The dual Derby winner was sent off 2/1 favourite to win what shaped as a truly vintage Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month but the writing was on the wall from early on and Dermot Weld’s stable star trailed in eighth.
The initial sense was that Harzand was undone by a lack of tactical speed in a race run two furlongs short of his optimum trip of a mile and a half. However, Weld was quick to offer an alternative explanation, revealing the Aga Khan colt had been struck into in the early stages of the race.
Connections say Harzand, who bounced back from an 11th hour injury scare to prevail at Epsom, has made a terrific recovery from his latest travails and are confident of a bold showing in tomorrow’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
He has a good draw in stall six and stepping back up in trip will definitely help him but the big concern has to be that the ground in Chantilly will be too quick for him.
Admirable, consistent, tough, classy. Found has all those positive attributes but there’s another, far less positive, word that could be used to describe her: Frustrating.
Yes, she did take down last year’s Arc hero Golden Horn in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland last October but the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly has an irritating tendency to find one too good.
She has finished second in her last five starts, all at the highest level and has occupied the runner-up spot in 10 of her 18 starts in total. Indeed, only once has she failed to reach the frame. That was in last year’s Arc when she finished ninth after finding every bit of trouble going.
A line can be drawn through that effort and her overall record illustrates her consistency and means she has to enter calculations this weekend. However, the nagging fear is she’ll once again fall agonisingly short.
It’s hard to overstate how big an obsession finally winning the Arc has become for Japan. El Condor Pasa was the first to hit the post, falling half a length short to Montjeu, ridden by Mick Kinane, in 1999.
This decade has been especially cruel. Nakayama Festa was beaten a head by Workforce in 2010, while Orfevre finished runner-up in both 2012 and 2013. The 2012 defeat was especially galling, Orfevre surging into a seemingly unassailable lead before being pegged back and passed by unheralded filly Solemia in the final strides.
Tomorrow, Japanese hopes rest with Makahiki, a narrow winner of the Japanese Derby in May. He has only run once since, just about getting the better of Midterm and Doha Dream in the Prix Niel last month.
He wasn’t overly convincing that day and while that outing should bring him on, the suspicion is he’ll have to improve very significantly to end the long wait. Drawn wide in stall 14 won’t help his case either.
You would imagine the cream would rise to the top in Europe’s season-defining middle-distance race, wouldn’t you? On that basis the expectation would be that the horses that fill the places would be short-priced.
Not so, at least not in recent years. A year ago Flintshire finished second at 20/1. In 2014, the same horse occupied the same position at 16/1. In 2013, Intello (10/1) was third, while Solemia sprang a major surprise when winning the 2012 renewal at 33/1. 2011 produced another shock, 20/1 shot Danedream being chased home by 66/1 shot Shareta.
The moral of the story? Don’t simply focus on the top of the market. On that basis, Left Hand, trading between 20/1 and 16/1, warrants consideration. Fillies have shone in this race in recent years and Left Hand brings course and distance form to the table having won the Group One Prix Vermaille on her most recent start.
However, her most eye-catching piece of form came in defeat, when she was outgunned by La Cressonniere by half a length in the Prix de Diane in June. Given La Cressonniere was trading as short as 5/1 before being ruled out of the Arc through injury earlier this week, Left Hand looks a big price even if being drawn 15 is an obvious negative.
It’s something of a fallacy to suggest there’s no such thing as a bad Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Of course there is. It would perhaps be a tad harsh to label this a substandard renewal but it’s certainly a far from vintage one. Indeed, it feels a bit like the race has fallen apart a little.
Minding, Almanzor and La Cressonniere won’t be there while Harzand and Order Of St George are on a retrieval mission after flopping on Irish Champions Weekend. As a consequence, Postponed will start as the clear favourite.
He deserves to too as the Roger Varian-trained colt has won his last six starts. He wasn’t at his best on his most recent start, when landing the Juddmonte International Stakes at York, but that was over a mile and quarter and he’s definitely better over a mile and a half. Before that he put Found very firmly in her place when powering to a four and a half length victory in the Coronation Cup on Derby day.
The five-year-old sets a very high standard and possesses everything you’d want in a short-priced favourite and has an ideal draw in stall seven. He ticks most boxes and should crown a glorious year in style.