Tasso team banking on some Frankie magic
Torquator Tasso could be in need of some Frankie Dettori magic if he is to secure back-to-back victories in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The Marcel Weiss-trained chestnut caused an almighty shock in Paris 12 months ago – pouncing late to become Germany’s third winner of the Arc after Star Appeal in 1975 and Danedream in 2011.
A Group Two victory on home soil and a runner-up finish in the King George at Ascot this summer have dispelled any notion last year’s success was a fluke – and with Dettori on board and the forecast soft ground of no concern, Torquator Tasso’s claims are clear.
His supporters will have been left cursing their luck after the five-year-old was drawn wide in stall 18 of 20 – but if any jockey is capable of overcoming what is seemingly a nightmare starting berth it is surely the popular Italian, whose tally of six Arc winners includes victories aboard Sakhee from stall 15 in in 2001 and Golden Horn from gate 14 in 2015.
“Torquator Tasso was in tremendous form when I flew over to ride him in work at Baden-Baden on Tuesday,” Dettori told his Sporting Index blog.
“He’s in great shape, any rain will help, and even though we’ve been drawn wide, I think we’ve got as good a chance as any if we get a nice trip.
“The draw isn’t ideal, but that’s what we’ve been dealt and there’s no point in complaining about it. We pulled off a miracle from a wide draw and trip on Golden Horn back in 2015 – I’ll never forget that one!
“He won’t mind the hustle and bustle at all, he stays well, is streetwise and handles testing conditions if the rain comes. He’s been second in a King George with some top-class horses in behind too, so there’s no issues with his form this season.”
Dettori was called up to ride Torquator Tasso for the first time in the Grosser Preis von Baden in early September, with his regular partner Rene Piechulek aboard Mendocino.
The latter came out on top by a head in what was a tactical affair and Weiss expects to see his stable star in a better light this weekend.
The Arc is one of those races, if you win it, you want to win it again - it's really like a drug
“The race was already decided after 200 metres because there was no pace in the race and the horse couldn’t get any cover,” said the trainer.
“It was a race that really went against us, Frankie tried to make the best of it by forcing the pace of the race early because Torquator Tasso needs some time to accelerate.
“Obviously this year it is a different experience. Last year we came into the Arc and we were an outsider, we were very relaxed, this year we’re going as one of the favourites.
“While last year we could have been happy to be placed, as much as I hate admitting it, this year if he’s not in the first three, we would be disappointed.”
“The Arc is one of those races, if you win it, you want to win it again – it’s really like a drug.”
Mendocino is drawn lowest of all in stall one and his trainer Sarah Steinberg is hoping her charge can complete the same double achieved by Torquator Tasso last autumn.
She said: “It’s very exciting. Mendocino is a late developer and for that reason we gave him some more time and didn’t run him in the (German) Derby last year.
“We waited for the autumn, especially because he likes soft ground, and he thanked us by finishing second to Alpinista. Following that second place, immediately the Arc became the target for this year.
“The race in Baden-Baden gave him a lot of confidence, he’s a very honest horse and he can’t wait for Sunday to arrive.
The home team is headed by Onesto and Vadeni – second and third respectively behind Aidan O’Brien’s ante-post favourite Luxembourg in the Irish Champion Stakes three weeks ago.
Onesto won the Grand Prix de Paris over the course and distance in July and trainer Fabrice Chappet is excited about his chances in Europe’s premier middle-distance contest.
He said: “He produced a remarkable performance in Ireland in a truly-run race, and one which enabled him to harness his turn of foot, which is his great strength.
“The colt has come out of the race in good order. He worked on Monday morning at the Piste des Reservoirs (training gallop), and his latest piece of work was very pleasing.
“He will have the advantage of having won over the Arc course. As for the ground, we hope, as with any horse of this class, that he will not be racing on extreme ground.”
Prior to placing in Ireland Jean-Claude Rouget’s Vadeni won the French Derby at Chantilly and the Eclipse at Sandown – and while it did not look likely for much of the season, connections have ultimately decided to roll the dice over a mile and a half for the first time.
Georges Rimaud, racing manager for owner the Aga Khan, said: “When you win the Prix du Jockey Club, you always hope to see that horse run in the Arc.
“It’s difficult to say what might have happened had he won in Ireland. You would always be tempted by the Arc and also he was not quite at 100 per cent in Ireland having come off a long break. Maybe he would have ended up in the Arc anyway.
“The horse has strengthened and improved. The Aga Khan’s stud is celebrating 100 years in racing, so it is very exciting to have a champion this year.”
Having previously come close with El Condor Pasa, Deep Impact, Nakayama Festa and twice with Orfevre, Japan has four runners in a bid to secure an elusive first Arc success.
The country’s leading hope appears to be Titleholder, who earlier this year became the first horse to win the Tenno Sho and the Takarazuka Kinen in the same season since Deep Impact 16 years ago.
Trainer Toru Kurita said: “The horse has really improved, not only physically but also mentally this year, and he has confirmed to us that he has speed that he can maintain over a long distance.
“At the beginning of the year the Arc was a dream, and when he won the Tenno Sho it was still a dream. But after his last win in the Takarazuka Kinen, which is over the same trip as the Arc, that was when it became a reality.
“We thought there were only a few weeks between the Arc trials and the Arc and we decided to give him a bit of a break instead of running twice over that short time.
“Even though he has not had a prep race close to the Arc, the basis of his training has been completed and he will be ready.”
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