10/04/2013 4:49PM

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: Orfevre has chance to make amends

APRH Photo
Orfevre enters Sunday's Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp off a win in the Group 2 Prix Foy.

If Orfevre were a professional athlete of the human rather than equine variety, a full year of dark brooding would be ending Sunday. It was one year ago that Orfevre reached out and took firm hold of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, one of the world’s great races, only to let the Arc slip away for no good reason with yards to go.

Orfevre, or course, is a horse. No one knows what horses think – Orfevre in particular. As he has demonstrated on multiple occasions, Orfevre has a mind of his own, one with tics and quirks. No one knows why, after blowing past his Arc rivals last year, he totally lost his focus, lost all his momentum, and lost the race to upstart Solemia. What we do know is that Orfevre, if he is on his game and his best behavior, can atone for that defeat when he starts in the Arc again Sunday.

This is the race that has been the season-long goal for Orfevre, who has won both his 2013 starts, including an eye-catching romp last month in the Prix Foy, his Arc prep. He is one of 18 final entrants in the Group 1 Arc and is favored to give Japan a long-awaited first triumph in the race. And when post positions were assigned Friday, Orfevre landed No. 8, a plum draw for a 1 1/2-mile race offering a purse of about $6,270,050. Somewhat forgotten is the fact that last year, Orfevre broke from post 18, a nearly impossible starting point for an Arc winner.

Few expected Solemia to be the horse to take down Orfevre in 2012, but another France-based filly, Treve, has plenty of support for an Arc win this year. The 3-year-old Treve, trained by Arc winner Christiane Head-Maarek, has won all four of her starts, including a fast-finishing victory in her Arc prep last month, the Group 1 Prix Vermeille over 1 1/2 miles at Longchamp.

Treve has drawn comparisons to another 3-year-old French filly who won the Arc, Zarkava, but Zarkava had a far more substantive r é sum é than does Treve when she captured the 2008 Arc. Treve has yet to face any horse the equal of many she meets Sunday, and her wide post position, No. 15, is a negative.

The German 4-year-old Novellist is the last of the three Arc favorites, though he, too, may be tested for class Sunday. Novellist, trained by Andreas Wohler, was solid at 3 and has won all four of his starts this year, his signature victory a five-length score in the Group 1 King George at Ascot. The win was impressive, no doubt, but the runner-up that day, Trading Leather, would be a 30-1 shot in the Arc, and the second-best horse Novellist has beaten is the solid but unremarkable Dunaden.

This year’s crop of European 3-year-olds is far superior to last year’s, and several could have an impact in the Arc, including the 1-2-4 finishers from the Sept. 21 Prix Niel – Kizuna, Ruler of The World, and Flintshire – as well as Intello. Kizuna, the Japanese Derby winner, rallied on the outside to narrowly win the Niel over Ruler of The World, who had a much more difficult trip, and was validating his victory early this summer in the Epsom Derby.

Both horses have room to grow and could move forward Sunday, while Flintshire, once the Arc favorite, must hope the Longchamp turf dries quickly over the weekend. Flintshire ran below his best form in the Niel, a performance his connections attributed to soft conditions like those prevailing as of Friday.

Andre Fabre, a seven-time Arc winner, trains Flintshire as well as four other Arc entrants, including Intello, who is a difficult read. Intello turned in one of the top 3-year-old performances of the year in winning the French Derby over 1 5/16 miles in June, but rather than stretching him out to 1 1/2 miles, Fabre dropped Intello down in distance, running him twice at one mile before stretching back out to 1 1/4 miles for a workmanlike Group 3 victory last out.

The English horse Al Kazeem had a strong run the first half of this year but might be tailing off and drew the dreaded far-outside post.

The Arc, with a scheduled post time of 10:15 a.m. Eastern, is the fifth of seven races Sunday on an all-Group 1 card at Longchamp that figures to produce several starters for next month’s Breeders’ Cup.