It would have to be up there given few were rushing to back Luxembourg to win the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when the Camelot colt scrambled home at odds of 2-9 in the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh in August.
In the horse’s defence, it was his first run since finishing a staying-on third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket 105 days earlier after which a muscular injury denied him a crack at the Epsom Derby. That said, beating Insinuendo by a neck still looked a pretty underwhelming effort.
However, Aidan O’Brien kept the faith, expressing the view Luxembourg would improve “20 to 30%” for the run.
That seemed a tall order but he rose to the challenge in the Irish Champion Stakes, getting the better of French raiders Onesto and Vadeni in brilliant style. If he can take a similar leap forward on his first run over a mile and a half, he could be hard to stop.
Seven successive wins, the last five of which came at Group 1 level would suggest so. The first of those Group 1 wins came in Germany last year when Mark Prescott’s admirable charge got the better of subsequent Arc victor Torquator Tasso.
Two further trips to Germany yielded further top-level victories before the end of 2021 and the Frankel mare began her five-year-old campaign by winning the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July.
In her only start since, Alpinista got the better of Tuesday in the Yorkshire Oaks in August so she’ll rock up in Paris a fresh horse. However, whether her CV is quite as impressive as it looks on paper is open to debate. The middle three of her five-race Group 1 sequence were pretty weak contests while the form of the Yorkshire Oaks has taken some hits since.
She looks sure to put up a bold showing but the suspicion is she’ll find one or two too good.
That may well depend on how much rain falls in Paris this weekend. Deep ground would seriously compromise Vadeni’s chances but should the weather gods be kind, it would be dangerous to dismiss this classy Churchill colt.
While his sire was a specialist miler, there is stamina on the dam’s side so there’s reason to believe Vadeni could stay. Should he do so, he’s a massive player as the French Derby and Coral-Eclipse hero possesses a devastating turn of foot.
He wasn’t at his best when third in the Irish Champion Stakes last time out but he didn’t get the clearest of runs on that occasion and jockey Christophe Soumillon said afterwards that his mount wasn’t 100% fit for that assignment. That surely won’t be the case on Sunday.
Unless this year’s renewal, the 2021 Arc was billed as a vintage one. That was until 72-1 German outsider Torquator Tasso got the better of Tarnawa, Hurricane Lane, and Adayar. Given his price, it was tempting to dismiss the result as a fluke but it was hard to argue that the main market protagonists hadn’t run their race.
Detractors of Torquator Tasso could point to a record of one win in four subsequent starts as evidence of his limitations but there was little to crab about his effort when second on ground far quicker than ideal in the King George at Ascot in July and he should find conditions far more to his liking this weekend.
His overall profile makes it hard to imagine Torquator Tasso as a dual Arc winner but it will be no surprise if he puts up a tenacious defence of his crown.
Workforce came back for a dismal King George display to win the 2010 Arc and, sporting the same colours, the same challenge confronts Westover on Sunday. If anything, Westover’s King George run this year was even more deplorable than Workforce’s 12 years ago so the task he faces is considerable.
That said, the Frankel colt is clearly far better than that, evidenced by an emphatic Irish Derby success three weeks after finishing third to Desert Crown in the Epsom equivalent.
A return to that form might give him a place shot but he’s hard to trust with any real confidence.
In truth, and in keeping with this year’s Flat season as a whole, the 2022 Arc looks a below-par renewal. The positive of that negative is that it is an open race with several potential winners.
However, the two horses at the head of the market, Luxembourg and Alpinista, look the right two as they boast high-class form and will both arrive in Paris on the back of light campaigns. That wasn’t by design in the case of Luxembourg and connections have always been of the view that a mile and a half would be his optimum trip. On Sunday, he belatedly gets a chance to prove that and the suspicion is that if there is a star in this year’s Arc, he is it.
Providing the ground doesn’t become bottomless, Vadeni can also hit the frame for France.