09/09/2011 8:44PM

Prix Niel offers BC Turf berth, but Arc could be the goal for Meandre


The Group 1 Prix Niel for 3-year-olds over 1 1/2 miles on Sunday at Longchamp in Paris is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race, meaning the race winner gains an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf  as well as $20,000 in travel expenses to ship to Churchill Downs for the race. But the BC Turf probably does not sit foremost in the mind of the trainer of the likely race favorite, Meandre.

Andre Fabre has won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe seven times, more than any other trainer in the race’s history, and when Fabre has a 3-year-old who is live for the Arc, that horse preps in the Niel. Six of Fabre’s Arc wins came with a 3-year-old (Subotica, who won at 4, is the lone exception), and all of those horses had their final start before the Arc in the Niel, which all but Peintre Celebre – who finished second – won.

Meandre is cut from different cloth than many of Fabre’s 3-year-old Arc winners, most of whom competed in races at the top of their division either late in their 2-year-old season or early at 3. Not Meandre. A colt by Slickly bred and owned by the Rothschild Family, Meandre raced four times last year at 2 without finishing better than third. He needed three more races in 2011 before scoring his first victory, and it was only in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris on July 14, the ninth start of Meandre’s debut, that he raced in a group stakes of any sort.

But Meandre won that race comfortably, beating Seville, a solid Aidan O’Brien colt, and Reliable Man, another Niel runner Sunday and the winner in June of the Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby. In this slow progression from humdrum to highly promising, Meandre somewhat resembles Fabre’s Arc winner Carnegie, whose first start in a Group 1 came in the 1994 Arc, which he won by a neck over 19 rivals.

Reliable Man had been 3-3 before the Grand Prix de Paris and might be capable of more than he showed that day, and the Niel, which is expected to have a field of six on good-to-soft going, should come down to this pair.