Sir Mark Prescott pictured with Alpinista© Photo Healy Racing
Alpinista heads into Sunday's Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp on the back of five straight Group One wins and will bid to give veteran Newmarket trainer Sir Mark Prescott a career highlight.
It was in one of those top level victories in Germany last year that she beat Torquator Tasso, who subsequently won the Arc 12 months ago. It was at that point the form buffs began to sit up and take notice of Prescott’s mare.
While it is unusual for a multiple Group One winner to still be in training at the age of five, her owner Kirsten Rausing felt she would have to win elsewhere to get the recognition she deserved.
Her season did not get under way until the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July, but she won that easy enough and then disposed of this year’s Oaks winner, Tuesday, at York.
Now it is the big one. A race both Rausing and Prescott would love to win and while it may have been some time since the last five-year-old mare took the laurels, Arc winners Enable (2018), Solemia (2012) and Sea The Stars (2009) all broke from her same berth in stall six.
“She’s drawn in six and the experts say that’s not too bad. I’ll have to hope they are right,” said Prescott.
“I haven’t looked into winning stalls yet, I’m still a bit put off from doing my own research as the last thing I looked for was the last five-year-old mare that won — and it was 1937!
“I don’t suppose many have tried having won five Group Ones, but on the other hand, those that had would normally be retired by now.”
While Prescott admits her two wins this season have brought her more recognition, he wonders how much more is left in the locker.
“So far she has got better and better with age, but can you do it again? That’s the question. They all reach a ceiling and it’s a case of ‘have we got there yet?,” he said.
“Her two wins this year have been her two most high-profile ones, certainly. But those German races last year were perhaps better than we realised.
“There were people pitying me and Miss Rausing, saying those German races didn’t really amount to much. Then, after the Arc, they were asking why she hadn’t run in it! It was all those who had been decrying the form!”
While Alpinista does handle soft ground, Prescott does not feel she needs it to be seen at her best.
“All of us trainers are like farmers, really. When it comes to the ground we are never quite happy,” he said.
“I wouldn’t know what to make of the Japanese horses, you wouldn’t have thought they’d want the ground too soft but you just wouldn’t know. Obviously they are all good horses in their own right.
“I’m just taking the view that our horse is there, we were always going to be whether Mr Haggas ran Baaeed or not, we said we’d have a go at it this year and her whole year has been geared around it, so we’re going.
“I’m going, as Miss Rausing has insisted — despite it being sales season!”
Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg is likely to go off favourite having been beaten just once in his career — in the 2000 Guineas. He missed the Derby with an injury but has been brought back expertly by his trainer and landed the Irish Champion Stakes last time out. He will race over the trip for the first time.
“The plan was always to start in the Guineas and then maybe go to the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby, but he pulled a muscle behind after the Guineas and he had to have a good, long break,” said O’Brien.
“He was just about ready for his first run at the Curragh and he was trained hard for his second run in Leopardstown.
“Obviously his work hasn’t been as hard from Leopardstown to Longchamp because of the nature of the races, but he seems in good shape at the moment.
“We always thought a mile and a quarter/mile and a half would be well within his compass and we had it mapped out that he would go from the Guineas to the Derby — we always felt that that would really suit him.
“Leopardstown was a perfect race after the Royal Whip. He put his head down and fought hard to the line, so we were very happy with that.”
O’Brien also runs Broome, winner of the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot in June.
Westover won the Irish Derby in fine style but has not been seen since disappointing in the King George. His connections shunned the St Leger to run in the Arc.
“It’s all systems go with Westover. We’re looking forward to it. His preparation has gone well,” said trainer Ralph Beckett.
“I’m very happy with the draw (seven) for Westover. Draws are all very well if you are good enough. You wouldn’t want a wide draw.
“All preparations have gone as well as can be expected. He is very well. Let’s hope he is good enough.”
Barry Mahon, racing manager for owners, Juddmonte, said: “Stall seven looks nice. I don’t know historically how it’s gone, but I don’t think anyone has any complaints with the draw.
“The horse is in good form, Ralph is happy and Rob (Hornby, jockey) is happy. Let’s just hope he gives a good account of himself on the day.
“We have no doubt the ability to do it is there and if we get a bit of luck in running and it plays out nicely, hopefully we’ll be in with a good shout.
“The first couple of furlongs are important and you see where you’re going to slot in. After that you need to get the gaps and you need the luck.
“It’s a very wide-open race. I think Luxembourg and Vadeni are two top-class colts, as is Mishriff. The Japanese horses look very strong and then you have last year’s winner Torquator Tasso.
“It is a strong renewal and it will be interesting to see how we compare.”
John and Thady Gosden run both Mishriff and Mostahdaf, but neither fared well in the draw, receiving berths 17 and 16 respectively, while William Haggas’ Alenquer is among the outsiders.