Bay Bridge camp buoyed by Stoute’s desire to go for Arc glory

By Sports Desk September 29, 2023

Bay Bridge has connections dreaming of Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe glory as he heads to ParisLongchamp for a blockbuster renewal of the European middle-distance championship.

Bay Bridge lowered the colours of the all-conquering Baaeed when scooping Champion Stakes gold at Ascot last year, but the proven Group One performer will be making just his second start over a mile and a half in the French capital on Sunday.

Course experience was banked when third in the Prix Ganay earlier in the season and the final piece of the Bay Bridge jigsaw was completed when proving his suitability over the 12-furlong trip with an emphatic success in the September Stakes earlier this month.

That Kempton event has been used as a timely stepping stone to Paris in the past and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old fared best of the British challengers during Thursday’s draw in stall six – the spot that has provided the most Arc success this century.

“We’re heading there and hoping for a good result,” said John O’Connor of Ballylinch Stud, who own the horse in conjunction with breeder James Wigan.

“We think based on his last run that he gets a mile and a half. He’s well proven over a mile and a quarter, but he appears to get a mile and a half well enough judged on the September Stakes, which has been used as a Prix de l’Arc prep previously by Enable. So it’s a proven path if you like.”

Remarkably Stoute has just one Arc victory on his illustrious CV, but few in the training ranks possess a wealth of experience as great as the master of Freemason Lodge.

And it is the 77-year-old’s desire to run in the race which has given his owners the belief their charge could make his mark in one of the year’s most fiercely competitive contests.

“He’s a very good horse, but obviously the Arc is a very difficult race to win,” added O’Connor.

“It’s regularly the highest-rated race in the world and we’re under no illusions that it is a competitive race and hard to win.

“But we think he is in there with a good chance and he’s trained by a maestro who has already won the race, so he knows what it takes to win it. He’s keen to run him and we’re happy to go along with that.

“Everyone knows how hard it is to win the race, but we’re going to give it a shot.”

Stoute’s sole Arc victory came curtesy of Workforce who carried the famous Juddmonte silks to victory in 2010 and the Abdullah family’s racing operation – who have enjoyed Arc glory with Enable in the last 10 years – will be optimistic of celebrating another triumph with the Ralph Beckett-trained Westover.

“We’re looking forward to it and he’s in good form at home,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for the owners.

“His preparations have gone really well, both Ralph and Rob (Hornby, jockey) are really happy with him and as I say, he’s had a smooth run into it.”

A winner of the Irish Derby at three, he has taken his form skywards this term, finishing no worse than second in four starts, all at Group One level.

The son of Frankel has already tasted success in France at Saint-Cloud earlier in the season and having got bogged down in deep ground when sixth in this race last season, conditions should suit this time ahead of his second bite of the Arc cherry.

“He’s a better horse now at four, both physically and mentally, and is in a good place,” continued Mahon.

“He’s been to France and Dubai this year and travelling doesn’t seem to bother him and hopefully that is a plus.

“He’s obviously had two hard runs his last two races and we probably won’t see the full effect of them, if there is any, until he runs on Sunday.

“But the ground looks like it will be better than last year which will suit and he has had his few days away (racecourse gallops) and a break since the King George. There have been no blips along the way and hopefully that will equate to a good run on Sunday.”

Westover was last seen going down valiantly in defeat as Owen Burrows’ Hukum prevailed in a thrilling finish to the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Both horses have not been seen since as their respective trainers elected to send their candidates across the Channel with a full petrol tank and despite a tough draw in stall 14 to overcome, connections of Hukum are keen to see how the thriving five-year-old fares against a talented cast of rivals.

“It’s very exciting, Owen decided to keep him fresh (after Ascot) hoping to get him there in good shape,” explained Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell.

“There’s a reason it is one of the best races in the world, it is very hard to win.

“It will be fascinating this year to see if the two really good French three-year-olds and the likes of Continuous and Fantastic Moon are good enough to take on the older horses. That is the interesting puzzle this year and obviously we won’t know until Sunday.

“It’s very exciting to go out there with a chance, it’s a shame about the draw but there is nothing we can do about that so we are just going to have to work our way around it, hope for a little bit of luck, and see how we get on.”

Aidan O’Brien has won Europe’s richest middle-distance contest twice in the past and his St Leger hero Continuous is the sole Ballydoyle contender this time around, dropping back in trip following his Doncaster Classic triumph.

Only two weeks have passed since his victory on Town Moor, but O’Brien is confident the son of Heart’s Cry will justify connections decision to supplement the colt into the contest at a cost of £120,000.

O’Brien said: “Every horse is different and every year is different, but it is two weeks and it is quick enough for going back. You’d prefer three or four weeks really, but I suppose he has been busy and he’s a hardy type of horse now. Obviously we’re hoping, he seems to be in good form.

“You’re obviously never sure when you turn around that quick and he is only a three-year-old, but he’s a hardy, mature horse. He’s done plenty of racing and he has had breaks in between his runs.

“We’re very hopeful, he’s a good, strong traveller, he’s relaxed and he’s got form in all types of ground and he is tactically quick enough, but you never know until you do it, really.

“He’s not dislike (2016 winner) Found, he’s a good, strong traveller. He handles fast ground and he does quicken and gets the trip very well. He probably gets the trip better, Found just got a mile and a half but this horse won a Leger so obviously gets further. But class might have helped him do that and not stamina.”

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