Profiling the five key contenders for this year's Arc

Enable is aiming to win the Arc for a record third time.
Enable is aiming to win the Arc for a record third time.

With less than three weeks to go until this year’s Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Nick Seddon takes a look at the current picture for Europe's premier middle distance race, and profiles the five main contenders at the time of writing…

This year's condensed Flat season means that the autumnal action has come round sooner than ever, and the vast majority of the field will have had their final preparatory run for the Group 1 contest by now - with Arc Trials Day having been and gone at Longchamp on Sunday. 

There are many different routes to Paris, though both John Gosden and Frankie Dettori will be hoping that Kempton's rather unconventional Group 3 September Stakes provides an Arc winner for the second time in three years courtesy of the six-year-old superstar mare Enable. Aidan O'Brien will almost certainly have other ideas, and with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at the five market leaders at the time of writing and assessed their chances. 

Love (Aidan O'Brien)

While Enable will arrive in Paris on the cusp of history, the three-year-old filly Love is the favourite for the Arc at the time of writing - and it isn't too difficult to see why. Indeed, Love has enjoyed an outstanding campaign to date, winning back-to-back classics in the form of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the following month's Epsom Oaks. The latter of those wins came in breathtaking fashion, looking a top-class filly in the making when romping to a nine-length success.

She's since lined up for the Yorkshire Oaks, and while that didn't quite have the level of intrigue we'd hoped for due to the defection of Enable, Love picked up her third straight top level success with the minimum of fuss. The weight for age scale means that Love will be able to take her chance in Paris on really good terms as a three-year-old filly, receiving 7 lb from Enable and 10 lb from her older male rivals. This allowance, combined with the fact that she's already shown high-class form means that she will be a tough nut to crack, and bearing in mind that there could be more to come from this progressive type yet, it's going to be very difficult to oppose her on the day. Verdict: The one to beat

Enable (John Gosden)

There's no doubting who the vast majority of the racing public will be cheering on at Longchamp, though history tells us that Enable faces the toughest test of her career if she is to become the first three-time winner of the Arc. Admittedly, this year's renewal doesn't look the strongest, but it takes a special horse to win three renewals of the Arc - just ask Treve - and Enable will have to produce a number of firsts if she is to succeed; none more so than the fact that no six-year-old has ever won this race. Her connections have long pointed out that the Arc is the sole reason for her remaining in training, and while she's already created some history of her own this term - becoming the first three-time winner of the King George at Ascot - there has been an element of scrutiny about the level of opposition that Enable has faced in her past two outings.

Indeed, this will certainly require more than her stroll to success in the Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton, and while she's done very little wrong in her three starts so far this season, the shoe is very much on the other foot here for Enable. Having won this race as a three-year-old, she must now concede 7 lb to the up-and-coming filly Love, who is closely matched with her rival based on what they've both shown this term. Gosden and Dettori will be hoping to go one place better than in last year's renewal, but there's a lingering feeling that the ship could well have sailed 12 months ago - when Waldgeist spoiled the party. Verdict: Falls just short

Ghaiyyath (Charlie Appleby)

Ghaiyyath holds the distinction of being just one of four horses to have ever beaten Enable (Waldgeist, Shutter Speed and Raheen House are the other three), and while he's enjoyed an excellent campaign to date, he will arrive in Paris with a point to prove. That victory over Enable came in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July, when Ghaiyyath proved himself a top-class colt over a mile and a quarter with an authoritative -and trademark - performance from the front. He backed that up with a third straight top level success in a hot renewal of the International Stakes at York, but will arrive here with something to prove having suffered a surprise defeat to Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Indeed, Ghaiyyath was rather hit-and-miss earlier in his career, and while he's returned as a refined model as a five-year-old, there's a lingering feeling that a mile and a half is at the limit of his stamina. He does have some strong form at that particular trip, breaking the course record when winning the Coronation Cup in devastating style in June, though it's likely that the Arc will provide much more of a stamina test in autumnal ground. Ghaiyyath was unable to land a blow in last year's renewal, and bearing in mind that two of his four career defeats have come in Paris, the suspicion is that he could instead head for the Champion Stakes at Ascot - or even the Breeders' Cup. Verdict: May head elsewhere

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Magical (Aidan O'Brien)

With Enable bidding for history in Paris next month, there would be a real sense of irony if she was finally thwarted by her long-term rival Magical. The five-year-old has had to settle for minor honours behind Enable on no less than four occasions, but she's proven herself a seriously smart mare away from that rival - winning no less than seven Group 1 races, including three this term.

The latest of those came when defeating Ghaiyyath to win the Irish Champion Stakes for the second year running at the weekend, overturning the form of the International Stakes in the process, and the one guarantee with Magical is that you're getting a mare who almost always runs her race. She has winning form at the top level over a mile and a half, too - taking the Champions Fillies' and Mares' Stakes in 2018 - but the pick of her form has come at a mile and a quarter, and she has yet to place in two attempts in the Arc. She was 10 lengths behind the protagonists when fifth in last year's renewal, and while you can never completely write her off, like Ghaiyyath she could also be pencilled in for the Champion Stakes - and a defence of her crown. Verdict: Looks Ascot bound

Stradivarius (John Gosden)

The potential fly in this year's ointment is the star stayer Stradivarius, who will fulfil his owner's wish for a runner in the Arc by dropping back in trip from staying distances. He's very much the undisputed king of the ring in that division, scooping the  £1 million Stayers' bonus for consecutive years in 2018 and 2019, and the absence of that particular prize this year has perhaps swung the pendulum in favour of a trip to Paris. Stradivarius has arguably been at his very best this season, pulverising his opponents in the Ascot Gold Cup in June, though he isn't your archetypal stayer, and possesses plenty of speed to go with his stamina.

There's reasons to think that such a combination could be a perfect formula for success in an Arc, particularly in very testing conditions, and fellow top stayer Order Of St George showed just that when placing in the race for the Aidan O'Brien team in 2016 and 2017. Stradivarius can perform in soft conditions, but he has shown his best form on faster going, and produced a very quick timefigure when finishing an excellent third behind Ghaiyyath and Anthony Van Dyck in the Coronation Cup over this trip in June. He was thwarted by Anthony Van Dyck once again at the weekend, finishing a close second in the Group 2 Prix Foy, and that defeat saw his price drift out to 20/1 for this - bearing in mind that the Foy is a recognised trial for the Arc. However, that proved to be a muddling renewal, with very little pace on, and Stradivarius will certainly line up here as a lively each-way chance - though he will have to do so without his regular partner Frankie Dettori, who will team up with stablemate Enable. Verdict: Place claims at best

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