All eyes will be on Sea the Stars in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

All eyes will be on Sea the Stars in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

AP Photo/PA, Steve Parsons

Haskin's Weekend Stakes Analysis

All eyes will be on Sea the Stars in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Let’s start in Paris. Despite the presence of a number of top-class horses in Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), all eyes will be on Sea The Stars as he attempts to put the finishing touch on an unforgettable 3-year-old campaign, certainly one of the best seen since the days of Nijinsky, Mill Reef, and Brigadier Gerard back in the early ‘70s.


He has already knocked off many of the top 3-year-olds and older horses in Europe, from one mile to 1 1/2 miles. He is methodical in the way he just keeps coming at you, but he also has the ability to jump all over his opponents just when you think he might be in danger. And he can be placed anywhere. All those attributes combined make him one of most machine-like horses seen in Europe in years.


The question is, will the long campaign finally catch up to him. Also, Sea The Stars has only been 1 1/2 miles once in his career, and that was the English Derby (Eng-I), which is not as big a test of stamina as is the Irish Derby (Ire-I) or King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I), or the Arc for that matter.


Despite those question marks, Sea The Stars has one thing going for him: he’s a great horse who is relentless and does not know how to lose, and because of that it is difficult to go against him.


His biggest threat could come from fellow 3-year-old Fame and Glory, who he handled rather easily in the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) over 1 1/4 miles at Leopardstown. He also out-paced Fame and Glory in the English Derby, but the Ballydoyle colt ran off and hid from his rivals in the Irish Derby, and he should be a tougher opponent this time. He’ll likely have several pacemakers in the race who will make it a more testing race. They should have little effect, however, on Sea The Stars, who has withstood everything Ballydoyle has thrown at him so far, But if this does become a test of stamina, Fame and Glory definitely will move up.


Staying with the 3-year-old males, the always dangerous Andre Fabre will send out Cavalryman for Godolphin. The son of Halling is riding a three-race winning streak, having won the Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-I) and Prix Niel (Fr-II) in his last two starts, both at Longchamp, so he likes the course. But he’s never faced anything of the caliber of horses he’s going to face on Sunday.


The main older horse to watch is Conduit, winner of the King George and last year’s Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) and St. Leger (Eng-I). For pure stamina, no one can top him, but he couldn’t handle the speed of Sea The Stars and Rip Van Winkle in the 10-furlong Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I). The Arc, however, is not the Eclipse, and Conduit will be much more formidable at 1 1/2 miles. He’s not going to blow you away, but he’ll be coming hard.


Don’t discount the old reliable Youmzain. If there is any horse who deserves an Arc victory it is this hard-hitting 6-year-old, who has finished second in the last two runnings of the Arc, including a head defeat to Dylan Thomas in 2007. He’s also been second in the last two Coronation Cups (Eng-I), getting beat a nose this year. He does know how to win, however, having scored in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) in France, Preis von Europa (Ger-I) in Germany, and Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II) in England. He also was third in the Dubai Sheema Classic in Dubai. His main problem is that he is winless in six starts this year and might be a past his prime against these kinds of horses. But a victory would be an extremely popular result.


Vision d’Etat, last year’s French Derby (Fr-I) winner, has victories in the Prix Ganay (Fr-I) and Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) this year, and was second in the Prix Foy (Fr-II) in his Arc prep, but he is pretty much a mile and a quarter horse and there is a question of his staying power in this company.


There are three top-class fillies to take into consideration, Dar Re Mi, Stacelita, and Sariska. Dar Re Mi, most will agree, was robbed of a Prix Vermeille (Fr-I) victory when she was disqualified from first after nailing the favored Stacelita on the wire of the 1 1/2-mile event. She is a hard-knocking filly who defeated Sariska in the Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) this summer, and also captured the Pretty Polly Stakes (Ire-I). Also high on her resume is a second to Zarkava in last year’s Prix Vermeille. She will welcome the good to firm ground.


Stacelita’s Prix Vermeille victory extended her unbeaten record to six-for-six, with easy scores in the group I French Oaks and Prix Saint-Alary. Her main question is whether the mile and a half is a bit too far for her. But she is a very talented filly.


Sariska just eked out a victory in the English Oaks (Eng-I), but had no trouble taking the Irish Oaks (Ire-I) by three lengths. She ran well to be second in the Yorkshire Oaks against older fillies, but couldn’t match strides with Dar Re Mi, beaten three-quarters of a length. She is another who appears to need good to firm ground.


If Sea The Stars can defeat this classy and talented a field, he definitely will take his place among the all-time greats. Then it will be decided whether he tries for true immortality by tackling the Breeders’ Cup Classic. There is a chance with five weeks between races this year, but it’s going to be awfully tempting to end his career with an Arc victory.




You don’t need anyone to tell you Summer Bird, Quality Road , and Macho Again are the horses to beat. But with rain in the forecast, if you’re looking a Wagon Limit (who knocked off Skip Away and Gentlemen in the slop) result, or at least a longshot to finish in the money, don’t dismiss Sette E Mezzo.


This son of Dynaformer is crying out for a mile and a quarter and slop, and his third to Justenuffhumor in the Bernard Baruch (Gr. IIT) in his stakes debut indicates he is a horse on the improve.


If it does come up sloppy or muddy, note that he is by Dynaformer, one of the true stamina and slop influences in America, and his dam is by Alydar. His second dam, Slewbopper, is by stamina and slop influence Seattle Slew and is a half-sister to the top-class Greentree stakes horses Stop the Music and Hatchet Man. Stop the Music, you may remember, defeated Secretariat on a disqualification in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I). He also was second to Secretariat in the slop in the Laurel Futurity (gr. I) and sired Temperence Hill, who won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in the slop, as well as the Travers (gr. I) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) as a 3-year-old and Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at 4. Hatchet Man defeated Forego in the 1 1/4-mile Amory Haskell Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth and is the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold (who is by Alydar). Slewbopper's dam, Bebopper, is by Tom Fool, another stamina and slop influence, especially through his son Buckpasser.


Sure it’s a stretch to think he can defeat this field, but in the slop and stretching out to 10 furlongs for the first time, you never know. He does have some positive factors going for him.




In the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), Awesome Gem, who we touted as an intriguing Breeders’ Cup Classic longshot several weeks ago, is in a good spot to prepare for the Classic. He just needs a clean trip for a change, something he didn’t get in the Pacific Classic (gr. I). He should not finish worse than second in this field, assuming he handles the track, and either placing would set him up nicely for the Classic.


A price horse to watch in the Indiana Derby (gr. II) is Sumo, a horse we held in high regard last winter at Tampa Bay. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus  is back in form after an impressive score in an overnight stakes at Saratoga, and he could make his presence felt here. So too could Flat Bold, who ran a sneaky good race in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), but was unwisely dropped back to a sprint in a very tough King’s Bishop (gr. I) field and tired badly after making a brief threatening move nearing the top of the stretch. He should relish the stretch-out back to 1 1/8 miles.


How Gio Ponti  handles the 1 1/2 miles in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) likely will determine whether he points for the BC Turf or Classic.


We should get a decent gauge on the Europeans through Moneycantbuymelove in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT). The daughter of Pivotal, trained by Michael Bell, is improving fast and is coming off a solid third to the top-class Midday in the group I Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. In her two previous starts, she won a pair of listed stakes, and gets Lasix for the first time. Regular rider Jamie Spencer comes in for the mount.