The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe decamps to Chantilly on Sunday for the first of two runnings of the great race at its new temporary home. While the picturesque grandstand there was built some 137 years ago, it is the number 130 that has more significance when it comes to Timeform ratings this weekend.
Horses with a master rating of 130 and above are considered ‘top class’ and there aren’t many that can claim it.
Only eight horses (out of the thousands in training) are rated 130 or higher worldwide. Four are American, two are British, and one is Japanese and one French. However, only one is heading for Chantilly. And that’s Postponed.
Postponed is a winning machine, having won five times in 13 starts for Luca Cumani, as well as four subsequent starts in 2016 for new trainer Roger Varian.
His master rating of 132 is thanks to career-best efforts when winning the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March and when completing a six-timer in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York last time from Highland Reel.
Two questions that supporters of Sunday’s ante-post favourite will ask are: Is Postponed likely to repeat his best form; and will a repeat of his best form be enough to win?
The first question can be answered fairly emphatically using Postponed’s past performances. He improved in each of his first eight career starts and since then has only run more than 3 lb below form once – and then only by 5 lb – in nine outings.
That is a truly phenomenal record and there is an argument to say that he is one of – if not the most – consistent horses in training. He handles any ground, gets this 12f trip well, and is an uncomplicated ride. Plenty of ticks there.
The answer to the second question, using data from winning performances in the Arc over the last decade, is more ambiguous.
Postponed will be top-rated, and his supporters might be slightly worried that only one top-rated horse has won the Arc in the last 10 years: the 140-rated Sea The Stars in 2009.
However, half of the winners in the last decade have been rated 130 or higher. Postponed is the only horse that fits into that bracket this year. His pre-race master rating is greater than all bar three of the last 10 winners (Dylan Thomas 2007, Sea The Stars ‘09 and Golden Horn ‘15).
The five-year-old has run to a performance rating of 130 on two of his last three starts. The mean average performance rating of the last 10 Arc winners is a rather convenient 129.9.
And while there’s lies, damn lies and statistics, Postponed’s undoubted superiority over middle distances this season, his consistency and his genuineness all feed into the gut feeling that he will win Sunday’s feature.
Luck of the draw
There’s a lot made about the draw at Longchamp every year and it will be the same at Chantilly on Sunday. But the best horses tended to win from any starting gate in its traditional home (Zarkava (1) and last year’s winner Golden Horn (14) being examples) and there’s some evidence the same may ring true at Chantilly.
Although French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes winner Almanzor (an absentee on Sunday) won from stall seven at the track in June, he was followed home by horses drawn 16-13-11-17.
There is a recent history of winners at Chantilly coming from stalls six to 10 in 1m 2f to 1m 4f races when there are 14-16 runners. However, when the field size increase, that middle-draw bias is actually dispersed, with winners more evenly spread across the track.
Three French Fancies for Sunday
Just Glamorous (Ron Harris) Rejuvenated performer who put up a performance well up to Prix de l’Abbaye-winning standard in an average year when making all at the track last time.
So Mi Dar (John Gosden) Overcame a four-month absence in good style when winning at Yarmouth last time. A Group 1-winning filly in waiting and Sunday’s Prix de l’Opera, rather than the Arc, looks the right race.
Promise To Be True (Aidan O’Brien) Second favourite for the Prix Marcel Boussac on the Arc undercard, but comes out top on figures and trainer is seeking a third successive win in the race. Looks a stronger stayer than her sister Maybe and could progress past the likely favourite Toulifaut now stepped up in trip.