Johnny Murtagh believes Duke Of Marmalade can overcome potentially unsuitable ground in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
Murtagh had a choice of mount in Europe’s richest race as his boss Aidan O’Brien also runs Soldier Of Fortune, who has been trained specifically for the race.
However the jockey, who has enjoyed a stellar season along with O’Brien, admitted it would have been hard to abandon ’The Duke’ after already winning five Group Ones together.
“A lot will depend on tonight, if it rains it will be soft but if it doesn’t it will be lovely ground,” said Murtagh.
“It’s a difficult choice because they are two outstanding horses and I know Aidan has been training Soldier Of Fortune for this race all year.
“Early on in the year he said we could come back again with Soldier for the Arc. Last year he got a little bit squeezed out in the Arc and when I rode him in the Niel I squeezed a little bit too hard so he is coming here fresh.
“The way the ground is at the moment it will definitely suit Soldier Of Fortune, but The Duke can overcome anything, if any horse can pull it out of the bag he will.
“He’s won five Group Ones, he’s took the same track as Dylan Thomas and he is like him in that he is hardy, he’s tough and whatever you throw at him he will take it – you couldn’t desert him,” he told BBC Sport.
Earlier in the week O’Brien had issued a warning to punters that Duke Of Marmalade may not run if the ground became too soft.
But he said: “The plan is for them both to run and I’ve spoken to the lads at the track and they said it is on the slow side of good.
“It will be virgin ground because they will move the rail and if they don’t get rain I think it will be perfect ground.
“I don’t think it is going to get deep and that is the ground that could inconvenience him because he’s a low moving horse with big shoulders so we hope it doesn’t get very soft, but he should be OK.
“It would have been hard for Johnny to get off him after the season they have had and Johnny is very important to him, he’s never been beaten on him.
“He seems in great form, he gets the mile and a half well and I think it would have been very hard for him to ride anything else.
“The Arc was always the plan with Soldier. He raced in the spring then we gave him a summer break to train him for the autumn and so far everything has gone according to plan,” he told Racing UK.
Richard Hills has picked up the ride on Youmzain at the expense of weighing room colleague Richard Hughes, and he will be full of confidence after his win in the Cambridgeshire on Tazeez.
“I rode him in a piece of work at Newbury and he went extremely well,” said Hills.
“He ran well in the race last year and a bit more rain would help his chances even more, I’m hoping for a good ride.
“I’ve ridden in a few Arcs in the past and it’s not very often there is no pace, I’ve got a great draw in three so I’ll be able to sit and take time and the faster they go the better.
“The filly (Zarakava) looks exceptional, she was breathtaking last time in the Vermeille, I’ve not seen many do that and her temperament has never let her down yet, she’ll take all beating.
“But The Duke is very tough, there’s a lot with chances – Papal Bull has a great chance, my wife Jackie rides him every day and he’s in great form.”
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – William Hill bet: 2-1 Zarkava, 9-2 Duke of Marmalade, Soldier of Fortune, 8-1 Vision D’Etat, 11-1 Getaway, 14-1 Youmzain, 18-1 Papal Bull, 22-1 Meisho Samson, 33-1 Ask, 40-1 Kamsin, Schiaparelli, Zambezi Sun, 150-1 Cima de Triomphe, It’s Gino, 250-1 Blue Bresil, 300-1 Red Rock Canyon.