- Horse Racing - Montjeu faces nine in bid for Arc encore

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Friday, September 29
Montjeu faces nine in bid for Arc encore

PARIS -- Montjeu, considered by many to be the world's best racehorse, goes gunning for his second successive Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe title at Longchamp Sunday, with only two rivals, Sinndar and Samum, given a realistic chance of an upset.

Montjeu has scored comfortable victories in three Group 1 races this year, the Tattersalls Gold Cup, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

Having followed those with a similarly easy victory in his Arc prep, the Group 2 Prix Foy, Montjeu has frightened away most of the competition. Horses he has beaten this year like Fantastic Light, Daliapour, Greek Dance, Mutafaweq, and Commander Collins have all passed up the outside chance that they could turn the tables on Montjeu, who is owned by Michael Tabor and trained by John Hammond.

Only the filly Daring Miss, who finished five lengths behind Montjeu at Saint-Cloud, and Raypour, who served as Daliapour's pacesetter in the King George and will do likewise for Sinndar on Sunday, are trying Montjeu again.

Montjeu's chances of joining Ribot and Alleged as the only two-time Arc winners in the great race's 80-year history are enhanced not only by the lack of quality in the field, but by its lack of quantity. Only nine horses will line up against Montjeu, making this the smallest field since Caracalla took a nine-runner Arc in 1946.

Even more surprisingly, this Arc will not have a single English-trained horse in the race, an astonishing circumstance that has not occurred since 1963.

The slightly softened ground at Longchamp was still officially good on Friday afternoon. With only light showers expected through the weekend, that should perfectly suit both Montjeu and Sinndar.

Montjeu has come from last to first in all of his races this year, but jockey Michael Kinane is likely to have him a bit closer to the pace in the Arc, as he cannot allow the very dangerous Sinndar to steal the race from him.

Sinndar, trained by John Oxx, took both the Epsom and Irish Derbies before a highly impressive eight-length Prix Niel score on the same course and distance as the Arc in his Arc prep.

Sinndar's tracking speed will be enhanced by Raypour, whom the Aga Khan has supplemented to ensure a fast pace.

Sinndar has recent history on his side, as the last six Arcs have been won by 3-year-olds. If he can open up a clear lead early in the 2 1/2-furlong stretch, Montjeu will be hard pressed to repeat his 1999 victory, when he ran down El Condor Pasa at the sixteenth pole.

German Derby winner Samum slammed a good field when he took the Grosser Preis von Baden on Sept. 3. Daliapour finished farther behind Samum than he was behind Montjeu in the King George, but Samum has never raced on anything but soft ground and may have to settle for third place on Sunday.

Russian Hope, trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, took the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville by a head from Daring Miss, and appears to be everybody's idea of a dark horse.

Volvoreta and Egyptband exchanged victories in the French Oaks and Prix Vermeille, but the days of 3-year-old French filly dominance in the Arc are long gone. Both, however, could make a case for their inclusion in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf with a good effort.

Hightori returned from a 10-month absence to win the Group 3 Prix du Prince d'Orange last time, but either he or Hesiode, third behind subsequent Queen Elizabeth II Stakes third-place finisher Best of the Bests in the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano in August, would be a big surprise.

So unless Sinndar finds some extra improvement, Montjeu should confirm the belief of many that he is the world's best racehorse.

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Two drop out, one signs up for Arc de Triomphe