Jean-Claude Rouget may have more than just Sottsass in his stable to aim at the Arc after Port Guillaume landed the Group 2 Prix Hocquart at Deauville.
An impressive three-length victory for the 11/8 favourite gave his trainer a record-equaling win in the extended 1m 4f contest for three-year-olds. Rouget and Andre Fabre now share most victories in the race with seven apiece.
Port Guillaume ran prominently throughout, turning away the wide racing British Godolphin raider Volkan Star who was soon cooked under James Doyle.
This Le Harve colt lost his unbeaten record when a staying on fifth to Mishriff in the Prix du Jockey Club last time out. Port Guillaume cashed in on the ease in grade here, however.
Ketil, an 18/1 shot who played up going into the stalls, was best of the rest. Pascal Bary’s charge not only reversed Longchamp form with Volkan Star but held off Pao Alto by a nose for second.
Such a taking victory in the Prix Hocquart has seen the Arc odds for Port Guillaume cut from a pre-race top-price of 40/1 into 25/1 best with Betfair and shorter elsewhere.
Rouget must now plot a route to Longchamp’s showpiece that keeps him apart from Sottsass. Last year’s Arc third is a top-price 16/1 with Unibet to go two places better on 4 October.
The obvious path for Port Guillaume is a run over course and distance in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris on 13 September. That event is age restricted, whereas Sottsass has the Prix Foy or Irish Champion Stakes on his radar.
Analysis: Port Guillaume a lively outsider for the Arc
Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor
Port Guillaume shaped as though he wanted further in the Prix du Jockey Club. When he got an extra test of stamina here in the Prix Hocquart, the bookmakers were right and he was up for it.
All that is missing from his CV now is a Group 1 prize. Going to the Arc without one would be a mistake. However, his decisive Deauville victory suggests that he can get one.
There are horses with higher profiles than Port Guillaume going for the Arc. Think dual winner Enable and double Classic heroine Love in Britain and Ireland for starters.
Only two three-year-old colts have landed the Arc since Sea The Stars in 2009. They were Workforce the following year and Golden Horn in 2015.
The prevailing trend is not such much them winning at five-year intervals as fillies making hay in the Arc. Zarkava (2008), Danedream (2011), Solemia (2012), Treve (2013 and 2014), Found (2016) and Enable (2017 and 2018) prove that.
Over the last 12 years, the fillies have an Arc success rate of 75 per cent. Those aged three, like Love, get the maximum weight-for-age and sex allowances.
That puts race terms firmly in their favour. Port Guillaume just had colts for company in the Prix Hocquart, but this was a big step forward. His three previous wins were all in minor events.
On this evidence, he retains enough further scope to be a player in France’s big autumn races. You suspect that Rouget will end up readying more than one Arc contender!