Paris (AFP) – Continuous has been given a plum draw boosting his bid to make history and become the first horse to win both the English St Leger and Europe’s most prestigious race – the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the same season.
Continuous only won the St Leger a fortnight ago but Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien is so confident about his chances he supplemented him as a late entry for the Arc on Wednesday at a cost of 120,000 euros ($126,000).
The 53-year-old will be happy with the first hurdle being successfully overcome as on Thursday he was drawn in the middle of the 15-runner field in stall seven.
He will have French favourite Ace Impact on one side of him (stall eight) and Bay Bridge, one of four English raiders, on his other.
O’Brien has a habit of flooding big races with pacemakers but has refrained from doing so this year.
“I would say that we only enter horses for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which have the most obvious profiles for this, because of the cost element,” said O’Brien.
“This is now the team’s strategy relative to this race.”
O’Brien has no worries about the short break between races for his runner — it will be his third race in a short space of time.
He won the St Leger trial event, the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, on August 23.
O’Brien has tried and failed with four previous St Leger winners with Kew Gardens (2018) faring the best of them in finishing seventh.
“He (Continuous) seems tough enough and in good enough shape to face the challenge,” said O’Brien, who is seeking his third winner in the race.
“He’s straightforward, adapts to all types of ground, can easily hold his position during a race, and has gained in maturity.”
Ace Impact’s trainer Jean-Claude Rouget has taken a different tack to O’Brien as unlike Continuous he will not be battle hardened for a recent run but fresh as a daisy as the French Derby winner has not raced since August 15.
“I have decided to bank totally on the freshness card,” said Rouget, who won the Arc with Sottsass in 2020.
“It was important to give him time between the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.”
Japan provides only one runner this year, as opposed to the record four from 2022.
Through The Seas flies the flag for a country that dreams of winning the Arc which they regard as the ‘Holy Grail’ of races.
She has a decent draw in five.
“Through Seven Seas has reached her optimum level as a 5-year-old,” said her trainer Tomohito Ozeki, who is having his first runner in the race.
“In her younger days she showed a lot of temperament, ate little, was very thin and lacked strength.
“The mare was roughed off (rested) for the season after August (2022), and she has strengthened up as a result.”
Two of the pre-race favourites — both from England — have been dealt a dud hand in the draw.
Westover is right on the inside rail in one whilst Hukum, who just got the better of him in a thrilling duel in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July, is drawn 14.
“The race will be very competitive,” said Hukum’s trainer Owen Burrows.
“We narrowly beat Westover in the King George and he ran very well at Longchamp last year (Westover was sixth in the Arc) on ground that was too soft for him.
“Ace Impact has been very impressive to date.
“The Japanese mare Through Seven Seas, narrowly beaten by Equinox, also enters the equation.
“The bar is a high one and that’s normal: as it’s the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe!”