Aidan O’Brien has raised doubts about the participation of Love in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, amid the prospect of significantly testing conditions in Paris on Sunday.
The Galileo filly has carried all before her this season, claiming the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket before adding the Oaks at Epsom and Yorkshire Oaks at York.
She has been aimed at the Arc since her victory on the Knavesmire in August – and with it an eagerly-anticipated showdown with the John Gosden-trained Enable, who is looking to make history as the first horse to win the Arc three times.
But with the going reported to be very soft and an unsettled forecast before the weekend, O’Brien told the Daily Mirror: “When you start getting into extremes – especially when you start talking about heavy ground in France – we have to be realistic.
“We have to make a decision at 9.30am on Friday. Nothing is on or off until we believe things are right.”
Frankie Dettori, meanwhile, insists the pressure is off as he prepares to bid for racing history again aboard Enable – 12 months on from what he describes as the worst disappointment of his career.
The brilliant mare will face a maximum of 15 rivals, after O’Brien’s Derby hero Serpentine was the only further entry at Wednesday’s supplementary stage.
Enable failed to complete an unprecedented Arc hat-trick last year, having to settle for second when agonisingly reeled in on rain-softened ground by Waldgeist deep inside the final furlong.
But as the Italian jockey prepares to try again, against a field set to contain Gosden’s own three-time Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, he explains last year’s deflating experience is helping to keep him calm.
“We have already achieved something historic by winning the King George for a third time,” he said, reflecting on the six-year-old’s successful 2020 campaign to date.
“Frankly, the pressure involved is less than last year, and it’s not because there will be fewer people in Paris (during Covid-19 crowd restrictions).
“It’s because we have already experienced disappointment. The three hours which followed last year’s defeat were the worst in my entire professional career, and I think that Enable was similarly downcast.”
As for the task ahead this time, Dettori – speaking before concerns about Love’s participation emerged – is mindful again of the challenge of anticipated soft ground – and respectful of the opposition.
“I’m praying that we will get drawn somewhere between one and eight,” he said.
“Rain is forecast, and the ground will most likely be heavy (but) I hope that we won’t experience extremes of going, as happened last year.
“There are two horses that like to go to the front – Serpentine and Sovereign.
“So taking up a good position will be ‘de rigueur’.
“The ground is a very important factor, and Enable has already shown that she can handle it.
“It’s a big plus – a bit like the (7lb) filly’s allowance that Love will be receiving.
“She will be coming into the Arc de Triomphe a bit like Enable did as a three-year-old, but having trodden a different path.”
Dettori predicts ground conditions will play a major part in everyone’s tactics, and may not in particular be to Love’s advantage.
“I hold her in high esteem, like everyone else,” he added.
“I have spoken with my colleagues and racing analysts – they say that a heavy track could count against Love, because her low-to-the-ground, fast action is better suited to good ground.
“Genuine heavy ground will turn the Arc into a stamina test – that will play to Stradivarius’ strengths – and, on the contrary, the distance may prove a bit long for Persian King, although anything trained by Andre Fabre warrants respect.
“There are other horses which shouldn’t be underestimated (too), such as Sottsass. He hasn’t had a hard campaign and boasts prior experience in the Arc de Triomphe (in third last year).”
O’Brien added Serpentine to his team at a cost of 72,000 euros, after being pleased with his first run since his runaway triumph at Epsom.
Serpentine blew away the cobwebs on his first public outing for 71 days when fourth to stablemate Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris over the Arc course and distance two and a half weeks ago.
Mogul, Japan and Sovereign complete the Ballydoyle trainer’s raiding party.
Fabre is the leading Arc trainer with eight victories and he looks to a ninth with Persian King, who will be stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.
He won the Prix du Moulin from Pinatubo over a mile on his latest start, and it has been announced Persian King will stand at the Haras D’Etreham Stud next year.
Other leading fancies include two more home hopes, In Swoop and Raabihah.