Tarnawa’s credentials impressive as Weld targets crowning glory to 50-year career

Godolphin’s pair of Derby winners, Hurricane Lane and Adayar, pose major threat

 Tarnawa, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, crosses the finish line to win the Breeders Cup Turf at Keenland last November  in Lexington, Kentucky. Photograph:  Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Tarnawa, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, crosses the finish line to win the Breeders Cup Turf at Keenland last November in Lexington, Kentucky. Photograph: Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

 

Dermot Weld hopes that building Tarnawa’s 2021 campaign around Sunday’s €5 million Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe will pay off with success in Paris on Sunday.

Renowned as a global racing pioneer, the Curragh trainer’s stellar CV famously includes a pair of Melbourne Cup victories as well as being the only European to win a leg of the US Triple Crown.

Now, 40 years after first trying to win the Arc, Weld surely has his finest chance yet of finally landing Europe’s most coveted all-aged race.

The late Pat Smullen wore the Aga Khan’s silks on Harzand to win the Epsom Derby for Weld five years ago but the colt subsequently failed in the Arc.

Now those colours will be worn by Christophe Soumillon when Tarnawa lines up in the 100th renewal of European racing’s other defining contest which is off at 3.05 Irish-time and is live on both Virgin Media 1 and ITV.

The scale of the challenge can be gauged by the fact that just four trainers based in Ireland have ever landed the Arc.

Vincent O’Brien won three – beginning with Ballymoss in 1958. Sea The Stars and Sinndar scored for John Oxx in the noughties. Aidan O’Brien has also been successful twice while Seamus McGrath saddled Levmoss to a shock win in 1969.

Ever since his first attempt with Blue Wind in 1981, Weld has been trying to join that exclusive company and in Tarnawa bookmakers reckon he has his best shot to date. It’s hard to quibble with them too because since she won the Prix de l’Opera on last year’s Arc programme the five-year-old mare has been pointed towards a Longchamp return.

She finished 2020 breaking Weld’s duck at the Breeders Cup in America and only returned to action in August with a win at Leopardstown that preceded an unlucky second to the wayward St Mark’s Basilica in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Weld repeatedly stressed how even that prestigious contest was a prep’ for her ultimate target and Tarnawa’s credentials are impressive even in the context of a 15-strong field that includes a three-pronged Ballydoyle attack.

Proven over course and distance in last year’s Vermeille, Tarnawa won the Opera on similar testing ground conditions to those expected this weekend. A stall three draw is another plus.

Classic winners

What makes for a particularly open-looking Arc is a trio of classic winners that includes Aidan O’Brien’s record-breaking Oaks heroine Snowfall.

Beaten in her course and distance warm-up three weeks ago, the evidence of Snowfall’s 16 length Epsom rout during the summer suggests soft going will be a help to the Ballydoyle No.1.

She is backed up by last year’s Oaks winner Love and another stable companion in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Broome.

If some bookmakers are going just 5-4 about a ninth Irish Arc success then the main barrier looks to be Godolphin’s pair of Derby winners, Adayar and Hurricane Lane.

The latter, winner of the Irish Derby in June, bids to become the first three year old to complete the St Leger-Arc double. He will relish soft ground and has also won the Grand Prix de Paris over course and distance.

Yet it would have been a surprise if Godolphin’s No 1 rider William Buick hadn’t opted for Adayar.

He might have been third-string at Epsom but ultimately won with authority on an easy surface. That ground conditions were much quicker when successful in the King George during the summer testifies to Adayar’s quality.

In the past just two horses –Mill Reef (1971) and Lammtarra (1995) –have completed the Derby, King George and Arc hat-trick.

The Japanese pair Chrono Genesis and Deep Bond are an unknown factor going into Europe’s richest race.

Chrono Genesis’s form with Mishriff from Dubai in the Spring theoretically puts her in the mix. Deep Bond won the Prix Foy from Broome but that gives him something to find. In comparison Tarnawa’s credentials appear near-bombproof.

The decision to opt for home ground knowledge by putting Soumillon up instead of Colin Keane will have stung the Irish champion although the logic is hard to argue with. So too is the logic behind the argument that Weld may be about to enjoy the crowning glory of a 50-year career.

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