Updated on 09/16/2011 8:24AM

Weaker sex? Not in this year's Arc


PARIS - On the face of it, Sunday's $1,568,000 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe would appear to be little more than a match between favorites Sulamani and High Chaparral.

Recent history suggests that the favorite will carry the day at Longchamp. The last seven Arc winners have started as the favorite, with Peintre Celebre's victory in 1997 and Sakhee's last year the longest prices at 2.20-1. Other winners in that span and their odds were: Lammtarra (2.10-1), Helissio (9-5), Sagamix (1-2), Montjeu (3-2), and Sinndar (3-2).

But this 81st running of the Arc is unusual in more than one respect. First, it is missing some of the world's best 1 1/2-mile horses - Golan, Nayef, Pearly Shells, and Ange Gabriel. Second, there are questions concerning both of the favorites.

Sulamani, the 7-4 choice of British bookmaker Ladbrokes, is trained by Pascal Bary and won the French Derby. He will relish the good ground at Longchamp. His prep in the Prix Niel, however, must be considered inadequate, because the snail's pace at which it was run resulted in a time of 3:12.80 for 1 1/2 miles on a day when Pearly Shells set a Prix Vermeille stakes record of 2:26.00 for the same distance.

Moreover, he beat only two rivals in Gulf News and Morozov, both inferior to him. In the French Derby, runner-up Act One did not stay the 12 furlongs, and third-place Simeon lost in his two starts since.

Though a deserving favorite with Thierry Thulliez aboard, Sulamani is vulnerable. So, too, is Coolmore runner High Chaparral.

A son of Sadler's Wells, High Chaparral has not run since his Irish Derby victory on June 30. No matter that he is trained by Aidan O'Brien, winning even a subpar Arc off a 14-week absence is a near impossibility.

O'Brien sounded a pessimistic note at Ascot last Saturday when he said High Chaparral had missed some time when struck with a midsummer virus. He was withdrawn from the Prix Niel because of a bad blood count and must be considered even more vulnerable than Sulamani, especially at his low 9-4 price.

So an upset may be in the making. It was the 37-1 filly Urban Sea who last sprung an Arc surprise, in 1993, so perhaps it is time for another filly to grace the Arc winner's circle.

Ana Marie could be that filly. Winner of the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux, she is the value play at her current Ladbrokes odds of 33-1.

A 3-year-old daughter of Anabaa, Ana Marie, trained by Philippe Demercastel, is a model of consistency, having been third behind Arc absentee Bright Sky in the French Oaks and second behind Pearly Shells in the fast-run Vermeille. The reliable Davy Bonilla will be given a leg up by Demercastel, who said Ana Marie "was unlucky in the Oaks and unsuited to the slow pace when second to Pearly Shells in the Prix de Malleret."

Ana Marie worked brilliantly on Wednesday. With Sensible serving as Sulamani's rabbit and Black Sam Bellamy providing the same service for High Chaparral, she will be assured of her required fast pace.

Two other fillies are also capable of an upset. Islington, redirected to the Arc from the Prix de l'Opera when her Michael Stoute-trained stablemate Golan was withdrawn, annihilated top-class fillies in the Yorkshire Oaks and the Nassau Stakes. Just behind her comes last year's Arc runner-up and recent Prix Foy winner Aquarelliste, a Danehill filly who would prefer a bit of cut in the ground.

Manhattan Cafe invades from Japan for trainer Futoshi Kojima, but he has not run since winning the two-mile Spring Tenno Sho April 28.

Asian Heights is an improving, lightly raced 4-year-old son of Hernando trained by Geoff Wragg. He has won 4 of 5 starts but is stepping way up off his win last month in the Group 3 September Stakes.

Marienbard, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori for Godolphin, makes a nice dark horse at 9-1, but this two-time German Group 1 winner is no Sakhee.

The 2001 French Derby winner, Anabaa Blue, was behind Aquarelliste in the Prix Foy, while Fair Mix is a Group 3 winner who prefers 10 furlongs and Foundation Spirit was recently beaten in Turkey. Falbrav from Italy and Boreal from Germany are both in over their heads.

Fillies dominated the Arc from 1979 to 1983. There was no hint of "the weaker sex" about Three Troikas, Detroit, Gold River, Akiyda, or All Along. If Ana Marie does not add her name to that group, Islington or Aquarelliste could.

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