Orfevre can reign in Paris
Paris and its autumn beauty gives many things to many people. A place for the tourist and romantic it will always be, but this weekend is different. It's extra special. While horse racing brings its magic to many outposts, all unique and some more memorable than others, Arc day in Paris has no equal.
Memories of Longchamp in October come quicker than most – the intimate parade ring, its sophisticated inhabitants, the proximity of horse and rider on the horse walk and the sounds and atmosphere unique to Parisian suburbs.
And then there is the racing. Today's action is a most worthy aperitif to the delights of tomorrow's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day, which boasts seven Group Ones.
Tomorrow is a day when the very best come out to play. Eighteen go to post with a winner's prize of €2.5m on offer.
Japan's latest equine superstar and last year's Arc runner-up Orfevre is the ante-post favourite with most bookmakers. The manner of his defeat 12 months ago was a tragedy for his supporters as he looked a certain winner until he was overtaken in the shadow of the winning post by Solemia under an inspired Olivier Peslier.
A wide draw over the 12-furlong track at Longchamp has hindered many horses' chances and even though Orfevre got as close as any horse could without winning, the draw was probably his undoing.
Orvefre's jockey Christophe Soumillon was forced to challenge wide and he quickened for home earlier than was ideal. They didn't achieve the desired result, but his display that day demonstrated an instant turn of foot. This time around, with more cover from stall eight, Soumillon may well be able to take advantage.
Allowing for the sub-standard competition, Orfevre's prep run three weeks ago was faultless and the anticipated better ground tomorrow bolsters his chances.
What may well distinguish the favourite is his instant change of gear, which is unusual in horses that stay a 12-furlong trip.
The race appears to have no obvious front-runner and while a slowly-run Arc is unlikely, it might not be an end-to-end gallop, so it may suit those with an ability to quicken rather than lengthen in the straight.
Perhaps there is more strength in depth to Orfevre's competition this year and plenty will want to oppose him, considering the record of five-year-olds in the race.
Like all realistic contenders, he needs luck, but I feel he may well be the most talented in the field by a considerable distance.
Treve was to be the intended mount of Frankie Dettori until his accident at Nottingham on Wednesday. This latest twist is a cruel blow for Dettori. The three-year-old daughter of Epsom Derby winner Motivator could well have been the horse to propel Dettori back to racing's front pages for all the right reasons.
His new retainer with Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad has given the Italian jockey access to some high-class animals considerably quicker than many anticipated following his departure from Godolphin.
After four races Treve remains unbeaten, albeit having been kept to races for her own sex. Her facile victory over Wild Coco is good form, but far removed from the level required to win an Arc.
The Aga Khan's Zarkava demonstrated in 2008 that three-year-old mares can win tomorrow's race, but with only four runs in her career and taking on colts for the first time, Treve has to be passed over when searching for the winner.
Since 1987, French trainer Andre Fabre has enjoyed success in this race seven times. He saddles four runners in the latest renewal and his best chances of an eighth success rest with Flintshire and Intello.
In his latest race Flintshire finished behind Ruler of the World, Kizuna and Ocovango, three of tomorrow's runners. As three-year-olds they are all improving, but that form may count for nothing due to the presence of Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World.
While an English Derby victory is a notable achievement any year, in the context of assessing potential Arc winners, the form of this year's Derby suggests Ruler of the World is not up to standard and I suspect Flintshire, Ocovango and Ryan Moore's mount won't win tomorrow's showpiece.
Kizuna may well be the exception in this form line. After a four-month break, he defeated Ruler of the World in soft ground and I saw considerable merit in his victory at Longchamp on trials day. There could well be considerable improvement to come from Kizuna.
Peslier's mount Intello must also be factored in. Peslier is a truly brilliant rider, whose horses always appear do their best work at the finish.
Bred on the same cross as the great Frankel, Intello has stamina questions to answer and there is legitimate doubt as to his ability to last the 12-furlong trip. But if Fabre and Peslier believe he will stay, then Intello warrants massive respect.
Johnny Murtagh's Novellist was hugely impressive in the King George at Ascot in July, a run that puts him right in the mix.
Murtagh's talents on high pressure days are priceless and he will enhance the horse's prospects considerably. The form book shows Novellist hasn't shown anything like his Ascot run in his other 10 races, so I remain unconvinced.
Just like all the others gone before, the 2013 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is not an easy puzzle to solve. Expect Kizuna and Intello to go close and while statistics may be against him, I believe whatever beats Orfevre will win.
Bonne chance to all!