Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Tips: Serpentine Profile

Serpentine was an emphatic winner of the Epsom Derby in July.
Serpentine was an emphatic winner of the Epsom Derby in July.

Nick Seddon profiles the Epsom Derby hero Serpentine, who was supplemented for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Wednesday at a cost of €72,000...

Serpentine

  • Age: 3
  • Races: 5
  • Wins: 2
  • Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
  • Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
  • Owner: Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith
  • Notable Race Wins: Epsom Derby (2020)

Career Record

Serpentine's crowning moment to date is undoubtedly his barnstorming success in this season's Epsom Derby, and he arrived at that classic as a typically unexposed type from the Aidan O'Brien yard - in that he was regally bred as a son of Galileo and a brother to five winners, and had won a maiden in deeply impressive fashion on his previous start. 

He had looked in need of the experience in his two starts prior to that nine-length maiden success at the Curragh in June, but he quickly clicked into place this season, and brought that devastating style of racing to Epsom in July. Always prominent, Serpentine pulled a long way clear of the field around half a mile from home, before going on to record a scarcely believable five and a half length success under Emmett McNamara - beating rivals who were never nearer than at the line.

We've seen Serpentine just once since that success, and he returned from a 71-day break to finish fourth behind stablemate Mogul in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance earlier this month. He was ridden with far more restraint by Christophe Soumillon on that occasion, and while he was ultimately unable to hit the front, there was plenty to like about the performance.

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Positives

Unexposed: With just five starts under his belt, Serpentine arrives here as a very smart performer that's still open to improvement. His run in the Grand Prix de Paris ought to have taught him plenty, and lining up against older rivals for the first time will present him with the opportunity to take his form to a new level.

Tactics: Serpentine blew the field apart when winning the Epsom Derby in July, and he's a fascinating addition to the Arc line-up. Judged on his most recent start, he's unlikely to be handed quite as aggressive a ride here, but he's almost certain to be prominent, something which could work strongly in his favour in testing conditions.

Weight: Serpentine will receive weight from his older rivals as a three-year-old colt, which could prove to be an advantage. He'd likely need to take a step forward from what he's shown so far, particularly with the Epsom form looking patchy at the best of times, but he's certainly going to be weighted to be competitive.

Negatives

Conditions: The going at Longchamp is described as 'very soft' at the time of writing, with more rain forecast before Sunday afternoon. Serpentine was well beaten on his sole start on soft going on his debut last year, and while that effort alone is worth forgiving, a sustained test of stamina would ask something different of him.

Tactics: If Serpentine is handed a particularly aggressive ride, similar to the one that Ghaiyyath was given in this last year, it could potentially favour his rivals more than it favours him. Indeed, a strongly-run race arguably caused Enable to hit the front too soon 12 months ago, opening things up for Waldgeist, and in particularly testing ground, it would be a huge ask to keep up such a strong gallop all the way to the line.

Needs more: While Serpentine is clearly a very smart colt as an Epsom Derby winner, that win was a freakish performance, and the form hasn't worked out brilliantly since. On the bare form, what he's shown so far is short of what you'd expect from an average Arc winner, and while he's entitled to improve here, he will likely need a career best effort to win.

How will Serpentine fare in the 2020 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?

It's difficult to weigh up Serpentine's chances for the Arc, and they could ultimately weigh on both the going and the tactics which are deployed by his jockey. The fact that his connections have spent €72,000 to supplement him can't be scoffed at, and he certainly has the talent on paper to have a serious say - particularly in receipt of weight from his older rivals. If he is indeed handed a similar ride to Epsom, it will be fascinating to see how Frankie Dettori handles it on Enable, but instinct says he will be ridden closer to the tactics deployed here last time out, and sit just off the lead. Both pedigree and his last few performances have suggested that there's more to come from Serpentine yet, and the way he finished his race in the Grand Prix de Paris suggested he'd improve for that outing, but on the bare form he has something to find if he is to have a serious chance of winning. Either way, he is a fascinating inclusion, and he will certainly play a part in the outcome - regardless of whether or not he's involved in the finish. 

Verdict: Potential fly in the ointment

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