By Jon Lees
France: Ronan Thomas rode his first G1 winner only in July but on Sunday the 42-year-old finally has a shot at winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when he makes his debut in the big race after nearly 20 years in the saddle on In Swoop.
Thomas will partner the three-year-old colt, on whom he lifted the Deutsches Derby, for trainer Francis Graffard and owners Gestut Schlenderhan before the Frenchman steered him into second place behind Mogul in the Grand Prix de Paris on the Arc trials card three weeks ago.
In Swoop’s odds have tumbled during the week in expectation that he would be one of the challengers best equipped to deal with likely testing ground at ParisLongchamp – conditions that have ruled out longtime ante-post favourite Love.
“It’s a bit unbelievable,” said Thomas, who also has a chance in the Prix de l’Abbaye on Air De Valse. “A couple of months ago I could not have imagined I would be lucky enough to have two great horses to ride this weekend.
“I have always thought In Swoop was a good horse who has a good chance in this fantastic race, but we have always had a lot of respect for the queen Enable and the fantastic three-year-old Love.
“For us it was good news when we heard Love was scratched. It’s one less horse for us to worry about.”
In Swoop, who starts from stall one in the Arc, has raced only four times in his life. The son of fellow German Derby winner Adlerflug got up late to win in Hamburg and was finishing well when beaten two and a half lengths on Arc trials day.
“We were very happy with that because before the race we didn’t really know where we were going,” said Thomas. “We ran against the horse that won the Epsom Derby, another that ran in the Irish Derby, one that finished third in the French Derby so we had a match against horses that ran well in different Derbys in Europe.
“It was a very tough race so we were very proud of him when he finished a very good second, particularly with the last 200 metres when he showed a good turn of foot to get second place.”
The jockey went on: “We’ve got number one in the draw so that was a bit lucky because around us Enable got five, and a lot of horses with chances like Raabihah, Mogul and Sottsass have a small number so we have good horses to follow and then an open stretch. We will be thinking about having a clear race and get the best result.”
Looking at the testing conditions in Paris, Thomas added: “In Swoop has never run on such deep ground as we are likely to get. We keep our fingers crossed because he’s from a famous German family and normally they go in the ground. We hope he is bred for this.”
Air De Valse, trained by Corine Barande-Barbe, earned her start in the Abbaye after winning the G2 Prix du Petit Couvert under Thomas at ParisLongchamp on the Arc Trials card.
“She is looking in very good form,” said Thomas. “We know she always runs in the deep ground so that is not a matter for her. Glass Slippers won the Abbaye on similar going last year so maybe she is our main danger.”
Thomas has ridden nearly 900 winners in France, 15 of them in 2020. “It’s every French jockey’s dream to ride in the Arc,” he added. “It’s the most famous race of the season but difficult to find a horse good enough to start in the race.
“So I am very proud to finally have a ride. I am particularly lucky because with In Swoop I can not only ride in the race but ride in it with a good chance. It’s exciting to be at Longchamp and try to have the best result.”
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe betting (Ladbrokes): 6-5 Enable, 5 Stradivarius, 8 Sottsass, 10 In Swoop, 12 Serpentine, Japan, 14 Raabihah, Mogul, 16 Persian King, 33 Way To Paris, Gold Trip, 40 Sovereign, 66 Deirdre, 100 Chachnak, 200 Royal Julius
Prix de l’Abbaye betting (Ladbrokes): 9-4 Glass Slippers, 9-2 Make A Challenge, 15-2 Keep Busy, Liberty Beach, 9 Wooded, 11 Air De Valse, Lady In France, 12 Batwan, Archer’s Dream, 18 Livachope, 20 Sestilio Jet, 33 bar