Behkabad has the stamina to make winning mark in Arc
It will take some getting, the mile-and-a-half around Longchamp tomorrow, writes J A McGrath.
Turfistes reckon it could be one of the slowest times yet recorded for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as the big field attempt to cope with a testing surface, softening all the time because of the heavy rain. But is it a day for the outsider?
On balance, I think not. For, despite the generally negative reports about the quality of this year's Arc field, I believe it will be the opportunity to celebrate an outstanding three-year-old, a late-maturing type who is just starting to make his mark. Behkabad, my selection, may not be another Sea The Stars, but he is a true star.
Arc weekend in Paris is the highlight of the year for many punters. Stamina is required to see out the 48 hours (and more) of eating, drinking and dabbling in a few bets on the local PMU (tote), but it should not be forgotten that the Arc itself is still arguably the best championship race in the world.
Bad horses don't win the Arc. Horses with great athletic ability and quality bloodlines do, and Behkabad measures up on both counts.
The colt was having only his eighth outing when he managed to overhaul Planteur in the last few strides of the Prix Niel three weeks ago, and while many will fancy that rival to turn the tables this time -- and point out that only a head separated them on the line -- I do not believe that was an accurate assessment of their status at this point.
They had finished 1-2 in the Grand Prix de Paris in July -- when the margin was three-quarters of a length -- but my reports are that Behkabad has thrived during the autumn and will be a much tougher, hardened opponent when he lines up tomorrow. He needed it badly in the Niel, but the race has given him an edge.
The presence of Lope de Vega, which inexplicably lost form in the middle of the season, and Workforce, who did something similar, have added great depth to the field.
The Ballydoyle challenge appears to lack a little potency, and the scarcity of their runners on French tracks this year has been a talking point. But they can never be ignored, particular with their policy of a block entry which can include a pacemaker or two.
I believe it will be the Aga Khan, who carries off the major prize, with Behkabad, a colt with ample stamina on his mother's side of the pedigree to cope with conditions. But the rapidly improving Sarafina, in the same ownership, also has strong credentials.