rivals in good form at present are Toormore and Custom Cut. Former champion two-year-old Toormore is a neck away from a perfect record at this distance. The Richard Hannon charge beat Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) contender Dutch Connection in the Lennox (G2) at Glorious Goodwood in his latest seven-furlong try. Toormore also has useful form at a mile, and stamped his authority versus lesser in the Topkapi Trophy last time out. Custom Cut, better known as a miler, exits a fine second to emerging star Time Test as the defending champion in the Joel (G2) at Newmarket.
Elder statesman Gordon Lord Byron, the 2012 Foret winner and runner-up in the past two runnings, doesn’t enter in the same form. But the seven-year-old was a close third to Muhaarar and classy mare Esoterique in the Maurice de Gheest back in August, and a similar effort would see him in the frame here. Similarly, G Force has failed to shine since dethroning Gordon Lord Byron in the 2014 Haydock Sprint Cup (G1), and retirement is beckoning. But the David O’Meara veteran showed signs of life when fourth in his title defense, prompting connections to supplement him for a swan song here. Still, he’s not nearly as reliable as stablemate Custom Cut. Amy Eria has not raced since her 33-1 surprise in the Oak Tree (G3) at Glorious Goodwood.
Longchamp saves the longest for last, the 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran (G1) (12:20 p.m. EDT). Bathyrhon fell a neck short here last year, and I’m sticking with the son of Monsun, even though he was a disappointing last in the 1 1/2-mile Prix Foy (G2). Back over a marathon trip and on better ground, he’s sure to rebound.
Litigant furnished one of the heartwarming stories of the season when defying a 16-month layoff to win the Ebor. The Sinndar gelding was previously proven over two miles, and he ought to stay this trip.
Trainer Willie Mullins is represented by Simenon and Clondaw Warrior. Simenon tends to save his best efforts for 2 1/2 miles these days, having missed by a neck in the 2012 Ascot Gold Cup (G1) and checked in fourth the past two years. Clondaw Warrior, who beat Fun Mac in the June 16 Ascot Stakes at this distance, comes off a terrific second in the Doncaster Cup (G2).
Walzertakt edged Bathyrhon in the Prix Maurice de Nieuil (G2) on Bastille Day and prepped with a closing second in the Prix Gladiateur (G3). Mille et Mille flopped as the favorite in the Gladiateur, but that appears an aberration. Judging by his runner-up effort to Bathyrhon in the May 24 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (G2), and his defeat of Trip to Rhodos in the July 26 Prix du Carrousel, he remains a promising addition to the staying ranks.
Another welcome face is the four-year-old filly Iltemas, who was third to the well-regarded Loresho here back in June and most recently scored a stakes breakthrough in the Prix des Tourelles. Untried much beyond 1 1/2 miles so far in her brief career, the well-bred daughter of Galileo sits her first extreme stamina test here. In contrast, five-year-old mare Kicky Blue is a frequent participant in the stayers’ division, but looks to have a place chance at best. Achtung is more formidable in his native Spain than when he crosses the Pyrenees.