09/11/2016 1:23PM

Makahiki wins Prix Niel, takes step toward Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe


The Japanese 3-year-old Makahiki won France's Group 2 Prix Niel on Sunday at Chantilly, taking a solid step toward his major goal this fall, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 2.

The Niel, Makahiki’s first start since May and a clear prep for the Arc, had the colt surely not at his best, but he was able to get home by a neck over Midterm, another talented colt unraced since May. Midterm finished a nose in front of third-place Doha Dream.

Sunday’s race was run at Chantilly Racecourse, as will be the Arc, with the race’s traditional home, Longchamp, undergoing extensive renovations.

Only five contested the 12-furlong Niel, and the quintet strung out in single file as Midterm, the Juddmonte colt who at one point was the antepost English Derby favorite, setting a measured tempo. Odds-on Makahiki, who won the Japanese Derby in his most recent start and has been in France for about two months, raced in third as positions remained unchanged until the horses turned into the home straight. There, Doha Dream fanned two wide and Makahiki three wide, the trio sprinting for home together before Makahiki finally got the measure of the two inside him in the final furlong.

Racing over good ground, Makahiki, ridden by Christophe Lemaire, was timed in 2:35.84 for a workmanlike performance off which he will need to improve considerably – which is possible – to contend with Arc favorite Postponed.

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In the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, the female-restricted Arc trial, Left Hand, a Wertheimer et Frere homebred 3-year-old, was up late under Maxime Guyon to beat Godolphin’s Endless Time by a half-length. Three-year-old Left Hand had been second this past spring in the Group 1 French Oaks, and her victory flattered that race’s winner, La Cressonniere, who is being trained directly into the Arc. Favored Candarliya never picked up, and finished fifth. Left Hand could start in the Arc or await the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot.

In the Group 2 Prix Foy for older horses, favored Silverwave easily beat his three rivals, forging to the front a furlong or so from the finish before coasting under the line a one-length winner over Ito.

Silverwave, another winner for Guyon, has improved this year at 4 and was coming off his first Group 1 win, in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, but he was 10th in the 2015 Arc and so far has not proven competitive with the best of the best in Europe.

Also on the Sunday card, 5-year-old Vadamos scored his first Group 1 success by winning the one-mile Prix Du Moulin by 1 1/4 lengths over Spectre, a result that only reinforced the notion this is a down year for European milers. Vadamos has won seven of 15 starts through a solid career, but has never looked like an elite miler. He won Sunday by making an early move under Vincent Cheminaud, opening daylight on horses possessing a more electric turn of foot than Vadamos. Three-year-old Zelzal, the 17/10 favorite, raced from the rear of the field and failed to produce the necessary finish, barely getting third over Zarak.