10/01/2010 1:19PM

Cape Blanco should handle soft turf in Arc

Racing Post
Cape Blanco can give trainer Aidan O'Brien his second win in the Arc.

PARIS – Cape Blanco can use his stirring victory in the Irish Champion Stakes to vault to glory in the $5.33 million Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, despite the likelihood of soft ground at Longchamp on Sunday. While the Galileo 3-year-old has been eased out to as high as 9-1 by some British bookmakers of late, he won twice on soft turf as a 2-year-old, so his poor effort in a soft ground French Derby might be excused.

The French Derby, in which Cape Blanco finished 10th of 22 behind Lope de Vega, is the only lackluster performance the Aidan O’Brien trainee has had in eight career starts. He won those group races at 2 on soft ground, won the Irish Derby at the Arc distance of 1 1/2 miles in June on good ground, and prepped brilliantly for Sunday’s race with a 5 1/2-length victory over Rip Van Winkle in the 1 1/4-mile Irish Champion on Sept. 4 at Leopardstown.

The addition of two-time Arc winner Christophe Soumillon on his back adds to the chances of a horse who should not be too far off the pace after breaking from an ideal 11 post in the 20-runner field.

But the 3-1 antepost favorite, Behkabad, has drawn just as well in gate 9. Moreover, the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained son of Cape Cross, the sire of last year’s Arc winner Sea the Stars, has twice won over the Arc course and distance, and on soft ground both times, in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Prix Niel.

Christophe Lemiare will have Behkabad just behind the leaders as well, while his archrival Planteur will not be too far behind, with Anthony Crastus on board. Planteur was beaten just a head by Behkabad in the Niel, and by three-quarters of a length in the Grand Prix.

Where does this leave O’Brien’s first string, Fame and Glory? The winner of the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom in June had the misfortune to draw post 1, from where Johnny Murtagh may have to use him early to get his usual tracking position along the rail. More worrying is the Montjeu 4-year-old’s lack of a race since Aug.  8, when he beat a weak field in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh.
Expect a close finish in this year’s Arc, which, with the absence and retirement of Harbinger, Dar Re Mi, and Spanish Moon, looks a little thin. Two French fillies could play a role.

Sarafina will be the darling of the fashionable women who will throng to Longchamp in their autumn best. The winner of the French Oaks at 1 5/16 miles on soft ground, she is actually the Aga Khan’s second string after Behkabad. Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Sarafina is expected to improve off her fast-closing third to Midday in the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Prix Vermeille, but the Arc will be her first try against colts of any age.

The Andre Fabre-trained Plumania, a daughter of Arc winner Dalakhani, split Midday and Sarafina in the Vermeille and beat older males in the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June. She appears to be the best value at 25-1. The horse she nosed out at Saint-Cloud was Youmzain, the three-time Arc runner-up who is back again for a fourth try, tempting one to ask: Is this courage or masochism.

Fabre also has entered his French Derby winner Lope de Vega through the supplementary process, but he has been off form since that early June triumph at Chantilly.

Seven-length Epsom Derby winner Workforce will line up as well, but he can not really be taken seriously off his dull seventh in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last time on July 24.

Godolphin sends out Cavalryman. The winner last year of the Grand Prix de Paris and the Prix Niel, he has not prospered since joining Saeed bin Suroor and will give Frankie Dettori a tough task to finish close off seven straight losses.

Rain was expected to fall in Paris beginning Friday night and lasting through Saturday, after which it is expected to clear up. Should the ground come up worse than very soft, something the French call holding, anything might happen in this Arc. But with the form that Cape Blanco is in right now, in addition to his greater experience against older horses than Behkabad, he can give O’Brien his second Arc triumph, the Irish trainer having previously won with Dylan Thomas in 2007.