09/15/2013 8:00PM

Longchamp: Orfevre shines in Group 2 Prix Foy


If preview day for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe served as any guide, we are in for a cracking edition of the Arc itself next month at Longchamp.

The Prix Niel, Prix Foy, and Prix Vermeille all were contested over 1 1/2 miles on Sunday at Longchamp, and all the races provided plenty of fodder to digest before the Oct. 6 Arc. The Niel, for 3-year-olds, was by far the most hotly contested of the three races, with Japanese Derby winner Kizuna edging Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World by the slimmest of margins.

Treve’s 1 3/4-length victory in the Vermeille, running her career record to 4 for 4, belied the superiority of her performance. But no horse shone brighter on the day than Orfevre in the Foy.

Orfevre raced for the first time in France since he somehow managed to lose the 2012 Arc, a race he appeared to have won for most of the homestretch, and was racing for the first time since March 31 in Japan while making just his second start this year. The Group 2 Foy appeared to be a perfect Arc prep.

Christophe Soumillon tucked Orfevre in behind the pacesetter for much of the trip, and there Orfevre remained without protest until just before the final furlong. Then, Soumillon steered slightly left for running room, and Orfevre accelerated brilliantly. The race was over in a matter of strides, and Orfevre cruised under the wire, throttled down to leave plenty in reserve for his real purpose in France.

Orfevre’s time on soft going was slow – at 2:41.47, the better part of four seconds slower than Treve’s clocking in the Vermeille – but the Foy looked very slow-paced, and Orfevre actually ran for all of a half-furlong.

Treve was forced to work much harder after being stuck along the rail with nowhere to go until about a quarter-mile from home. Frankie Dettori, winning his first Group 1 race in about a year, slipped his mount between horses, and Treve athletically accelerated toward the front, whizzing past Wild Coco to win going away.

There’s no telling how good Treve, a 3-year-old filly trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, might be. She has won her four starts by nearly 11 lengths in total and showed Sunday she stays 1 1/2 miles and can handle soft ground. Her acceleration is quick, her run is long, and many who saw her win Sunday have reason to think she could win the Arc.

No such decisive winner emerged from the Niel, and the colt considered the leading Arc hope going into the race, Flintshire, could only finish fourth. But the result at least confirmed the form of two distant derbies. Kizuna beat 17 foes at Tokyo in winning the Japanese Derby in late May – his most recent start – and jockey Yutaka Take employed the same outside-rallying style to capture the Niel with a clean run.

Ruler of The World could only finish fifth of nine in the June 29 Irish Derby, leaving questions about the strength of his mild Epsom Derby upset, but he quieted many doubts Sunday and was an unlucky loser. Caught in traffic most of the trip and forced to split horses making his stretch run under Ryan Moore, Ruler of The World probably would have taken down Kizuna had their journeys been exchanged, and he crossed the finish with great energy.

The same cannot be said for Flintshire, the Niel favorite on the strength of an eye-catching win in the Grand Prix de Paris. Flintshire took one crack of the crop from Maxime Guyon, who then rode vigorously but not desperately to the wire as Flintshire was outfinished by the top two and failed even to reach his stablemate, Ocovango, for third.

But Flintshire, his connections insist, wants far firmer turf than he found Sunday, and master Arc trainer Andre Fabre might merely have been tuning the strings in Flintshire’s first start in two months.

The other Group 1 on the Longchamp card, the Prix du Moulin over one mile, went to the 5-year-old Maxios, the only horse among seven in the race not aged 3. Maxios got an ideal trip under Stephane Pasquier, sitting second behind the moderate pace of Sage Melody, a rabbit for his stablemate, Flotilla.

As Sage Melody gave out about a quarter-mile from home, Maxios came forward, opening an insurmountable advantage on the closing group. He won by five lengths over the heavily favored Olympic Glory, who was hard-ridden to make any headway and just snatched second over Anodin.

• In Ireland on Sunday, the 2-year-old Toormore won his third race from three tries when scoring a 2 3/4-length, front-running win in the Group 1 National Stakes at The Curragh. The 4-year-old Voleuse de Coeurs dominated his Group 1 debut, the Irish St. Leger Stakes, beating Azeemah by six lengths in the 1 3/4-mile race.