The stage is set for Mickael Barzalona to crown another fantastic big-race year with victory at Longchamp on Sunday in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (3.25pm).
The build-up to this Sunday’s race has been all about Aidan O’Brien’s star horse Camelot but the big story could be all about a young Frenchman.
O’Brien’s horse sees Frankie Dettori take the reins and the Frankie factor has seen Camelot shorten into 3/1 favourite but I don’t see him winning.
Camelot narrowly missed out on a historic Triple Crown in the St.Leger a few weeks back as he was beaten a few quarters of a length by 25-1 shot Encke.
Encke was ridden by Barzalona that day and I expect the 21-year old Godolphin jockey to cause problems again.
Commentators of the sport sometimes mention of Dettori that, ‘I’d want him on my horse in the Derby, but not on a wet Tuesday at Wolverhampton in November’.
Like his Godolphin team-mate, Barzalona is also inconsistent when it comes to minor races but Sunday’s affair is a huge one.
This is European horse racing’s show-piece of the year; you only have to look at the calibre of horses to understand that.
When Aidan O’Brien’s steady performer Robin Hood is 300/1 you know there are some serious horses in the same field.
O’Brien also runs 150-1 outsider Ernest Hemingway and his son Joseph is on board Breeders’ Cup winner St.Nicholas Abbey (12-1) as he failed to make Camelot’s 8st 11lb weight.
Sunday’s race is all about class, quality and being able to read the race, something Barzalona possesses; I fancy him to make a bold bid for another group 1 on board Masterstroke (12-1).
The Godolphin owned son of Monsun is an exciting three-year old under the tutelage of renowned Arc winning trainer Andre Fabre.
Fabre has won the Arc an impressive SEVEN times and six of those wins came courtesy of three-year old colts, just as Masterstroke is.
The return of Ryan Moore to the saddle could see Sea Moon (10-1) have a say in proceedings but Moore’s fitness could hamper her chances.
Elsewhere Christophe Soumillon will have to negotiate a terrible draw out in 18 if he is to win the race on second favourite Orfevre (9-2) whilst Christophe Lemaire’s Shareta (10-1) is a quality prospect.
William Buick rides 11-1 shot Great Heavens on Sunday for John Gosden and along with 9-1 shot Saonois, ridden by Antoine Hamelin, they make up the list of horses expected to challenge.
The Barzalona factor in big races is always worth a punt as the young French rider normally gives you value for money with his style.
He is content to sit in behind on a horse knowing the race will open up for him to mount a challenge and such a policy has paid dividends looking at his 2012 Dubai World Cup and 2011 Derby wins.
He employed the same policy recently when on Masterstroke as they won the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville from William Buick’s Gatewood.
Fabre’s three-year old is a lean, athletically built type of horse and whilst he might not be the most physically imposing he most definitely has the engine to trouble the Arc favourites.
Expect to see Barzalona hold the three-year old until the time is ripe as the big-prices set the pace.
Masterstroke should run his race and if the gap appears kindly then I think he can see off Shareta and Camelot to take home an eighth Arc for trainer Andre Fabre.
See Masterstroke’s latest run at Longchamp below: