Shawanda was the star of the show on Arc trials day at Longchamp and she is now challenging Hurricane Run for favouritism in the betting for the big race on October 2.
She recorded an impressive all-the-way success in the Prix Vermeille Lucien Barriere at Longchamp on Sunday and is now top-priced at 7-2 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
However, with Hurricane Run taking the Prix Niel Casino Barriere under Kieren Fallon, punters were given an ideal opportunity to compare the relative merits of the two leading contenders for the showpiece event in three weeks.
Shawanda’s effortless victory appeared the more impressive as she cantered all over her rivals before winning eased down by three-quarters of a length from Royal Highness.
Her owner, the Aga Khan said: “Provided she takes this race well she will go for the Arc. She was pretty impressive today. She has something of Sinndar about her – her stride and her ability to accelerate.”
Fillies do not have a good recent record in the Arc. The last to win was Urban Sea in 1993, who finished third in this race en-route. But trainer Alain Royer-Dupre was exuding quiet confidence afterwards.
And Soumillon said: “This was just an exercise for her, not a race. She will come on for this race and she will be 100% on the day. She has done well since the Irish Oaks and I hope she is still improving.”
Shawanda might have been more impressive in the race but Hurricane Run was the more impressive in appearance.
Not seen since winning the Irish Derby, Andre Fabre was reportedly pleased with the physical development of the colt and it was not hard to see why.
A most imposing individual, there was an understandable hint of his sire Montjeu in his flighty behaviour both before and after the race.
But on the racecourse Hurricane Run looked more professional than he has done before, responding to all of Fallon’s questions in the home straight to win with something up his sleeve, albeit not in any great style.
At the line, Hurricane Run – a 1-10 chance on the pari-mutuel – held a three-length advantage over his stablemate Runaway.
Fallon said: “I think the horse is just coming back to himself. He’s appreciated a break and he had a spring in his step today. He felt a bit flat in Ireland.
“He hasn’t gone away from them but small fields like this just don’t suit him. With a small field and nothing much around him, he idled a lot. He didn’t hardly have a race.
“He gave me the feeling that there is a lot more to come, as you would expect from the trainer. This horse has been babyish in the past but today he was much better and he will be better again after today. It’s all systems go for the Arc now.”
Fabre said of the colt, who was watched by part-owner Derrick Smith: “He has done well during the summer and he has got some strength. All horses improve with time and this one is no exception.
“Obviously the opposition will be stronger in the Arc but this was a perfect prep-race. It might not have been spectacular but it was ideal.”
Hurricane Run remains favourite at around 11-4 for the Arc with all the major firms, but only just.
Further down the betting lists, Alkaased’s Arc hopes were dented when he was beaten by Pride in the Prix Foy Gray d’Albion Barriere at Longchamp.
Cumani’s five-year-old could not peg back Christophe Lemaire’s mount who was completing a double for Alain de Royer-Dupre after Shawanda’s victory.
Pride got a dream run up the far rail in the straight after Geordieland’s pacemaker Kiasma gave way, gaining a couple of lengths on her rivals.
Fallon brought Alkaased with a well-timed challenge but Pride pulled away in the closing stages to win by two and a half lengths. Shirocco was another two lengths away in third.
The first two are on course to renew rivalry in the Arc.
Pride’s owner Sven Hanson said: “Hopefully she will go for the Arc now. She is older and wiser and really battled well. She settled better than she has done in the past. The alternative for her is the Opera on the same day but we will have to talk to the trainer and see what he thinks.”
Pride, who clocked a time notably quicker than the other two trials, finished 13th in the Arc last year.
Cumani confirmed that his charge would return next month, despite him being pushed right out in the betting to as long as 20-1 by totesport.
“This was a proper-run race unlike the other two trials,” he said.
“He travelled extremely well and came to win his race but he obviously needed it and he got tired. It’s obviously disappointing to lose but we know where we stand now and we will be back for the Arc.
“He has had a long break and he got found out. The holiday he has had probably put him back more than I had thought.”