Aidan O'Brien hoping weather plays ball for Luxembourg in Arc

Melbourne Cup heroine Verry Elleegant will miss Europe's premier middle-distance contest following France Galop's decision to limit the field to 20 runners
Aidan O'Brien hoping weather plays ball for Luxembourg in Arc

MARKET LEADER: Having won the Irish Champion Stakes earlier this month, Luxembourg heads the betting for this year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.  Picture: Inpho/Morgan Treacy

Aidan O'Brien does not want the ground to get too testing at ParisLongchamp ahead of Luxembourg's bid for glory in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Previously successful in the showpiece event with Dylan Thomas in 2007 and Found in 2016, the Ballydoyle handler houses the ante-post favourite for this year's renewal in this son of Camelot.

A Group 1 winner at two in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, Luxembourg looked every inch a potential Derby winner in the making when third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on his return.

But a subsequent injury ultimately led to the three-year-old missing Epsom and he only scrambled home on his return in the Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh in August.

O'Brien was adamant Luxembourg was nowhere near concert pitch, however, and he found the necessary improvement to provide his trainer with an 11th Irish Champion Stakes success at Leopardstown.

Three weeks later he is set to line up as favourite for Europe's premier middle-distance contest.

"He's good and everything has gone well since Leopardstown. We were delighted with his run and everything has been very good since," said O'Brien.

"We think he's in a good place and when we run we will know. It's not long since he ran, so his work hasn't been too tough, but we're happy with everything he's doing.

"I don't think anybody wants extremes (of ground) and we're the same. I suppose everybody is in the same boat, but hopefully it won't get too bad.

"He won the Futurity Trophy on soft ground and he is by Camelot, who is by Montjeu, so hopefully he'll handle it, but in an ideal world hopefully it's not too soft."

Having missed a good chunk of the season, Luxembourg will head to Paris relatively fresh and lightly-raced following just six lifetime starts.

With a maximum field of 20 virtually guaranteed, hurly burly is a given, but O'Brien believes his charge has the temperament to handle whatever is thrown at him.

"He ran three times last year and has run three times this year, so he's had the six runs, but I think he's usually a very offhanded, straightforward horse," he added.

"He relaxes very well and I'd be happy to come forward out of the gates."

O'Brien will have a second string to his bow in the form of outsider Broome, who was beaten just under 10 lengths into 11th place in last year's renewal.

The six-year-old was thoroughly impressive when opening his account for the current campaign in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, since when he has finished fourth in the King George and in a Grade One in America, before finishing last of seven behind Luxembourg at Leopardstown.

O'Brien said: "He ran in America, which probably didn't suit him, but we were very happy with his last run. We were using it as a prep for this race, we think he gets a mile and a half well and likes a big, open track.

"We think he might have found the tracks in America a little bit tight for him as sometimes he can step just a little bit slow from the stalls, especially at Saratoga the last time.

"Hopefully he can run a good race and there are plenty of races left for him in America or Japan or Hong Kong for the rest of the season."

Meanwhile, trainer Francis-Henri Graffard has expressed his anger after confirming Verry Elleegant will miss the Arc following France Galop's decision to limit the field to 20 runners.

The winner of last year's Melbourne Cup and victorious at the highest level on no less than 11 occasions in Australia, the mare travelled to Europe and joined Graffard earlier this year.

She disappointed on her French debut in the Prix Jean Romanet — finishing last of seven — and despite showing significant improvement to place third in the Prix Foy on her second start, the French handicapper dropped her rating to 113, placing her 22nd in the order of entry.

After French racing's ruling body announced that a maximum of 20 runners would be allowed to go to post, connections of Verry Elleegant had to decide whether to supplement her for the Arc on Wednesday morning at a cost of €120,000.

And while that sum would have be refunded had she failed to make the final field at the declaration stage on Thursday, the issue was further complicated by the fact declarations for her other weekend option — Saturday's Prix de Royallieu — also closed on Wednesday at 11.30am French time.

As French rules state horses cannot be declared for two races, connections have opted to go for the race in which she is guaranteed a starting berth, leaving Graffard understandably frustrated.

"I'm very, very upset about the French authorities and French handicapper and my racing country in general," the trainer said on Nick Luck's Daily Podcast.

"We try really hard as young trainers to try and promote our sport and try to make it competitive worldwide. We try to open our doors all the time and play the game, (but) France Galop try to make it difficult at every single stage.

"This filly has been a very good example of how unopen the French are. Every step has been difficult for her and for the owners and they have made our life very difficult right until the end.

"It's very upsetting and not good for the sport in general, I think. I'm very angry against my racing country and I have to apologise to all the Australian racing fans."

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox

Execution Time: 0.236 s