Rouget banking on Raabihah’s freshness against Arc favourites

Last year, Jean-Claude Rouget was a little reticent about admitting that winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Sottsass was a lifetime ambition he had longed to fulfil.

However, lifting the Arc must have given him not only immense pleasure but also an appetite for more, as in an unexpected turnaround, he has rerouted Shadwell’s France-owned filly Raabihah, who finished fifth in the Arc last year, from the Prix de Royallieu.

It has to be said that the Arc was the reason why she was kept in training as a four-year-old, but a couple of below-par performances in the spring – beaten favourite in both the Group Three Prix Allez France and Group Two Prix Corrida – had initially forced her Pau-based trainer to rethink her programme.

“Yes, her very good performance in last year’s Arc was what decided us to keep her in training at the age of four,” confirms Rouget, who has always spoken very highly of the filly by 2009 Arc winner Sea The Stars.

“The original idea was to bring her back at four with the idea of having a proper go at the Arc. However, the spring didn’t go quite as expected and it’s not like we abandoned the idea of the Arc, but we changed the program to have the Prix Prix de Royallieu as her main target at the end of the season.

“She then ran twice in the summer when she seemed to be coming back into form. She ran in a Listed at Clairefontaine over one-mile-and-one-furlong, which is not her trip and where she was beaten by a Magny Cours, a very good horse and true miler.

“Then when she won the Group Two Prix de Pomone at Deauville, we knew we had her back and her work since has been just as good as it was last year.”

Raabihah’s record in 2021

Group Three Prix Allez France – 2nd

Group Two Prix Corrida – 2nd

Listed Pays d’Auge – 2nd

Group Two Prix de Pomone – 1st

It was in fact her final pieces of work that convinced her trainer to cast his eye back onto the original target, rather than the Prix de Royallieu, a Group One over one-mile-and-six-furlongs for fillies and mares only.

He informed connections of his wish to run her in the Arc and it shows great sportsmanship of Sheikha Hissa [Shadwell chair] to give her another shot at the French champion race, even though the Prix de Royallieu would have been the “safer” option.

“There are lots of horses in the Arc, which have had a long season and we are banking on her freshness to make a difference,” says Rouget. “You cannot win if you don’t run.

“She is in really good form. Amongst others, she worked with Coeursamba ten days ago and it was really that gallop that convinced us to go for the Arc.

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Sky Sports Racing’s Jamie Lynch and Martin Kelly discuss whether Oaks star Snowfall can bounce back from disappointment in the Prix Vermeille to win Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

“I’m not someone who talks up horses and I will admit that it is more my decision than the owner’s or Angus Gold’s [Shadwell racing manager] decision, but I hope I won’t disappoint them.

“For me, she is in the same form she was last year when she produced a good performance in the Arc. She was a bit further back than ideal in the race last year and if you look at it again, she was the fastest finisher.

“Obviously, she is not going to be one of the favourites, but she can beat the favourite thanks to being fresh and being able to handle the ground.”

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Journalist Naohiro Goda is confident that the Japanese challengers in this year’s Arc, Chrono Genesis and Deep Bond, hold their best chance of a first-ever success in the ParisLongchamp feature

Rouget hoping Paris brings best from Coeursamba

As to Coeursamba, who was this year’s surprise winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches when she beat 1,000 Guineas winner Mother Earth by a length and a quarter, she is lining up at the start of the Group Two Prix Daniel Wildenstein over a mile, which is run on Saturday and looks like it will be just as competitive as the Arc.

“It was a bit of a surprise when she produced quite an impressive turn of foot to win the race from some good fillies,” her trainer admits thinking back to the French classic.

“She was last seen in the Prix Rothshild where I did have some concerns as it is run over the straight course and Cristian (Demuro, jockey) did say afterwards that she was looking for a bend.

“I think ParisLongchamp is better for her. She runs so well at ParisLongchamp and I hope that she can produce another good performance at the end of the season.”

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Watch the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe from ParisLongchamp live on Sky Sports Racing on Sunday, October 3 at 3pm

Rouget is also hoping that he is able to start HH Aga Khan’s weekend off with a winner, when he saddles Saiydabad in the Group Two Prix Dollar.

He had great hopes for the three-year-old son of Blame in the Group One Prix du Jockey Club where he unfortunately found himself at the back of the field, a position that was difficult to come back from.

He did produce a great run in the straight to finish fourth, but the winner by that time had already flown. He then disappointed in the Grand Prix de Paris before making a victorious in the Group Three Prix du Prince d’Orange in September when he was dropped back in trip.

“I have a good feeling about going into the Dollar with him,” his trainer says now. “I think it was a ‘bad’ good idea to run him in the Grand Prix de Paris, as I don’t actually think he stays the mile and a half.

“When he came back in September over a middle distance he did really well and so I think that running over one-mile-and-one-furlong will suit him. If the ground was to go heavy on Saturday it wouldn’t suit him, but good to soft ground would be best.”

Soft conditions will also suit Green Fly, a son of Frankel, who is his final runner on Saturday. He is entered in the mile Haras de Bouquetot-Criterium Arqana.

“Green Fly goes well in the soft, contrary to what I believed in the beginning of the year. I realised that he didn’t go that fast on good ground I think he has a chance. I do like this colt.”