The Age By The Pro
October 5, 2003
Belgian Christophe Soumillon will ride the favourite Dalakhani in the Arc. Picture: Getty Images
Melbourne spring carnival entries Vinnie Roe, Black Sam Bellamy and Mubtaker are scheduled to take their place in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp tomorrow and, while they are not expected to travel to Melbourne, their performances will give Australians a helpful insight into international form.
First run in 1920, the Arc has become one of the world's most important races. Beamed to an audience of more than a billion people, the Arc meeting has six group 1 races and prizemoney totalling $6.1 million.
The closest an Australasian horse has come in the Arc was in 1977, when the Brian Smith-trained Balmerino finished second to Robert Sangster's three-year-old Alleged.
Australian jockeys have a high profile in the event, with 12 victories; the latest in 1981, when Gary Moore, whose father George also won the Arc, saluted on the Alec Head-trained Gold River.
In recent years, French ace Olivier Peslier and Frankie Dettori have the best record, each winning three. The Italian was aboard Lammtarra in 1995 and again teamed with Saeed bin Suroor to take the past two with Sakhee and Marienbard. This year, Godolphin is not represented and Dettori has taken the ride on third favourite Doyen.
Top honours seem likely to go to Christophe Soumillon. The Belgian rides favourite Dalakhani, who has won seven of his eight starts. The Aga Khan-owned Dalakhani, who is prepared by successful French trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre, had his only defeat when runner-up to Alamshar in the Irish Derby.
Alamshar, also owned by the Aga Khan, franked that form when trouncing the best weight-for-age horses in the King George at Ascot.
The grey colt fits the race profile perfectly - three-year-olds have won seven in the past decade. He completed his preparation with an easy win in the Prix Neil, which is the best guide to the Arc, at Longchamp three weeks ago.
Champion Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien is expected to provide the stiffest opposition with four-year-old High Chaparral. The winner of the English and Irish derbies, High Chaparral had a delayed start to this season but is unbeaten in two starts and will be primed for a top performance. Seasoned traveller Ange Gabriel has been in great form this year. After winning the Hong Hong Vase in December, he was a courageous second behind French Derby winner Sulamani in Dubai.
Undefeated in three starts since, he won his second consecutive Grand Prix de Saint Cloud in June.
Vinnie Roe confirmed he is as good as ever winning his third consecutive Irish St Leger at the Curragh last month. Successful in nine of his past 11 starts, the Dermot Weld-trained five-year-old was second in last year's Ascot Gold Cup and fourth behind stablemate Media Puzzle in the Melbourne Cup. While the 2400 metres is short of his optimum distance, his courage is sure to see him in the finish.
Mubtaker, who started his career under the Godolphin banner, has been a revelation this year, winning his three starts in a canter. He deserves a crack at this level.
Black Sam Bellamy did not shirk his task when second behind Melbourne Cup favourite Mamool at Baden-Baden at his most recent start. However, he is at his best on heavy ground and would need suitable conditions to trouble some of the better-fancied runners.
English Derby winner Kris Kin was no match for Dalakhani in the Prix Niel, although his rider Kieren Fallon said there were excuses.
BOTTOM LINE: Surprises are rare in this race. Marienbard (16-1) last year and the filly Urban Sea (37-1) nine years earlier are the only winners in the past decade to return better than 3-1. Happy to back Dalakhani at the 15-8 on offer.
SELECTIONS: Dalakhani, 1; High Chaparral, 2; Ange Gabriel, 3; Vinnie Roe, 4.
BETTING: 2.90 Dalakhani, High Chaparral, 6.00 Doyen, 9.00 Ange Gabriel, 15.00 Kris Kin, Mubtaker, 17.00 Dai Jin, 21.00 Vinnie Roe, 34.00 Black Sam Bellamy, 41.00 Bollin Eric, Policy Maker, 101.00 First Charter, 201.00 Diyapour, Fontanesi
Peter Ellis is the Pro, The Age's form analyst