Things We Learned » Orfevre too short

Orfevre too short

It is possible that market reaction to the the two Japanese winners of two of the three Arc de Triomphe trials on Sunday has been inaccurate. It may be that there has been an over-reaction to the victory of Orfevre (the horse we already knew) in the Prix Foy, and an under-reaction to the victory of Kizuna (the one we didn’t know) in the Prix Niel.

Sure, Orfevre looked really impressive in winning the Foy, and if there was any justice in the world of racing, he would atone for last year’s mugging and bring the Arc back across the East China Sea (or the Sea of Japan, it depends on which route you take) for the first time ever.

Of course, you can only ever beat what they put in front of you, and Orfevre could hardly have been more visually impressive than he was on Sunday, but the performance surely didn’t merit the halving of his Arc odds from 7/1 to 7/2. If you really thought that he was a 7/1 shot for the Arc before Sunday’s race, it is difficult to think that his chance of winning the race has doubled on the back of Sunday’s performance.

This year’s Foy probably wasn’t that strong a race in the end. The sedate early pace was all against Orfevre’s main market rivals Dunaden and Mandour, who finished second last and last. The horse who was left to chase the winner home, Very Nice Name, is a talented individual who is at his best on soft ground, but he was beaten 20 lengths by Novellist in the King George. Also, while they didn’t go a great gallop (see above), the time was still very poor, some four seconds slower than the Niel and the Vermeille.

If you look a little deeper into Orfevre’s chance, it is easy to conclude that last year’s Arc was not a strong one. Absentees Snow Fairy, Nathaniel and Danedream would all have been high in the betting had circumstances not ruled them out, and ultimate winner Solemia had only finished third in the Prix Vermeille on her previous run. She was an unconsidered 33/1 shot in the Arc, and she was well beaten in the Japan Cup on her only subsequent run.

Also, third-placed Masterstroke has been well beaten in both his runs this term to date, fourth-placed Haya Landa has run eight times since last year’s Arc, and hasn’t won, while fifth-placed Yellow And Green and sixth-placed Great Heavens were both well beaten on their only subsequent runs.

On top of all that, Orfevre is a five-year-old. Only one horse aged older than four has won the Arc since Tony Bin won it in 1988. That is a quarter of a century ago.

Orfevre may win the Arc, but he is very short now at 7/2. He was a 5/1 shot for last year’s Arc on the day of the race, and last year’s renewal was probably a fair bit weaker than this year’s is shaping up to be.

Kizuna too long

In contrast to Orfevre, fellow Eastern raider Kizuna looks big at 8/1. The son of Deep Impact was a good winner of the Japanese Derby in May. Sent off the 2/1 favourite for that 18-horse race, he was settled out the back off what was not a frenetic pace. Just about second last at the top of the home straight, he showed an impressive turn of foot to come past his field on the outside, and win by what was ultimately a fairly cosy half-length.

He was having his first run since the Japanese Derby on Sunday, he was fully expected to come on for the run, yet he was still able to win. He may have been a little fortunate to actually win the race in the end. Ruler Of The World had a troubled passage through the final furlong, and he would have won had the bob of the head been a little kinder to him. But Aidan O’Brien’s horse is back on track (the Derby looks a little stronger now as well than it did six weeks ago), and he is a player in the Arc, no question.

But Kizuna raced three or four horse-widths wide into the home straight, he travelled easiest of all to the two-furlong pole, and he picked up impressively to hit the front deep inside the final furlong. He did appear to tire in the final 50 yards, but you can easily allow him that on his first run since May and his first since arriving from Japan.

In winning the Niel, Kizuna also proved that he could operate on easy ground, a trait that we did not know he possessed until Sunday. Trainer Shozo Sasaki expects his horse to come on significantly for his run in the Niel and, if he does, he is a massive player. He should not be more than twice the price of his compatriot.

Fabre blip

Arc trials day was an unusually disappointing day for Andre Fabre. Fabre has won two Prix Vermeilles, eight Prix Foys and 10 Prix Niels – no other trainer has won as many Foys or Niels – so it is an unusual Arc trials day when he comes away empty-handed. Coincidentally, the best of his representatives in each trial all finished third.

The big Fabre guns were there as well. His sole representative in the Foy was the 28/1 shot Pirika, but he ran four in the Vermeille, including Prix de la Nonette winner Tasaday, and four more in the Niel: Flintshire, Triple Threat, Ocovango and Vancouverite. If you had backed the four Niel horses coupled (we are talking France here after all) at SP, you would have been trading at odds of about 1/7.

Of all nine runners in the three races, of course, the biggest disappointment on the face of it was Flintshire. A hugely impressive winner of the Grand Prix de Paris on his previous run, the Dansili colt was as short as 4/1 for the Arc on Sunday morning. When he could only finish fourth in the Prix Niel on Sunday, bookmakers pushed him out to as big as 12/1, and that may have been a little knee-jerky. The soft ground was all against him, he was only beaten a total of less than two lengths and, typical of a Fabre horse in a Niel, rider Maxime Guyon was not overly hard on him. It was trials day, remember. T-Day, not D-Day.

That said, Flintshire is probably going to need much better ground if he is to win an Arc. Indeed, his trainer said after Sunday’s race that he might not even run in the Arc if the ground comes up soft, so you need to tread a little warily with him in the ante post market.

Classic players

The Classic generation is still the correct starting point for the Arc. Older horses finished first, second and fourth in last year’s renewal, but still eight of the last 10 and 15 of the last 20 winners were three-year-olds.

Rail Link (2006) may be the last Niel winner to follow up in the Arc, but Sagace (1984 – or 1985 if you are being paid First Past the Post) is the last Foy winner. The 8lb that three-year-olds receive from their elders is still enough to tilt the balance in their favour and, after last year’s victory for the elders, the market doesn’t appear to have fully got that yet this year.

Viztoria steps up

Viztoria deservedly added a Group 2 win to her cv when she landed the Park Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday, and the Eddie Lynam-trained filly has earned a tilt now at the Prix de la Foret on Arc weekend.

Not that the Foret is going to be easy pickings this year. On the contrary, with multiple Group 1 winner Moonlight Cloud and last year’s winner Gordon Lord Byron already pencilled in for the race, and high-class horses like Garswood and Montiridge sure to be eyeing it up, this could be a vintage Foret. However, Viztoria is probably at her optimum over seven furlongs with at least a little bit of an ease in the ground, and she could get all of that in the Longchamp race.

© The Irish Field, 21st September 2013