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Given a Classic race prospect, which would a trainer rather win: the Epsom Derby, the blue riband of the Turf, or Longchamp’s rather grander-titled Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the European end-of-season championship?
Comparatively few horses manage to win both. High Chaparral, North Light and Motivator were all well backed to complete the double and failed. The last Derby winner to take the Arc as well was Sinndar seven years ago.
This year, though, gamblers seem convinced that the authoritative 2007 Epsom Derby winner Authorized, trained at Newmarket by Peter Chapple-Hyam, will do the business in Paris tomorrow and collect the €1.1m first prize in Europe’s richest race.
The powerful colt has been flying in his final preparatory work and his trainer has been saying all week that he cannot wait for Sunday. Chapple-Hyam, always commendably open about his charges, says Authorized has improved physically since winning the Juddmonte International at York in August and is in perfect condition, adding: “He has tremendous cruising speed and a good finishing kick.”
Victory for Authorized would be sweet recompense. Many good judges believe Chapple-Hyam was denied an Arc victory he should have enjoyed with White Muzzle in 1993 when Japanese jockey Yutaka Take gave his mount far too much to do in the closing stages.
Authorized should not face the same problem. He will be partnered by Frankie Dettori, who has won the Arc three times and who says the horse has “a special place in my heart” after giving him his first Derby victory. Dettori owes him.
Epsom’s race committee would certainly be pleased to see Authorized triumph in the Arc. He is the first Derby winner to win another race of any kind since High Chaparral, the 2002 Epsom winner.
Despite the strength of Authorized’s credentials, the Arc should nevertheless be a thrilling international contest. Aidan O’Brien, the Irish training maestro who has won just about every other prize in Europe worth having, is yet to win an Arc, and left seven horses entered at the supplementary stage. His leading pair are Soldier of Fortune and Dylan Thomas, the latter being described by jockey Kieren Fallon as the best horse he has ridden after his second successive Irish Champion Stakes victory in September.
Fallon is banned from riding in England while awaiting his trial with five others on charges of race-fixing, which is due to open in London on Monday. As a result, he would dearly love to score in Paris. But, with the pick of the Ballydoyle runners, has he chosen correctly?
Dylan Thomas, who has this year won the Prix Ganay in France and the King George VI at Ascot, has looked in fine fettle, although Authorized beat him in the Juddmonte. But the ground seems likely to be softer at Longchamp than Dylan Thomas finds ideal while it will suit Soldier of Fortune, who finished fifth in the English Derby, but then won the Irish equivalent by nine lengths and was impressive in winning the Prix Niel at Longchamp.
When Soldier of Fortune won in Ireland, Fallon had a view from the rear, having chosen to ride the Epsom Derby second, Eagle Mountain. And his ban from riding in England has seen Johnny Murtagh, this season’s hot-streak jockey, ride a whole series of Group One winners that would have been partnered by Fallon.
Murtagh says of his mount Soldier of Fortune: “They either come on from the Epsom Derby or die, and this horse has definitely come forward.”
The four-strong French home contingent also cannot be ignored. Authorized would probably not be the favourite for the race had the French superstar Manduro not been injured and retired after his trial run in the Prix Foy.
On Thursday, Manduro’s disappointed trainer André Fabre entered the outsider Getaway, another who relishes softer going, at a supplemented cost of €60,000. You do not lightly discard an Arc entry from the man who has seven times trained the winner but France probably has better hopes this time with Pascal Bary’s Zambezi Sun, third in the Prix Niel.
Then there is Sagara, trained by Jonathan Pease, who was second in that race, and the talented but slightly quirky filly Mandesha, second to the ill-fated Manduro in the Prix Foy.
Trainer Alain de Royer Dupré, who says Mandesha has improved a few lengths, has tried her out in cheek pieces in order to improve her concentration, but she will need plenty of that: the last filly to succeed in the Arc was Urban Sea 14 years ago.
From Germany, trainer Peter Rau is sounding quietly confident about Saddex, which has been clipped a few points in the betting over recent days.
It is difficult, however, to see the other British hopes, Youmzain (trained by Mick Channon) and Dragon Dancer (Geoffrey Wragg), figuring in the finish.
Youmzain is an honest sort who has run well in good company but always seems to find a few better rivals in the best races. And although Dragon Dancer figured in the blanket finish to the 2006 Epsom Derby alongside Sir Percy and Dylan Thomas, it took him until August this year to score his first victory.