Unseasonably hot Paris sets perfect stage for So You Think
Paris: An unseasonal spell of hot weather in Paris provides the perfect setting for the ultimate triumph with a horse that epitomises the international flavour of racing at the highest level.
So You Think, a champion in Australia but now trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, is poised to make his mark in today's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp against one of the strongest fields of modern times.
So You Think, who was bred in New Zealand, has already taken two of Europe's major prizes — the Coral-Eclipse and the Irish Champion Stakes — but this will be a major test on the big stage and, make no mistake, the tempo of this contest will expose any weakness.
The strapping son of High Chaparral has won four of his five starts — three of them Group Ones — since being shipped to the northern hemisphere, but this will be the final examination of the bold decision by Coolmore and their associates to buy into the horse in a reported £40 million (Dh228 million) deal last year.Calculated gamble
If he wins the Arc that calculated gamble will have been money well spent. So You Think will find this Arc challenge something akin to running in last year's two-mile Melbourne Cup, in which he finished a gutsy third after wasting valuable energy when refusing to settle for much of the race.
There is no hiding place in the hurly-burly of such races and So You Think's experience that day in a big field should ensure he is well equipped to handle himself here. He is certainly a more relaxed horse than he was 12 months ago.
However, there is no escaping that he faces a field crammed full of smart rivals. Three-year-olds have a good record in recent runnings of the Arc, but this might be a year in which the older brigade just shade them. Galikova caught the eye when winning the Prix Vermeille in difficult ground conditions three weeks ago and will run on a much faster surface this time, which should suit.
St Leger winner Masked Marvel, who was supplemented for €100,000 (Dh491,000) on Thursday, could be the best of his generation, having rapidly progressed since Doncaster.
But as So You Think attempts to better the performances of past antipodean stars such as Balmerino — second to Alleged in 1977 — and Strawberry Road — fifth to Sagace in 1984 — he can expect most opposition to come from two experienced and in-form fillies, Snow Fairy and Sarafina.
Ed Dunlop has done an excellent job in bringing Snow Fairy back gradually after an injury and her second to So You Think in the Irish Champion Stakes was her best run since a devastating win in last year's Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin. She becomes Frankie Dettori's 24th consecutive ride in the Arc, a remarkable record in itself, and like So You Think, the filly should be suited by the lively ground.
Sarafina was unlucky when third to Workforce and Nakayama Festa in last year's Arc, being badly hampered entering the home straight, and her narrow win in the Prix Foy last month was a nice pipe-opener. She is certain to benefit from an expected strong pace, as too will Meandre, the Grand Prix de Paris winner, though he disappointed in the Prix Niel on ground with give in it.