Stoute weighs up Arc mission for Workforce
A maximum field of 20 looks set to bid for Arc glory at Longchamp on Sunday after 26 horses, including seven from Ballydoyle, were left in the €4m Qatar-sponsored French flagship event, with the strong likelihood of two additions tomorrow.
It is also almost certain that this middle-distance championship of Europe will be staged on soft ground -- with further heavy showers forecast in the coming days in the Paris region -- as some of the leading trainers involved opted to hold fire on their plans.
Workforce's participation won't be confirmed by Michael Stoute before tomorrow at the earliest, at which stage Andre Fabre is expected to fork out €100,000 to supplement local Guineas and Derby hero Lope De Vega.
The Aga Khan's Behkabad continues to head the ante-post betting for the mile-and-a-half contest, with his retained jockey Christophe Lemaire choosing Jean-Claude Rouget's charge over French Oaks heroine Sarafina, which Gerald Mosse partners.
Next best in the betting is Aidan O'Brien's Fame And Glory in the hands of Johnny Murtagh, with Christophe Soumillon, twice an Arc scorer for the Aga Khan, taking over from Seamie Heffernan aboard Irish Derby and Champion Stakes winner Cape Blanco.
Midas Touch, runner-up to Cape Blanco in the premier Irish Classic, and Dixie Music, which has acted as pacemaker for Fame And Glory on his five outings so far this year, could get the go-ahead from O'Brien rather than Joshua Tree, Bright Horizon and Flying Cross.
The champion trainer has been happy to tune up Fame And Glory for the Longchamp spectacular at home, preferring a low-key preparation rather than sending the colt there earlier this month for the Prix Niel.
His decision to entrust Cape Blanco to former title-holder Soumillon is no surprise, as he guided Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (two years ago) to success in the glamour event and won the 2007 Prix Ganay for O'Brien on Dylan Thomas, before that horse returned to land the Arc with Kieren Fallon up.
This will be yet another busy weekend for both the Ballydoyle horses and jockeys as O'Brien will also be challenging for Group-race honours on the domestic front at Dundalk on Friday night and at Tipperary on Sunday.
A close fourth to Poet's Voice and stable companion Rip Van Winkle at Ascot last Saturday, Beethoven would seem the pick of the yard's entries for the Diamond Stakes at Dundalk.
This extended mile-and-a-quarter affair could attract a couple of English challengers, with Kildare native Gerard Butler thinking of saddling Deauville winner Dansant and Newmarket-based Marco Botti planning to give American Grade One winner Gitano Hernando a first outing since the Dubai World Cup last March.
Tipperary stages its customary Arc-day mixed programme that traditionally heralds the resumption of Graded action over the jumps following the summer campaign, and quite a few of the better performers last season are short-listed for the fixture.
Go Native began his lucrative winning streak over timber a year ago in the Friends Of Tipperary Hurdle and his trainer, Noel Meade, will be hoping that Donnas Palm can repeat the feat now against Pat Flynn's course-and-distance scorer Bahrain Storm.
Paul Gilligan's Berties Dream could be launched over fences in the Like-A-Butterfly Novice Chase and the Galway trainer may be tempted to take on Terence O'Brien's multiple scorer Ballyadam Brook and the Gordon Elliott-trained Final Day, with recent Listowel winner One Cool Tornado in the Dolores Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle.