Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Day: Tasso can repeat

October 1st, 2022

The richest day in European racing always provides numerous opportunities for bettors. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) obviously provides the focus, but with five other Group 1 races – four of which, like the Arc, are Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series contests – the quality is high.

Given that three of those races have at least 16 runners, there are chances for some big payoffs if you get them right. So here are some potential spot plays for the six features.

Race 1, 8:15 a.m. ET: Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), 1,400 meters (about 7 furlongs), 2-year-olds

Not only a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race but also a race in the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby series, this has assembled a good if not elite field. Three of the runners are from Ireland: #7 Pivotal Trigger, third in the Prix des Chenes (G3); #2 Shartash, third in the National (G1) in Ireland; and Aidan O’Brien’s #5 The Antarctic, who backs up eight days after finishing second to stablemate Blackbeard in the six-furlong Middle Park (G1) after missing the start. Though he hasn’t run past six furlongs, The Antarctic shapes as though he will enjoy the extra furlong here.

The local challenge is headed by the filly #8 Tigrais and #1 Breizh Sky, who fought out a close finish in the seven-furlong Prix la Rochette (G3). O’Brien proved a filly can win this when preparing Happily to take this in 2017, so the French filly should not be ruled out.

Though The Antarctic and Shartash have plenty of claims, I was impressed by the way Tigrais rounded off the Rochette and she is worth a punt.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #8 Tigrais

Race 2, 8:50 a.m. ET: Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), 1,600 meters (about one mile), 2-year-old fillies

Twelve fillies contest what looks a very open renewal of the Marcel Boussac. For once the foreign challenge doesn’t look especially strong; O’Brien’s representative #8 Never Ending Story was well held in the Prix du Calvados (G2) two starts back by #2 Wed, and also by Tahiyra in the Moyglare (G1) Sept. 11.

The strongest foreign challenge could come from Germany, a country not known for its juveniles. Its representative is #7 Habana, an easy winner of her only two starts to date. This is much tougher but she could be worth a shot at reasonable odds.

A lot of support looks headed towards #11 Kelina, unbeaten in two starts, while Wed also looks a strong chance, but my preference in this race is #12 Blue Rose Cen. She has looked very good in winning three of her last four starts; her only defeat in that span was to O’Brien’s colt Victoria Road, who has since won at Group 3 level.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #12 Blue Rose Cen

Race 4, 10:05 a.m. ET: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), 3-year-olds and upwards

As usual, the field is splendid. However, it also looks an extremely open race. Even though last year’s event went to 80-1 outsider #2 Torquator Tasso, the next four horses behind him were all strongly backed and the subsequent form has shown Torquator Tasso was just extremely underrated rather than a poor quality winner.

Once again Torquator Tasso is set to have his favored conditions – very soft. He’s also likely to have the advantage of something often lacking in French racing – a strong pace. With 20 runners and a couple of horses that want some speed, notably Japanese challenger #8 Stay Foolish, they should not be going at a jog.

The biggest negatives for the defending champ are potentially the barrier draw of 18 and the fact that all the horses that have successfully defended their titles this century have been among the all-time greats, which Torquator Tasso really isn’t. However, a wideish draw didn’t harm the German horse last year, and it’s clear that Longchamp in October on very soft going is absolutely ideal for him. He could be at better odds than he should.

I’m a little wary about favorite #20 Luxembourg. Not only has he not raced at 1 1/2 miles before, he will be facing the toughest ground of his career. He can win, but I think it’s a big ask in heavy ground. It’s also worth noting that the Arc is one race Aidan O’Brien hasn’t always had the answer to; by his standards, two victories is a small number.

#14 Alpinista clearly has a massive chance. Seven wins in a row – five of them Group 1 – is a tremendous achievement, and she beat Torquator Tasso in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) last year. However, that was on good ground, and whether she is up to beating him on very soft ground is another matter. She should, however, still handle the going.

French horses usually do well here but I’m not such a fan of their two leading contenders, #15 Vadeni and #17 Onesto. I’m not convinced Vadeni is a stayer, especially on soft going, while the question for Onesto is class. If I was to take one of the pair, it would be Onesto.

The biggest wild card in the field is #11 Titleholder. The Japanese horse looks to me to be their best chance of scoring an elusive Arc victory since Orfevre in 2012. He was mighty impressive in beating fellow Arc contender #6 Deep Bond in the two-mile Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1), then showed top-class form when winning the 1 3/8-mile Takarazuka Kinen (G1) June 26.

If the track wasn’t set to be very soft, I’d be backing Titleholder. But there has to be some doubt about him handling a track he has never encountered. If there is a positive, it’s that a horse with his two-mile stamina can often handle some cut in the ground.

Among the outsiders, the most interesting to me is #9 Mostahdaf; his only poor effort this year was on firm footing and he’s won twice on soft ground before. Shadwell Stud and John Gosden aren’t likely to come to this race for no reason and he stayed 1 1/2 miles well enough in the September S. (G3) on Kempton’s artificial track.

It’s a difficult puzzle to solve, but I’m going to stick to Torquator Tasso, Alpinista, and Titleholder.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #2 Torquator Tasso
  • $5 win/show: #11 Titleholder
  • $1 trifecta: 2, 11, 14 with 2, 11, 14 with 2, 9, 11, 14, 17, 20

Race 5, 10:50 a.m. ET: Prix de l’Opera (G1), 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), 3-year-old and up fillies and mares

This is a deep field of 16, with numerous chances. Most, however, will be hoping that #7 Nashwa is below her best. Her only defeat in five starts this term was in the Oaks (G1), where she probably didn’t stay 1 1/2 miles. At 1 1/4 miles she’s been outstanding, winning both the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) and the Nassau (G1) against older mares. The only doubt around her is whether she will handle soft conditions.

If she doesn’t, #5 My Astra, #9 La Parisienne, #12 Above The Curve, and #13 Tuesday all come into play. My Astra in particular loves soft going, and she raced boldly against top Irish mare La Petite Coco in the Pretty Polly (G1) in June, while La Parisienne was a shade unlucky in the Prix Vermeille (G1). Others to consider for exotics are #1 Ebaiyra and #14 Trevaunance.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #7 Nashwa
  • $1 trifecta: 5, 9 with 5, 7, 9 with 1, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14

Race 6, 11:25 a.m. ET: Prix de l’Abbaye (G1), 1,000 meters (about 5 furlongs), 2-year-olds and up

The big question here is whether #19 The Platinum Queen can become the first two-year-old since 1978 to beat the older horses here. Her effort to beat all but Highfield Princess in the Nunthorpe (G1) suggests she is well up to it, though her subsequent defeat to Trillium, who subsequently disappointed in the Cheveley Park (G1), suggests this isn’t a certainty.

This is a race which foreign-trained runners have dominated over the years, but the French have two live chances here in #7 Berneuil and #5 Coeur de Pierre. They finished first and second in the Prix du Petit Couvert (G3) here Sept. 11, though Coeur de Pierre was a little unlucky.

One thing which can prove an advantage in this race, despite the fact it’s over a straight course, is the barrier draw, with inside draws often an advantage. With that, I’m going to go with Coeur de Pierre, given he’s drawn post 8 and Berneuil 18.

For exotics I’d strongly consider #8 Mitbaahy and #15 Teresa Mendoza, first and second in the World Trophy (G3) Sept. 17, and Flying Five (G1) third-place finisher #17 Flotus.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #5 Coeur de Pierre
  • $1 trifecta: 5, 19 with 5, 15, 19 with 5, 7, 8, 15, 19

Race 7, 12:00 p.m. ET: Prix de la Foret (G1), 1,400 meters (about 7 furlongs), 3-year-olds and up

This could give seven-furlong specialist #1 Kinross his best chance of a Group 1 victory. He was fourth in this race last year to subsequent Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Space Blues, but looks to be an improved horse as a five-year-old after Group 2 wins at York and Doncaster.

His toughest opponent looks to be the Irish filly #10 Tenebrism. She’s spent much of the year racing at a mile, a distance which is probably a touch too far for her. At her sole seven-furlong start, she was too good in the Prix Jean Prat (G1) at Deauville. Behind her that day were three of her opponents in this race – #9 Accakaba, #4 New Energy, and #7 Mangoustine – along with Breeders’ Cup Mile favorite Modern Games.

French gelding #2 Fang looks to be an improver, while #8 Sandrine has been a good rival to Kinross this year and is worth a look for exotics, but I’m going with Tenebrism.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #10 Tenebrism
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 10 with 1, 10 with 2, 4, 8, 9, 10