Connections of Shirocco welcomed Christophe Soumillon’s availability to ride Andre Fabre’s charge in what promises to be an intriguing renewal of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
Soumillon is free to partner the brilliant five-year-old after Mandesha, owned by the Aga Khan’s daughter, swerved the Arc in preference to the Prix de l’Opera on the same card.
Although the Belgian-born rider has divided opinion in Britain, Soumillon is regarded as peerless in France – particularly at Longchamp.
To that end, Paul Harley, racing manager to owner Baron Georg von Ullman, believes the Shirocco team could have the edge over their rivals on Sunday.
“Christophe has become such an important part of this horse’s life we are very happy that he is free to ride Shirocco,” said Harley.
“He knows the horse extremely well and will now what to expect on the day.”
Soumillon was not aboard the son on Monsun in last year’s Arc, however, with that honour going to Stephane Pasquier, who will ride Fabre’s Rail Link this time around.
The pair finished fourth to stablemate Hurricane Run, who will also be in opposition at the weekend as Fabre launches a three-pronged attack on Europe’s end-of-season showpiece.
Shirocco has improved immeasurably since then with four consecutive victories to his name.
Having swept to a rousing success in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Shirocco landed back-to-back British victories at Newmarket in the Jockey Club Stakes and then the Coronation Cup at Epsom, where he defeated Ouija Board by a length and three-quarters.
Fabre’s entire was last seen exacting some degree of revenge on Hurricane Run in the Prix Foy in a tactical renewal over the Arc course and distance.
“Things have gone well since the Prix Foy and he seems fine,” added Harley.
“Mr Fabre’s very happy with him and that’s the main thing.
“They have given rain but that would not matter either way because he is very versatile.
“That’s also in the hands of the Gods and we are not worrying about that at this stage
“Obviously we are hoping for a bit of luck on the day and that things work in his favour.”
Shirocco is vying for favouritism with Hurricane Run and Japanese superstar Deep Impact to give Fabre a fourth Arc crown since 1997.