Updated on 09/15/2011 2:10PM

Arc: Best horses conspicuous by their absence


PARIS - The 80th running of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp outside Paris on Sunday may wind up being remembered as the one in which Europe's best horses declined to run.

Sakhee, Aquarelliste, Golan, and Hightori are all rather nice horses, but the absence of the Breeders' Cup Classic-bound pair of Fantastic Light and Galileo will be hanging over the race like a dark cloud.

Even a purse of $1.57 million, provided in part by casino-owning

sponsors at the Lucien Barriere Group, and its new position as the seventh leg of the Emirates World Series, were not enough to entice the Big Two.

Players should not mind a bit, as this year's Arc is a fascinating betting contest. At least, that is, if Sakhee fails to prove that he is in the same equine league as Fantastic Light and Galileo.

Second by a length in the 2000 Epsom Derby to last year's Arc winner Sinndar, Sakhee, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, has returned better than ever this summer from a 12-month injury-induced absence. His seven-length thrashing of Grandera and Medicean in the Juddmonte International Stakes in August makes him a deserving 2-1 favorite.

Sakhee runs well on any kind of ground, so the soft conditions at Longchamp will pose no problem. Godolphin Racing hopes he will give them their first Arc triumph.

But there are dangers lurking everywhere in the 17-strong field, and it is not going too far out on a limb to select Sagacity as the winner.

A 3-year-old half brother to 1998 Arc winner Sagamix, Sagacity was a Group 1 winner going 1 1/4 miles at 2. Winless since then, he was a very good second to Godolphin's undefeated Equerry in the Prix du Prince d'Orange last time and will relish the going.

Trained by four-time Arc winner Andre Fabre and ridden by Yutaka Take, he should be available at odds of at least 15-1.

Three French fillies could play havoc with this idea. French Oaks and Prix Vermeille winner Aquarelliste, Prix Vermeille runner-up Diamilina, the mount of Olivier Peslier, and last year's Arc second Egyptband must all be considered, yet there are even more threats looming in Golan, Milan, and Hightori.

Second to Galileo in the Epsom Derby, the lightly raced Golan took the Group 2 Prix Niel over the Arc course and distance three weeks ago from French Derby victor Anabaa Blue. The improving Milan, trained by the white-hot Aidan O'Brien, comes off a sparkling St. Leger score, but cuts back from 1 13/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles, something not even Nijinsky could manage. Hightori, who had to work hard to defeat Idaho Quest in the Prix Foy, should be in the hunt for a placing.

The Arc is one of six Group 1 races on Sunday's card at Longchamp, with the Prix de l'Opera the most interesting from an American point-of-view.

The 1 1/4-mile race is a key prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, for which Crystal Music and Banks Hill are being pointed.

The preference is for Banks Hill. A Group 1 winner at a mile, Banks Hill has always acted as if she would prefer something a bit longer. A full sister to Dansili, she is trained by Fabre and acts on any ground.

The Nureyev filly Crystal Music was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Banks Hill in the Coronation Stakes, but could be even closer this time.

The John Hammond-trained Nuclear Debate is the best sprinter in Europe outside of Breeders' Cup Sprint-bound Mozart. He is coming off a victory in the six-furlong Haydock Park Sprint Cup and should run down the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Ishiguru and Dietrich in the five-furlong Prix de l'Abbaye.

By Sadler's Wells out of Oh So Sharp, Savoire Vivre has the class to take the 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran from Ascot Gold Cup winner Royal Rebel.

In the Grand Criterium, reduced this year to seven furlongs for juvenile colts, Rock of Gibraltar can give O'Brien his 18th Group 1 success of the season at the expense of Dobby Road, while recent Group 3 winners Ya Hajar and Quad's Melody will vie for the filly's equivalent, the one-mile Prix Marcel Boussac.

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe past performances

Past performances for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will appear in Sunday's print editions of Daily Racing Form. Click the link below for Arc pp's in pdf format.


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