Another Treve flop blows Arc betting wide open

Treve was truly brilliant when running away with last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race at Longchamp, but things just haven’t gone her way this season and she once again let supporters down when finishing fourth in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille at the Paris track in her big-race warm-up on September 14. The filly’s below-par effort has blown the ante-post market for this season’s renewal of Europe’s premier middle-distance contest wide open.

Treve is now priced at around 8/1 on BetFair to retain her crown on October 5 at Longchamp, despite having failed to get her head in front during the current campaign. The horse was widely expected to win the Prix Vermeille under her new jockey - Thierry Jarnet - who had been sensationally brought in to replace Frankie Dettori after trainer Criquette Head-Maarek had decided the Italian-born superstar rider was not the right man for the job.

Head-Maarek’s controversial decision came on the back of much deliberation following Treve’s bitterly disappointing run in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June when she was sent off a hot odds-on favourite but could only finish third behind the John Gosden-trained The Fugue. On faster ground than is ideal for her, Treve moved poorly to the post and Dettori reported afterwards that the filly never felt right - before, during, or after the race. She never travelled during the contest with her usual fluency and made laboured progress under strong pressure around the home turn before struggling on to fill third place, far below expectations.

Photo: danheap77
Picture: Frankie Dettori

Some seasoned observers wondered if Dettori had simply been the fall guy for the trainer having made an error in running her star horse on the wrong ground, so the Italian would be entitled to feel a shade vindicated with Jarnet proving no more effective on Treve’s comeback run. Put plainly, the daughter of Derby winner Motivator showed little of her old dash when finished behind shock winner Baltic Baroness in the Prix Vermeille – winner of a modest listed contest on her previous outing - form that leaves her with a mountain to climb to improve enough in the space of three weeks to retain her crown in Paris on the first Sunday of October.

Bookmaker reaction to Treve’s eclipse was predictably swift with the filly being pushed out to as far as 10/1 in places, as the Oaks and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes heroine Taghrooda advanced to become the new ante-post favourite at odds of 5/1. A genuinely high-class filly who might well have been in season when narrowly beaten in the Yorkshire Oaks by Tapestry last time out, Taghrooda - trained by John Gosden - was terrific when winning at Ascot and would be a danger to all if back to that sort of form.

In what proved a dramatic weekend in the betting market for the big race, another of the leading contenders, German champion Sea The Moon, was taken out of the betting lists on the news that he is unlikely to race again after suffering a training setback in the wake of his shock defeat at Baden Baden, which ultimately proved more serious than first thought and forced him into retirement.

The Markus Flug-trained son of racing legend Sea The Stars (also the sire of Taghrooda), had looked a world-beater when wiping the floor with smart opposition in the German Derby at Hamburg in the summer, storming to a barely believable 11-length success that marked him down as a potentially exceptional middle-distance performer.

On the same day that Treve put the cat amongst the pigeons with her defeat at Longchamp, another horse came very much back into the reckoning for the outstanding race. Ruler of the World, winner of the 2013 Investec Derby at Epsom had his first run since finishing well down the field in the Dubai World Cup. The horse – who ended last term finishing a very close third to the high-class Farhh in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October - showed he retains his ability in running out an impressive length-and-a-half winner of the Group 2 Prix Foy, under a well judged front-running ride from none other than Frankie Dettori.

Ruler of the World won the Derby in the colours of John Magnier and his Ballydoyle partners, but ran in the Prix Foy in the silks of Al Shaqaab Racing - the Qatari-based owners who have invested a massive amount of money in European racing and who bought a significant share of the son of Galileo prior to his Dubai World Cup flop. There was plenty to like about the way the four-year-old went about his business on his first start of the term, leading all the way - a tactic that would ensure he stays out of trouble in the big race itself. He found plenty for pressure when the favourite Flintshire stayed on well inside the final furlong and was always doing enough to land the spoils. Ruler of the World was cut from 33/1 to 16/1 by most firms to follow up over course and distance in the ‘Arc’ itself.

While Ruler of the World stated his case for the Arc, another Aidan O’Brien-trained star Australia, was doubtless back in his stable unaware that his narrow defeat the previous day at the hands of The Grey Gatsby - in a tremendous duel for the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at the Curragh - had also left punters scratching their heads and wondering whether he would make it to the starting stalls at Longchamp.

Joseph O’Brien – who was riding Australia - had appeared to have everything under control as he cruised into the lead a furlong-and-a-half from home and went clear of his rivals, only for the brilliant Ryan Moore to produce a stunning finish on Kevin Ryan’s The Grey Gatsby, who subsequently wore down the dual Derby and Juddmonte International Stakes winner in the shadow of the post to win by a head – evening the score with the horse who beat him two lengths at York.

Photo: Florian Christoph – The Grey Gatsby (Ryan Moore) following his Irish Champion Stakes win

Australia had looked one of the best bets of the season and was sent off as the 3/10 market leader, but he ended up having a hard race in defeat and understandably was pushed out in the ante-post market for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to as big as 25/1, having been around a 9/1 chance prior to his defeat. The horse has since been removed from availability for selection in places, amid rumours that the O’Brien horse has been pulled from the race.

One Arc candidate that has yet to taste any sort of defeat is the exciting French three-year-old Avenir Certain, who has risen up the ante-post market while many around her have faltered in the build-up to the big race. The horse is subsequently now a 6/1 second-favourite. The winner of all six of her career starts, the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained daughter of Le Havre won the Group 1 Prix de Diane LonginesLongines (French Oaks) at Chantilly in June, then followed up with another impressive win at Deauville in August. Avenir Certain handles soft ground well and with Longchamp in October invariably riding on the soft side of good, she appears to have leading claims and is a serious contender.

Connections of the Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes winner Kingston Hill have yet to commit themselves to a run in Paris, but the scenario they have been craving all season for their fine colt is a race run on easy ground, so the temptation to go for the big one must be there if last season’s Racing Post Trophy winner recovers sufficiently quickly. On the back of his sweeping late success on Town Moor, the Epsom Derby runner-up - trained by Roger Varian - was shortened from 18/1 to 10/1 on Betfair and would be a very interesting runner.

Possibly the most exciting candidate of all might be Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle - a leading two-year-old of last season who was absent until reappearing on the Irish Champion Stakes card at Leopardstown in mid-September, after an absence of 53 weeks. Free Eagle cruised to victory over Elleval by a nonchalant seven lengths in the Group 3 KPMG Enterprise Stakes over 10 furlongs. While the opposition was nowhere near Arc class, the manner of the High Chaparral colt’s victory was extremely taking and despite only ever having had three runs in his life – with his only defeat coming against Australia when odds-on last year – he looks to have the talent, if not the experience to warrant a place in the big race.

The likelihood that connections will favour a bid for the Champion Stakes at Ascot instead has meant that punters are keen to lay Free Eagle for the Arc and he can still be matched at up to 38/1 on the exchange, which are no doubt tempting odds for a horse who could yet prove a world-beater, judged on his Leopardstown victory at least.

Saturday Tipping Competition

I'm back from the dark side of Norfolk, bolstered by a week of racing at Yarmouth (Great). Afternoons watching young (and old) nags blurred into evenings at the casino where my mind spun like a roulette wheel with visions of girls, fast cars and fortune. My daily calorie intake consisted of eating stick after stick of candyfloss to the point I'm borderline insulin dependent, my vision is fading fast and my toes have turned green. I returned with a small profit on the week. No complaints. Our annual pilgrimage to the coast saw a small army of non gamblers return triumphant with tales to tell. 

2:30 Yarmouth (16th September) Imtiyaaz Has Class To Shine On Debut

An EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes over 6f 3y on good-to-form going. Twelve two-year-olds take part: seven raced, including a handful of debutantes from leading yards. 

Roger Varian has been in flying form with Kingston Hill's St Leger victory, then Cursory Glance taking the Moyglare Stakes (Group 1) in Ireland. Kremlin House Stables can do little wrong. Imtiyaaz is a daughter of Starspangledbanner, out of a twice-race mare who showed little when in training with Godolphin. This February foal, bred by Lynn Lodge Stud, cost 62,000gns, when purchase as a yearling by Hugo Merry Bloodstock at Tattersalls October Sale 2013 (Book 2). Varian has a fair strike rate with his debutantes and it is intriguing to note that this filly holds a couple of lofty engagements for the Shadwell Rockfel Stakes (Group 2) and Cheveley Park Stakes (Group 1). She is one of only twenty entries for this Newmarket race, and the trainer's other representative is the might Cursory Glance. These pointers suggest this filly has her share of ability and although much to prove with regarding those Group-class ambitions, connections must be keen to see what this grand daughter of Green Desert can achieve. A fair each way selection if prices allow. 

Pictured: Azmeel, racing in the silks of M Al-Qatami. 

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National winners setting sights on Aintree 2015

A glance at the ante-post market for the 2015 Crabbies Grand National at Aintree, a race worth total prize money of £1 million, shows that last year’s hero Pineau de Re and Shutthefrontdoor, impressive winner of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, are amongst a number of horses vying for favouritism at around 26.0 with most firms in the Grand National betting, writes Elliot Slater.

There’s a long way to go before the 40 runners will face the starter for “the world’s greatest steeplechase” at Aintree racecourse in the spring, but already connections of the two respective Grand National heroes of last year are laying out their plans for the campaign ahead.

Pineau de Re, trained by Dr Richard Newland, proved a revelation last term and far exceeded even the wildest expectations of his new owner, Mr Provan, who purchased the veteran privately from his previous patrons who had raced the horse over a number of seasons in Ireland under the guidance of trainer Philip Fenton. The French-bred gelding had placed in graded hurdles in his youth but had seemingly plateaued some time ago over fences, yet the change of scene and the new surroundings of Newland’s Warwickshire stables brought about a remarkable transformation in the 11-year-old.

After winning a veterans handicap chase at Exeter in January he switched to hurdles and very nearly pulled off an amazing win in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival before taking his chance over the still awesome Aintree fences, being sent off at Grand National betting odds of 25/1. The rest is history, as Leighton Aspell’s mount galloped to a superb five-length victory over Balthazar King, catapulting his handler into the international sporting spotlight.

Dr Newland is hopeful that despite the certainty of having to carry more weight in the big race this year Pineau de Re (26.0) has a sporting chance of getting involved at the business end of the contest and is likely to campaign him over hurdles for most of the season, keeping the old horse fresh for another assault on the £1 million Crabbies-sponsored showcase event

On the other side of the Irish Sea another smart staying handicap chaser made a big name for himself last term and could be one to definitely keep on the right side in the season ahead with his ambitious owner JP McManus, trainer Jonjo O’Neill, and jockey Tony McCoy eyeing a crack at the Aintree marathon on the spring.

Shutthefrontdoor achieved a tremendous amount in his first season over fences having previously shown ability over hurdles. There’s no doubt that the gelded son of Accordion exceeded expectations with the rapid progress he made over fences, culminating in a famous victory in the Irish Grand National when getting the better of a tremendous tussle with Golden Wonder to score by three-quarters-of-a-length under a great ride from Barry Geraghty.

Tony McCoy had ridden Shutthefrontdoor on most of his outings over fences - with the exception of his previous outing at Cheltenham in the Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase (for amateur riders) - but he was unable to travel to Ireland for the big race and Geraghty proved a more than able substitute at Fairyhouse.

At just seven years old the Irish National winner is likely still improving and hopes are understandably high that a horse with his stamina and attitude could well have something to offer at Aintree in the spring when he could well be amongst the market principals, especially if McCoy, very much a housewives favourite these days, is back on board.

Saturday Tipping Competition

The second week of September's tipping competition. Just like the weather - things are warming up. A terrific start to proceeding saw nine contestants put points on the board. G Force helped Rawnsley top the table with 24pts. One Eye Enos sits in second with 22pts. While new pro tipster, Mark, hit the heights with 18pts. Clint is the best of the rest with 15.8pts, while a handful of others proved positive. By all accounts this could be a high scoring month if the first week sets the standard. Good luck to all. 1:30PM Deadline. Please, no late entries.  

4:50 Leicester Racing Tips (9th September) BRITISH STALLION STUDS EBF FILBERT MAIDEN FILLIES´ STAKES (Bobis Race) (CLASS 4) (2yo)

All season, Karl Burke's two-year-olds have been in flying form at Spigot Lodge and Housemaker is likely to continue that winning vein of form today. This daughter of Nayef is bred to enjoy a trip, racing in the familiar silks of Hubert John Strecker [Libertarian, pictured]. This bay filly was born in January, so an early foal, bred by Usk Valley Stud, purchased at a knock-down price of 15,000gns by Lars Kelp Bloodstock. Housemaker was well backed (20-1 - 10-1) when making her debut in an EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes over 7f at Newmarket. Always prominent, she finished a promising second, ridden by today's partner, Jim Crowley. There was money for this youngster on the exchanges last night with a few die-hard punters stepping in at odds-on. However, that price has drifted to nearer 2-1. In some regards this price is still on the short side but if touching 11/4 or so (optimistic) this looks a fair bet.