Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 14 December 2017

Take Harzand to Triomphe for Smullen

Draw boosts prospects of Weld's dual Derby winner

Pat Smullen can strike aboard Harzand at Chantilly tomorrow. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Pat Smullen can strike aboard Harzand at Chantilly tomorrow. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Johnny Ward

Given their respective talents, it was anomalous that neither Dermot Weld nor Pat Smullen had won the Derby until this year when Harzand held his foes at bay at Epsom.

Is it too much to ask that the same colt might break the pair's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe duck? Perhaps, but yesterday's draw was favourable to Weld and Smullen, who need little reminding of Famous Name going down a head at Chantilly when drawn 17 in the 2008 French Derby.

Harzand has plenty going for him tomorrow. Smullen spoke midweek of "looking after the horse" in the Champion Stakes, in which he never travelled and was said to have been struck into early on. If this were the case - Harzand never seemed comfortable - it was a laudable to battle on, beaten around seven lengths.

It is said that his work before Leopardstown was his best yet, that he exhibited impressive speed; however, reverting to the mile and a half has to suit. He ground it out late in his Derby victories; the little ease at Chantilly - which hosts while Longchamp is redeveloped - is a major positive.

Weld said he would prefer Longchamp. Aidan O'Brien has a much greater problem: the stable's horses were drawn 11 or higher.

It will complicate plans for Found (Ryan Moore), Highland Reel (Seamus Heffernan) and Order Of St George (Frankie Dettori; drawn 16).

Postponed is justifiably favourite, if perhaps a bit short. There is no pressing reason why he cannot go close for young trainer Roger Varian and the draw (7) has seen his price contract.

He will jump off beside Harzand but can he give him 8lb and a beating at a stage of the campaign when three-year-olds are nearly four? Ten of the last 13 victors in the Arc were aged three.

Japan's quest to snare the race continues and Makahiki is a son of Deep Impact, which probably should have won the Arc in 2006. He has exceptional tactical speed, which he will probably need from gate 14 under Cristophe Lemaire.

The Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere is always a compelling race, with Aidan O'Brien supplying both Whitecliffs- -ofdover and Utah. It may pay to take a chance on Kontrastat, which is doing better from start to start and which won a Group Three quite readily at Saint Cloud last time.

O'Brien may have better fortune in the fillies' equivalent, the Prix Marcel Boussac, a Group One he is bidding for a third successive win in. Maybe's sister, Promise To Be True has been aimed at this race since she laboured in the Moyglare when an even-money favourite. There is no doubt that she underwhelmed at the Curragh but it would be disappointing if that were the ceiling of her ability at this stage.

Being by Galileo out of teak-tough Guineas winner Homecoming Queen, First Of Spring has all the credentials of a top O'Brien-trained steed; however, she is in the care of Jean Claude Rouget and looks exciting after two smooth wins at Deauville.

Pleascach has not run in over a year but that did not deter Jim Bolger from an ambitious tilt at the Prix de l'Opera. This could be all about So Mi Dar, which so memorably won the Musidora, only to miss the Oaks. Her Yarmouth return suggested she will be in top shape for this.

The bookmakers have not missed Mecca's Angel, which trades at around 6/4, in the Prix de l'Abbaye. Even so, she is rock-solid. Rider Paul Mulrennan, who was brought up in Ealing with Gaelic football as his main sport, will be buzzing with excitement ahead of a potential Arc-day winner.

Mecca's Angel had the measure of Limato in the Nunthorpe, when the Henry Candy-trained sprinter lacked the raw pace. He now stretches to seven furlongs in the Prix de la Foret and, drawn one, it is hard to get away from him.

There are a handful of Irish runners today, albeit none in the Prix du Cadran. The Harzand team can strike in the Prix de Royallieu with Almela. Like Harzand, she is by former Arc winner Sea The Stars, which sums up how Weld and Smullen may feel tomorrow evening.

Winning the Derby was one thing: overcoming his elders would be quite another. Bring it on.

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