There are championship races and there are championship races. Some are manufactured and establish significance on account of monetary value; but others are steeped in history and prestige.
The Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp falls into the latter category and simply has always been essential in defining Europe’s champion middle distance horse. There is complete universal acceptance that the race’s history and roll of champions brooks no argument. One can feel the excitement and the weight of history as the field walks around the parade ring before the race. It is the ultimate test of nerve, stamina, speed and ability each October, with a cast of superstars that have failed in that final dramatic furlong or strode on to glory and turf history immortality.
Other races around the world have been introduced since the Arc first graced racing, but the race maintains its fascination and grip as the premier contest. Beware of pale imitations.
Naturally the Arc is a Group 1 contest, taking place over a mile and a half at Longchamp on the first Sunday each October. The race has earned its right to be considered the most prestigious race in the world and from 2014 it will become the richest on turf, following an increase in prize money which will top €5 million.
Appropriately, in 2003 a promotional poster for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, describes the event as “Ce n’est pas une course, c’est un monument” – “It’s not a race, it’s a monument”.
The Société d’Encouragement, a former governing body of French racing, had initially restricted its races to thoroughbreds born and bred in France. In 1863, it launched the Grand Prix de Paris, an event designed to bring together the best three-year-olds from any country. Thirty years later it introduced the Prix du Conseil Municipal, an international race for the leading horses of different age groups. It was run over 2,400 metres in October, with weights determined by a horse’s previous performances.
The creation of a third such race was proposed at a committee meeting on 24 January 1920. The new event would complement the Grand Prix de Paris and serve as a showcase for French thoroughbred breeding. It would have similar characteristics to the Prix du Conseil Municipal, but each horse would compete on equal terms, unpenalised for previous victories.
Coming in the wake of World War I, it was decided that the race would be named after the Arc de Triomphe, a famous monument which had been the scene of a victory parade by the Allies in 1919. The chosen title had been previously assigned to a minor event at Longchamp but this was to be a race run on a much grander scale.
The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was first run on Sunday 3 October 1920. The inaugural running was won by Comrade, a British trained 3 year old colt whose connections picked up 150,000 francs. Comrade set an important trend in motion as the first of many colts to win the Grand Prix De Paris and follow-up in the Arc, where he beat the 6 year old King’s Cross by a length.
A year later came the first superstar to win the Arc as Ksar completed the Prix Du Jockey Club-Arc double. He became the first horse to win the Arc twice when successful again in 1922.
In 1925 there was controversy as Cadum finished first past the post but was demoted to second place in favour of Priori whom he was deemed to have hampered. This was the first of 3 disqualifications in the race’s history.
In 1930 Motrico won the Arc de Triomphe and after a less than stellar stud career, found himself back on the racecourse. Remarkably trainer Maurice d’Okhuysen was able to get Motrico back to peak condition to successfully win his second Arc in 1932. A couple of years later another of the great French horses won the Arc as part of a glorious career. Brantôme was an outstanding juvenile who won the Prix Robert Papin, Grand Critérium and the Prix Morny. As a 3 year old he landed the French 2000 Guineas, the Prix Lupin and the Prix Royal-Oak, before going on to glory in the Arc.
In 1935, the event secured state funding by the means of a lottery, which awarded prizes according to the race result and the drawing of lots. The system was first used in 1936, and it continued until 1938.
This era saw another dual winner in the form of Corrida, who won back-to-back Arcs in 1936 and 1937, the first of 6 Arc victories for the race’s most successful owner, Marcel Boussac, who also won with: Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944), Caracalla (1946) and Coronation (1949).
Eclair au Chocolat won the 1938 renewal before the outbreak of World War II halted the race until 1941. That year the Arc resumed with victory for Le Pacha, who brilliantly clean swept the big three races open to 3 year old colts that year: the Prix du Jockey Club, the Grand Prix de Paris and the Arc, becoming one of only two horses in history to complete this trio of big race wins.
As a jockey, Charles Semblat had won 3 Arcs, thanks to Mon Talisman (1927), Pearl Cap (1931) and Motrico in 1932. Having taken out a trainer’s licence, Semblat went one better, winning the first of 4 Arc de Triomphes in this sphere through the brilliant Djebel in 1942. The grandson of the mighty Ksar was a champion 2 year old who won the Gimcrack Stakes and Middle Park Stakes in England and returned there to claim the 2,000 Guineas in 1940. As a 5 year old he won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud before landing the ultimate glory in the Arc de Triomphe.
As the War intensified, the 1943 and 1944 Arcs took place at Le Tremblay, with Verso II and Ardan successful, before racing resumed at Longchamp the following year. Caracalla and Migolli were notable winners immediately after the cessation of war and in 1949 Government funding of the Arc resumed. Offering an attractive jackpot of 50 million francs, this enabled a rapid increase of the prizes for both the “Arc” and its supporting races.
That 1949 renewal saw Charles Semblat win the last of his 4 Arcs as a trainer as the brilliant filly Coronation was successful. She had dead-heated in the French 1,000 Guineas before travelling to England and finishing second in the Oaks.
With the prize money for the 1949 renewal boosted from 5.2 million francs to nearly 29 million francs, the race was keenly contested by 28 runners from around the globe, in front of a reported 150,000 spectators. Coronation ran out an impressive 4 length winner of a race now firmly established in the public’s conscience.
The 1950’s began with the dual Arc winner Tantieme, who gave jockey Jacques Doyasbère the last of his joint-record 4 winners in the race: Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944), and Tantieme (1950 and, 1951).
His record is currently shared with Freddy Head – Bon Mot (1966), San San (1972), Ivanjica (1976) and Three Troikas (1979); Yves Saint-Martin: Sassafras (1970), Allez France (1974), Akiyda (1982) and Sagace (1984); Pat Eddery: Detroit (1980), Rainbow Quest (1985), Dancing Brave (1986) and Trempolino and Olivier Peslier: Helissio (1996), Peintre Celebre (1997), Sagamix (1998) and Solemia (2012).
Five years after Tantieme, came a horse with a reasonable claim to be the greatest of them all; the British bred, Italian trained Ribot. Unbeaten in 16 races, Ribot was bred by Italy’s leading Thoroughbred breeder, Federico Tesio and trained by Ugo Penco.
Having raced exclusively in Italy, Ribot’s first trip abroad came in the 1955 Arc de Triomphe, which he won under Enrico Camici by an uncontested 3 lengths from Beau Prince. Further victories followed in Italy and the following summer, Ribot was sent to Ascot for the relatively new race for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. His fourteenth race demonstrated just what a brilliant horse Ribot was as he put to the sword High Veldt and Todrai by an easy 5 lengths. After an easy 8 length swan song in Italy, Ribot headed back to Longchamp for the 1956 Arc, facing a stronger line-up than the previous year, which included: He faced a stronger field than in 1955, with the field including Talgo (Irish Derby), Tanerko, Fisherman, Career Boy, Master Boing (Washington, D.C. International) and Oroso. It made no difference to the brilliant 4 year old who hit the front as the field turned for home and shot 6 lengths clear for one final memorable victory. Oroso returned the following year and won the 1957 Arc de Triomphe, underlining the strength of Ribot’s form.
In 1958 Dr Vincent O’Brien claimed the first of his 3 victories in the race as the previous year’s Irish Derby and St Leger hero Ballymoss, crowned a memorable 4 year old season. He won the Coronation Cup, Eclipse Stakes and King George in the high summer and at Longchamp sauntered to a 2 length victory over Fric, in the capable hands of Scobie Breasley.
The decade ended with sensation as the 1959 Arc de Triomphe finished in a dead-heat between Midnight Sun and Saint Crespin, only for the former to be thrown out, charged with hampering his rival.
The new decade began with a familiar theme as an Italian colt Molvedo, a son of Ribot from his first crop, landed the Arc de Triomphe in fine style. But the next super star – and a horse worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Ribot, was about to emerge.
The 1965 Flat season was dominated by news about Seabird, a chestnut colt with a small white blaze down his face. The very smart 2 year old who was defeated just the once in the Grand Criterium, quickly emerged as a major Classic contender after winning the Prix Greffulhe on his seasonal debut. A 6 length victory in the Prix Lupin underlined his credentials and at Epsom, Sea Bird was coolness personified, ambling up to the leader Meadow Court before pressing on to an easy 2 length victory. Meadow Court would go on to win the Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, underlining the merit of Sea Bird’s performance.
After Epsom Sea Bird was rested until the Arc – and what a field he faced! The 1965 Arc de Triomphe proved a truly international contest with Meadow Court back for revenge, Preakness Stakes winner Tom Rolfe travelling over from America, French Derby winner Reliance, Prix de Diane winner Blabla and Russian Derby winner Anilin.
Sea Bird’s performance was quite extraordinary and remains one of the iconic images in the history of the Arc de Triomphe. Hitting the front in the home straight, the colt began to drift erratically to his left and towards the stands. Despite this dramatic sight – and the many lengths this must have cost Sea Bird, his jockey Pat Glennon patted him down the neck in the last 100 yards and he still won the race by a facile 6 lengths from Reliance. The field were absolutely strung out like washing and the third horse home was Diatome, some 5 lengths behind Reliance. Diatome went on to win the Washington D.C. International next time out, underlining the strength of the form!
In 1968, the magnificent colt Sir Ivor was defeated in the race by Vaguely Noble but a year later, there was an Irish winner as the stayer Levmoss outpointed Park Top in a thrilling finish.
If Sir Ivor’s defeat had been something of a surprise to many, there was a seismic shock in 1970. One horse above all others had dominated the Flat season, Dr Vincent O’Brien’s magnificent specimen Nijinsky. The son of Northern Dancer went to Longchamp unbeaten in 11 races and had become the first colt for 35 years to complete the English Triple Crown. In addition, Nijinsky had won the Irish Derby and had oozed class as he ran all over his older rivals (who included the previous year’s Derby winner Blakeney) in the King George at Ascot.
After Ascot Nijinsky had contracted ring worm and whilst Dr O’Brien got him to Doncaster for the St Leger, his 1 length victory over Meadowville was nowhere near as devastating as his earlier performances and came at a price.
Nijinsky was well back as the field entered the home straight and Lester Piggott, wary of the perils that lurked by trying for a run on the inside, took Nijinsky wide in the home straight, reaching the front pair of Miss Dan and Sassafras just inside the final furlong. Nijinsky came to win his race and maybe got his head in front for a few strides, before seeming to veer away from his rider’s whip. That gave Sassafras renewed impetus and the Prix du Jockey Club winner sensationally got back up on the line to end Nijinsky’s reign.
The following year saw another strong Epsom Derby winner bidding to go one place better than Nijinsky and Sir Ivor had managed. Mill Reef had been a brilliant juvenile and had been unbeaten since his comprehensive defeat by the brilliant Brigadier Gerard in the 2,000 Guineas in May. Since then Mill Reef had easily won the Derby, defeated Caro by 4 lengths in the Eclipse Stakes and then turned the King George into an absolute procession, beating Derby Italiano winner Ortis by 6 lengths. After a break Mill Reef returned at Longchamp and was at his imperious best, galloping 3 lengths clear of Pistol Packer to cap an exceptional 3 year old season.
A couple of years later Rheingold gained his biggest success in a career which had seen him finish a narrow second to Roberto in the previous year’s Derby. In the 1973 Arc de Triomphe, Barry Hills’s colt saw off the brilliant French filly Allez France, who had won the French 1,000 Guineas, Prix De Diane and Prix Vermeille.
Allez France remained in training in the familiar dark blue silks of Daniel Wildenstein and went unbeaten in 1974, winning the Prix Ganay, Prix D’Ispahan and Prix Foy, before winning the Arc.
Allez France was back at Longchamp in 1975 for another sensational Arc, which included that other outstanding French mare of the era Dahlia. However it was an unconsidered German trained colt who stole the show. Star Appeal had been trained by John Oxx in his early career but had made his way to Germany, where under the tutelage of his third trainer Theo Grieper, he developed into a Group 1 colt, winning the 1975 Eclipse Stakes. His victory in the Arc de Triomphe was a shock as he returned odds of 118/1 under jockey Greville Starkey.
In 1977 Her Majesty The Queen enjoyed tremendous racing success during her Silver Jubilee year, thanks largely to the exploits of the marvellous filly Dunfermline. The Major Dick Hern trained filly won the Oaks at Epsom and then should great reserves of stamina to add the St Leger. Her Doncaster win had come largely at the expense of a Dr O’Brien colt called Alleged, who was tasting defeat for the first and only time in his career on his sixth start.
Alleged was then sent to Paris for the Arc De Triomphe and put in a brilliant performance to make virtually all of the running, defeating Balmerino by 1 ½ lengths. The following year he remained in training and after a light campaign, was prepared for a second crack at the Arc. Once again Alleged proved peerless at Longchamp, defeating the fillies Dancing Maid and Trillion to become the fourth – and to date last horse to win 2 Arc de Triomphes.
The decade ended with the arrival of a new major force in French racing – and the bitter defeat of an Epsom Derby hero. Troy had breezed through the 1979 Flat season with majestic victories in the English and Irish Derbies, before beating the crack French Colt Gay Mecene in the King George and narrowly getting up to defeat Sexton Blake in the shorter Benson and Hedges Gold Cup at York. For English racing fans, gathered en masse at Longchamp, defeat for Troy was inconceivable. However not for the first time, the Arc script was torn up.
Criquette Head-Maarek was very much a pioneering force in French racing and was starting to make a real name for herself as the daughter of Alec Head and the sister of Freddie Head assembled a team of quality equines from her Chantilly training base. Her pride and joy was the outstanding filly Three Troikas, who had won the French 1,000 Guineas and been narrowly defeated in the Prix De Diane. She made full amends with victory in the Prix Vermeille but her defeat of Troy – in the hands of brother Freddy Head, catapulted Criquette Head (as she was then) to international prominence, where she has remained ever since. To this day she remains the only female trainer to have trained the winner of the race.
Troy’s defeat was a bitter blow for trainer Major Hern and jockey Willie Carson and further heart break was to follow the next year. Ela Mana Mou had been one of Troy’s main English rivals during that 1979 season, whilst trained by Guy Harwood. The colt was purchased by Lord Weinstock ahead of the 1980 Flat season and the bonny 4 year old went on a winning spree, landing the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Eclipse Stakes and the King George. He was considered a sure thing by many English fans, just as Troy had the previous year. Sadly the similarities did not end there either and as the field galloped down the home straight, Ela Mana Mou looked to have every chance. However late on he was passed by Three Troikas who in turn was swamped by the fast-finishing Detroit down the outside. Detroit swept into the lead and held on from the late finishing Argument with Three Troikas and Ela Mana Mou not beaten far. It was a magnificent victory for Pat Eddery in the Robert Sangster silks which Alleged had sported two years earlier.
The stayer Gold River proved a surprise winner of the 1981 Arc de Triomphe, a race stacked with outstanding horses including Bikala, April Run, Ardross, Blue Wind, King’s Lake and Beldale Flutter. A year later Ardross was back at Longchamp, having landed his second Gold Cup at Ascot and dominated the stayer’s division in England. The chief threat appeared to come from Assert, the brilliant winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and Irish Derby, while Bikala and April Run were fancied by many to go close again. A fast tempo set the race up perfectly for late finishers it seemed but as the field hit the home straight, Yves Saint-Martin moved Akiyda into the lead, having sat patiently behind the early pace-setters. The filly had to dig deep and clung on as Ardross agonisingly closed with every stride, finding the winning post arrived just too soon for victory. Awaasif and April Run finished close behind Sir Henry Cecil’s gallant stayer but the victory had defied him as Akiyda took the plaudits.
By 1983 English trained runners had endured a succession of narrow defeats. It appeared that the logical way to break to hoodoo was to send a formidable task force of top class runners and that is exactly what happened as the Oaks and St Leger winner Sun Princess (once again representing Major Hern and Willie Carson) was joined by crack 4 year old Diamond Shoal, King George winner Time Charter and the Great Voltigeur Stakes winner Seymour Hicks. From Ireland came the magnificent race mare Stanerra, who was joined by Dr O’Brien’s top class 3 year old colt Salmon Leap.
Racing into the home straight, Carson took up the running on the stamina-filled Sun Princess and it looked for much of the stretch as though she was going to do it. However, getting the perfect run up the rails was All Along, a relatively unconsidered filly, whom Lester Piggott had passed over the ride on. Instead it was 21 year old Walter Swinburn who pushed the filly through into the lead late on to once again agonisingly deny an English winner. Luth Enchantee finished third, just ahead of Time Charter, as for the fifth year running the race went to a female – and in fact all four places did in 1983.
All Along went on to prove that her Paris success was just the starting point of a glorious autumn which saw her ship out to North America and win the Rothmans International at Woodbine, the Turf Classic at Aqueduct and the Washington D.C. International Stakes at Laurel. In all she won four major international races in the space of just 41 days, making her the first horse to win the three prestigious North American races in a row, netting a million-dollar bonus for her owners and Horse of the Year honours in both France and the United States.
All Along was back to defend her Arc crown in 1984 in the famous Wildenstein colours in another field stuffed full of high quality horses. From England, Sun Princess and Time Charter were back again, along with the top class 3 year old colt Rainbow Quest, who had placed fourth in the English 2,000 Guineas, a close third to Darshaan and Sadlers Wells (both in the field) in the Prix du Jockey Club and second to El Gran Senor in the Irish Derby. On his most recent run, Rainbow Quest had slaughtered his rivals in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.
Ireland was represented by Sadlers Wells who had won the Irish 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes, while Princess Pati had won the Irish Oaks.
However the British and Irish runners never got a blow in as another Wildenstein horse, the lightly raced 4 year old colt Sagace, came through in the latter stages to outpoint the brilliant Prix De Diane winner Northern Trick, with ex-Australian colt Strawberry Road back in third.
It began to look as if British trained winners of the Arc were an endangered species, with none produced since Rheingold’s 1973 success. Sagace was strongly expected to win his second Arc de Triomphe in 1985 but Rainbow Quest was back in France, having exuded class in the Coronation Cup before two fine efforts when second to Pebbles in the Eclipse Stakes and third to Petoski and Oh So Sharp in the King George. Also in the line-up was Shernazar, Sir Michael Stoute’s full brother to Shergar, who was unbeaten in 1985 and had most recently defeated Slip Anchor in the September Stakes at Kempton Park.
As the field turned for home though, the race seemed to lie between Sagace and Rainbow Quest and the two horses settled down for a terrific scrap up the Longchamp straight, with Sagace just holding the English trained colt at the line. It seemed we had another back-to-back winner but a look at the replay caused consternation and Pat Eddery objected to winning jockey Eric Legrix. The horses had bumped on more than one occasion early in the straight and the French Stewards deemed the incidents to be the fault of Sagace who was sensationally demoted in favour of Jeremy Tree’s colt. Rainbow Quest had won the Arc in the silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah and England’s barren run was over!
It did not take long for England, Eddery or the Prince to have a second success. The 1986 Arc remains indelibly imprinted on the minds of anyone who saw the race live on the track or on television. It was surely one of the races of the entire decade and burns brightly in the memory today.
Dancing Brave was already considered a superstar racehorse in England but needed to repeat the feat that Rainbow Quest had achieved, but so few British horses before him in the previous quarter of a century. Guy Harwood’s son of Lyphard had won the Craven Stakes before showing impressive raw power and speed to win the 2,000 Guineas in the manner of a really exciting colt. At Epsom he had become unbalanced racing down Tattenham Hill and with too much ground to make up, failed narrowly, after delivering an exhilarating run down the home straight which agonisingly brought him to the leader Shahrastani a few strides too late. As that colt blitzed his rivals in the Irish Derby, Dancing Brave headed to Sandown Park and again displayed a brilliant turn of foot to dispose of Triptych and Bedtime. Next up came the big rematch with Shahrastani in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot. Also in the line-up was the Hardwick Stakes winner Dihistan, the previous year’s winner Petoski, Triptyh was there again, along with Supreme Leader – and the exciting older colt Shadari.
However, ridden by Pat Eddery for the first time, any doubts as to who was the best middle distance colt in Britain, were quickly dispelled – along with any stamina concerns, as Dancing Brave went on around a furlong from home and maintained his gallop as Shadari challenged. Shahrastani was well beaten in fourth as Triptych took third place – and there was the proof that Dancing Brave had been unlucky to lose at Epsom. After a break Dancing Brave reappeared at Goodwood in September and oozed class as he eased to a facile 10 length victory over inferior rival in his Arc warm-up.
At Longchamp however, Dancing Brave would be facing one of the strongest Arc line-ups ever assembled. Shahrastani, Shadari, Dihistan and Triptych were all in there. From Germany came the prolific German Derby and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Acatenango, while the Japanese colt Syrius Symboli was also in the field. France relied on two top class fillies in Mersey and Darara. Also in the field however, was the one 3 year old colt who threatened to overshadow Dancing Brave, Criquette Head-Maarek’s brilliant, flashy chestnut Bering. The colt had been absolutely brilliant in winning the Prix du Jockey Club and after a break, had returned as good as ever in the Prix Niel, extending his unbeaten run for the season to four.
Dihistan took the field along from Baby Turk and Nemain in the early stages, with Dancing Brave towards the rear of the field. Acatenango came to join the leaders as the field passed the trees down the back straight but was still headed by Baby Turk, dictating the pace.
Baby Turk and Nemain led the German colt, Dihistan and Shadari into the home straight, but Triptych, Shahrastani and wider still Bering were beginning their runs in what looked a wide open Arc.
As Shadari came to join Nemain and Baby Turk, the field were spread across the track in a fleeting spectacular sight, with Acatenango next to the rails, Darara and Shahrastani almost all in a line with the leaders and Bering closing down the wide outside with every stride.
Shadari went on with around a furlong to race but his lead was short-lived as Bering’s run swept him majestically into the lead and on his way to Arc glory. Yet even as Bering was sprinting into the lead, it quickly became apparent that he too was a target for Dancing Brave, under a remarkably cool ride from Pat Eddery – and now with yards to run, delivered with surgical precision to unleash that tremendous raw power that devoured all rivals.
In a dramatic finale, Bering edged into the lead with Triptych finishing fast on the inside, Shahrastani, Shadari and Darara also in the mix. But Dancing Brave’s momentum was simply irresistible and as Bering faltered late on, Dancing Brave raced through in breathtaking fashion and imperiously then drew away from Bering!
It was an absolutely stunning performance by one of the great colts of the 20th Century. Sadly Bering suffered a fracture in that final dramatic half a furlong and had to be retired, enjoying a long and successful stud career. Dancing Brave could not quite end on a high point as he struggled to come to terms with the heat, track and rigours of a long season in Santa Anita. But there have been few Arc de Triomphes to compare with 1986.
The 1987 Arc de Triomphe as always brought together Europe’s finest horses, with the Epsom Derby and St Leger hero Reference Point strongly expected to end his career in glory in an unusually small field. Up against him was his Eclipse Stakes foe Mtoto, a colt with a murderous turn of foot, but slight stamina doubts. Reference Point’s stable companion Orban also took the test, as did the Prix du Jockey Club winner Natroun and Italian super star colt Tony Bin. The magnificent Triptych once again took her place in the line-up and Trempolino, a serial placed horse in the Group 1 races, looked an interesting and improving 3 year old colt who had landed the Prix Niel.
As per usual, Sir Henry Cecil’s colt Reference Point went into the lead early on and attempted to dictate matters under Steve Cauthen. The pair led the field into the home straight, tracked by Natroun, with Orban and Triptych handily placed, while Trempolino and Tony Bin brought up the rear. In all of his races Reference Point had always stretched and found plenty more when asked to by Steve Cauthen, but inside the final 2 furlongs at Longchamp, he began to paddle under pressure as Sharaniya and Orban came through to dispute the lead, while out wider still came Mtoto.
Then all of a sudden Pat Eddery and Trempolino burst through between horses and surged into the lead with great gusto, putting the race to bed with a single manoeuvre. Tony Bin gave chase but the bird had flown, while several lengths back in third came that gallant mare Triptych, just ahead of Mtoto. Reference Point finished down the field but it later transpired that he had suffered from an abscess on his foot. However Pat Eddery could not be denied a brilliantly timed ride which had resulted in a third consecutive Arc victory.
Mtoto, Tony Bin and Triptych stayed in training in 1988 and each would have their day in the sun. By the time that the Arc de Triomphe came around, Mtoto had established himself as the horse of the season in Britain, wining a second Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating among others Triptych to win a second Eclipse Stakes before memorably defeating Unfuwain in a terrific King George at Ascot, with Tony Bin a well beaten third.
At Longchamp, Mtoto was strongly expected to go three places better than in 1987, but faced a formidable field of 23 rivals, including the Epsom Derby and Oaks winners Kahyasi and Diminuendo, Unfuwain, Irish St Leger winner Dark Lomond, Prix du Jockey Club winner Hours After and of course old rivals Tony Bin and Triptych.
As the massive field charged past the woods, Mtoto and Tony Bin were settled towards the rear of the field, biding their time. As the field turned for home, the English challenger Emmson went into the lead from Boyatino, with Diminuendo and Unfuwain close enough if good enough. With a furlong to race Boyatino went on but Unfuwain started to close and wider still, Tony Bin absolutely flew down the home straight under John Reid, furiously followed by Michael Roberts on Mtoto.
The two older horses had weaved very different paths from the back of the field and whilst the Italian horse had got a clear run early in the straight, Mtoto’s challenge had been checked on more than one occasion, allowing his rival first run. That proved vital as Tony Bin stormed past Boyatino into the lead, only to be mercilessly cut down by the storming late finishing kick of Mtoto. But the line came too soon for Mtoto and his glorious career ended in a bitter and narrow defeat as the crowd hailed the first Italian winner for three decades.
The older horses held sway again in 1989 as Carroll House, winner of the Phoenix Champion Stakes on his previous run, put in the performance of his life. In a rough race, Michael Kinane held a prominent position, just behind the leaders and out of trouble, as the field turned for home, passing St Andrews and sprinting on to defeat Behera and give Michael Jarvis a famous victory in the Arc. He became the third British winner in the last 5 renewals, after such a long drought.
Sir Henry Cecil in many people’s eyes never came closer to training an Arc winner than when Ardross had been agonisingly touched off by Akiyda in 1982. But that is not strictly true, for he did train an Arc winner. Saumarez, a son of Rainbow Quest, was owned by NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky and Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team owner Bruce McNall. After a low key time of things in the spring of 1990, the colt was moved to France and the yard of Nicolas Clement. After winning the Grand Prix de Paris he became a serious Arc contender when following-up in the Prix du Prince d’Orange.
The strongly fancied English filly Salsabil led a strong British challenge for the race. She had won the Prix Marcel Boussac at the track the previous year before winning the English 1,000 Guineas and Oaks and then beating the colts in the Irish Derby. Salsabil had then added the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp, beating Miss Alleged by a neck.
But Salsabil was just one of a number of horses with strong claims, St Leger winner Snurge was in there, along with French Derby second Epervier Bleu, Champion Stakes winner Legal Case, King George and Great Voltigeur Stakes winner Belmez, the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Juddmonte International winner In The Groove and the powerful French 4 year old In The Wings.
Once again there was plenty of scrimmaging in the Arc as the field began to head towards the home turn, with Saumarez and Gerald Mosse handily placed in third place, just ahead of Belmez. As the pace makers gave way, Mosse kicked on Saumarez and went clear, with Snurge bursting through the middle of the pack to give chase, while out wider In The Wings began to make ground too. However Saumarez had plenty in hand and held on from the late finishing Epervier Bleu, who just denied Snurge for second place, with future Breeders’ Cup Turf winner In The Wings in fourth place.
The 1991 renewal proved a vintage Arc de Triomphe stacked full of Group 1 winners and the ultimate case of revenge. The summer had been dominated by the English and French Derby winners Generous and Suave Dancer, who had comprehensively won their respective Classics. There had been great excitement at the prospect of the pair going head to head in the Irish Derby at the Curragh, but Generous was a horse at the zenith of his powers and comprehensively defeated his French rival. Paul Cole’s gorgeous chestnut colt then routed the best older horses around with a stunning display in the King George and at the height of summer looked peerless.
Suave Dancer had returned to his stable in John Hammond’s French yard and was not seen out until September, when he was back to his brilliant best to easily defeat Environment Friend and Stagecraft in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Even so, the hoardes of British racing fans would not hear of defeat for Generous as they made their annual pilgrimage to Longchamp. The British raiding party that year was particularly strong, also featuring the 1990 Derby winner Quest For Fame, the brilliant 4 year old filly In The Groove and the 1990 St Leger winner Snurge. Ireland was represented by the runaway winner of the Epsom Oaks in Jet Ski Lady, while the latest St Leger winner Toulon, represented the top French trainer Andre Fabre. The French 3 year old colts were strongly represented too, with Suave Dancer joined by Prix Niel runner up Pistolet Bleu, who had returned from injury in September to finish second to Subotica.
As the field turned for home, the two Epsom Derby winners Generous and Quest For Fame were prominent, while against the rails Pistolet Bleu stormed through into the lead. Out wider Suave Dancer and Toulon lost ground on the bend but began their challenges. As Pistolet Bleu made the best of his way home, Generous disappointingly faded and the challenge came from Magic Night and Quest For Fame. Then suddenly and remorselessly, Suave Dancer began to show the acceleration that had carried him to a devastating victory in Prix du Jockey Club 4 months earlier. He stormed past his rivals in a completely different gear, making Pistolet Bleu and Magic Night look as though they were standing still. As Suave Dancer coasted to the line having done the hard work, Magic Night outstayed Pistolet Bleu for second place in another memorable Arc.
Injury had denied Subotica a crack at the Arc in 1991 but he returned the following spring to defeat old rival Pistolet Bleu and Suave Dancer in the Prix Ganay. Sadly Suave Dancer picked up an ankle injury and was retired shortly afterwards, while Subotica embarked upon a respectable if far from spectacular 4 year old career that failed to yield another victory. Andre Fabre’s white faced colt duly made the Longchamp line-up for the 1992 Arc and with a surging late run denied the hitherto unbeaten triple Classic winning filly User Friendly, in a field that also contained Irish Derby and King George winner St Jovite, Epsom Derby and Irish Champion Stakes hero Dr Devious, Magic Night, top older horse Saddlers Hall and future Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arcangues.
Subotica’s success was a second win in the race for Fabre, who would go on to become the most successful trainer in the history of the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe thanks to: Trempolino (1987), Subotica (1992), Carnegie (1994), Peintre Celebre (1997), Sagamix (1998), Hurricane Run (2005) and Rail Link (2006).
Sometimes racing pundits get things wrong, spectacularly wrong! Such was the case in the 1993 Arc de Triomphe, which was won by an unconsidered 4 year old filly who would have as big an impact on Flat racing as any brood mare of the last quarter of a century.
Urban Sea went to Longchamp having won her last two starts but having been beaten often enough in Group 1 grade to suggest she would struggle – particularly against a stellar line-up which included User Friendly, Prix du Jockey Club hero Hernando, Derby Italiano winner White Muzzle, the Eclipse and King George winner Opera House, St Leger winner Bob’s Return, Oaks winner Intrepidity, the top class 3 year old colt Armiger and the Juddmonte International Stakes winner Ezzoud.
In a thrilling race, Bob’s Return and Armiger – the first and second in the St Leger, raced prominently behind the two pacemakers, with the former going into the lead early in the home straight. Out wider, Talloires, under a young Olivier Peslier, was bidding to give Andre Fabre another Arc win in the Trempolino silks but swerved violently twice, causing interference.
Against the inside rail, Urban Sea and Eric Saint-Martin slipped into a narrow lead from Opera House and White Muzzle, as Bob’s Return’s exertions at Doncaster caught up with him. White Muzzle lunged for the line in the dying strides but Urban Sea held on for a narrow victory, with White Muzzle second and Opera House third, ahead of Intrepidity.
Urban Sea was greeted as a shock winner of the Arc but proved an outstanding brood mare, producing the outstanding champions Galileo and Sea The Stars – and becoming one of only two brood mares in history to throw two Epsom Derby winners.
Before embarking on her stud career, Urban Sea returned to the race in 1994 but injury curtailed her racing career. The Arc that season had another large field, with the likes of Ezzoud, White Muzzle, Hernando and Intrepidity back in the line-up and joined by the King George winner King’s Theatre and Prix du Jockey Club winner Celtic Arms. The English colt Broadway Flyer took the field along at a good clip and at one stage held a lead of several lengths. King’s Theatre raced prominently with Intrepidity and Ezzoud close up. As they swung for home Broadway Flyer still led but the field were packed and queuing up behind. Inside the 2 furlong marker Broadway Flyer finally yielded and as King’s Theatre went on, a gap opened up for Carnegie and the white faced colt seized the initiative, chased hard by Hernando who inched closer and closer. In a driving finish Carnegie just held on from Hernando and Apple Tree with Ezzoud right on their heels in a thrilling finish.
Carnegie was back to defend his crown in 1995 but was up against the talented Oaks and Irish Derby winner of 1994 Balanchine, plus some exciting 3 year olds including the unbeaten Swain, the Irish Oaks winner Pure Grain and the unbeaten Derby and King George winner Lammtarra. The latter was something of a fairy story, having won his only start at two before his trainer Alex Scott was tragically murdered in the autumn of 1994. The colt was sent to Dubai for the winter and became gravely ill, almost dying in the spring. But Lammtarra survived and went back into training with Godolphin’s new trainer Saeed bin Suroor. On his first race for 10 months and just the second race of his life, Lammtarra came from an almost impossible position to sprout wings and win going away from Tamure in the Derby at Epsom. It was a sensational and emotional win for connections. The hardy colt then needed all the guts and will to win that he could muster to defeat Pentire in a gruelling race for the King George, with the Derby winner prevailing narrowly and showing new qualities. Also in that field had been Carnegie who was comprehensively beaten.
Luso went off in front and opened up a sizeable lead from Lammtarra and that was the order for much of the race. As the field approached the final turn, Frankie Dettori and Lammtarra loomed alongside Luso and went into the lead under intense pressure, with runners waiting to make a challenge. However once again, Lammtarra showed the courage of a lion, fighting on in front to repel Swain. The final desperate challenge came down the outside from the 4 year old Freedom Cry who at one stage just about appeared to get his head in front – but the bonny chestnut Lammtarra found more once again to go on as the field passed the post. In a short, whirlwind career, Lammtarra retired to stud the unbeaten winner of all four races.
The undoubted star of the 1996 Flat season over middle distances in France was Helissio, a colt who had not run at two but had quickly established himself as top class building up a sequence of 3 unbeaten runs prior to the Prix du Jockey Club. He ran uncharacteristically poorly in the French Derby however, finishing only fifth to Ragmar. But Helissio’s bubble was far from fully burst and he went on to prove that run all wrong as he landed first the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud by a length from Swain and then the Prix Niel, in which he established himself once and for all as the leading 3 year old. Opposition in the Arc de Triomphe however was a different matter, as a top class field assembled, that included Swain, Tamure, Irish St Leger winner Oscar Schindler, the fast-improving Pilsudski, the King George winner Pentire, the Derby winner Shaamit, runaway Irish Derby winner Zagreb and St Leger winner Classic Cliche.
As the gates opened Helissio and Olivier Peslier were fast away and quickly went into the lead from Pilsudski, Shaamit and Zagreb in the early stages. The order remained relatively unchanged but having entered the home straight, Helissio kicked impressively putting a few lengths between himself and Pilsudski. Further back there was tragedy as the top class 3 year old colt Polaris Flight broke a leg. Up front Helissio had gone clear and won the race in brilliant style by 5 lengths from Pilsudski who just held off the late finish of Oscar Schindler.
Unusually the first three horses from 1996 were back in the line-up for 1997 in a marvellous renewal. However they faced a mighty foe in Peintre Celebre, a colt who had spring to prominence when winning the French Derby trial the Prix Greffulhe by 2 lengths from Astarabad, before impressively landing the Prix du Jockey Club by 2 lengths from Oscar and then adding the Grand Prix de Paris by 2 lengths from Ithaki. Hopes were high that Peintre Celebre could become only the second horse (after Le Pacha in 1941) to add Arc triumph to the big two 3 year old Group 1s; however the colt then suffered a shock reversal when only ¼ of a length second to Rajoute in the Prix Niel.
In the Arc de Triomphe, not only did Peintre Celebre face the previous year’s first three home, but also Swain, who had gone from strength to strength and had won a brilliant King George that year, in which he beat Pilsudski and Helissio. Also in the line-up was the smart filly My Emma and the smart Godolphin colt Predappio.
Busy Flight lead early on but was followed almost immediately by Helissio, whom Olivier Peslier had deserted in favour of Peintre Celebre. It did not take Helissio too long to assume the lead and turning for home he was well-placed to repeat his victory, although pressed to the outside by Predappio. Further back Peintre Celebre was making ground from midfield but still had a wall of horses in front of him. Helissio made the best of his way home but with a furlong and a half to race, was challenged by Swain, as Peintre Celebre finally got racing room and began a charge, along with Pilsudski to his outside. Helissio battled on gamely next to the rails but Peintre Celebre had simply too much speed and pressed on into the lead, having left Pilsudski in his slip stream. In the final half a furlong the Daniel Wildenstein owned colt was simply brilliant as he sprinted away, leaving Pilsudski to inch into second place ahead of the fast-finishing Borgia in third, with Oscar Schindler, Predappio and Helissio all close up. Peintre Celebre in winning emulated Le Pacha after a 56 year wait but also shattered the course record by 3.4 seconds.
There was a relatively new cast for the 1998 Arc de Triomphe, which took place in soft ground. In a close finish, Sagamix maintained his unbeaten record as he narrowly defeated the English filly Leggera, with German horse Tiger Hill a close third. The ground conditions it was felt had favoured the winner, who never won another race but defeated horses of the calibre of French and Irish Derby winner Dream Well and his English counterpart High Rise.
The following year brooked no excuses for any of the runners as another mighty Arc winner was crowned. Montjeu was a magnificent brute of a specimen to look at, all muscle and head strong charisma. Trained like Suave Dancer by John Hammond, the colt had beaten the brilliant miler Sendawar early in the season before suffering a shock defeat to Gracioso in the Prix Lupin. However the son of Sadler’s Wells quickly showed that run to be all wrong as he dismissed he rivals with contemptuous ease in the Prix du Jockey Club, beating Nowhere To Exit by 4 lengths. At the Curragh Montjeu took on the Epsom Derby second and third Daliapour and Beat All but the result was even more impressive as he sauntered to a 5 length victory hard held.
Having won the Prix Niel narrowly when not fully wound-up, Montjeu headed back to Longchamp for the Arc with credible opposition. The big threat appeared to come from the Japanese runner El Condor Pasa, who had beaten the German trained Arc placed runners Tiger Hill and Borgia in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Prix Foy. Both were back for the Arc along with Leggera and the improving colt Fantastic Light. The line-up also contained the magnificent grey horse Daylami, who under the Godolphin banner had gone from strength to strength, winning the Eclipse Stakes, Man O’ War Stakes and in the present season had landed the King George easily and then hammered his rivals in the Irish Champion Stakes. However Daylami loved to hear his hooves rattle and in heavy ground, was only given the go-ahead to run at the twelfth hour, but performed dismally.
El Condor Pasa jumped straight into the lead as the gates opened and quickly burned off Gengis Khan, the intended pace maker for Montjeu. The mighty dual Derby winner meanwhile, bided his time in mid-division along the inside rails, occasionally swishing his tail. El Condor Pasa continued to carry on serenely in front by a couple of lengths and as the field swung for home he was ahead of Tiger Hill and Greek Dance, with Montjeu now positioned in fourth place.
Into the home straight El Condor Pasa lengthened and strode away from his rivals, with Montjeu temporarily trapped in a pocked, giving the Japanese runner first run. Mick Kinane had to bring Montjeu around runners to get a run and with 2 furlongs to race the chase was on – although he had 4 lengths to make up on his rival. Inside the final furlong a compelling battle ensued as Montjeu began to eat into El Condor Pasa’s lead, the pair a very long way clear of the rest of the field. Whilst the Japanese runner battled on gamely, the inevitable happened in the final 150 yards and Montjeu got on top and eventually passed the post ½ a length clear in a memorable race.
Montjeu proved himself a quite brilliant horse as a 4 year old also, winning the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and then the King George with sheer contempt for his rivals. There was great hope that the French superstar might meet Godolphin’s wonder horse Dubai Millennium, the brilliant winner of the Dubai World Cup and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes – but sadly Dubai Millennium broke a leg and had to be retired for what turned out to be a tragically short career at stud.
John Hammond meanwhile prepared Montjeu for the Arc with a run in the Prix Foy and a comfortable 1 ½ length victory over Crillon. He returned to Paris with high expectations of becoming the first horse since Alleged to win two Arcs. However he did not seem the same horse as he faced another dual Derby winner in Sinndar. John Oxx’s son of Grand Lodge won both races as a juvenile and then finished a head second to Grand Finale in the Ballysax Stakes on his first start of 2000. It would prove the first and only defeat of his career, as he won the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial and then defeated Sakhee and Beat Hollow in a very good renewal of the Derby at Epsom. He then recorded a facile 9 length hammering of inferior rivals in the Irish Derby and after a break, handed out an 8 length spanking to his Prix Niel rivals.
From the stalls, Sinndar, under Johnny Murtagh, took a handy position just behind his pace maker Raypour, as Montjeu settled three wide towards the rear third of the small field. As the field approached the final turn, Sinndar went into the lead and was challenged down the home straight by Volvoreta. However in the later stages Sinndar pulled clear of that rival and was easily able to repel the fast and late finish of Egyptband to record a famous victory. Montjeu simply did not seem to possess the finishing kick and ran on to finish a one-paced fourth.
Whilst Sinndar retired to stud there was much debate about just how good he was at the end of a magnificent 2000 season which had delivered Montjeu, Dubai Millennium, Sinndar and Giant’s Causeway. The events of 2001 went some way to confirming Sinndar as an outstanding Derby and Arc winner.
Sakhee had run well to finish a length second to Sinndar at Epsom but had been injured when finishing fourth to Giant’s Causeway and Kalanisi in the 2000 Coral Eclipse Stakes. Over a year later Sakhee returned with a win in a small Newbury race but then put in a devastating performance to destroy a top class field by 7 lengths in the Juddmonte International Stakes.
The next stop was Longchamp and the 2001 Arc de Triomphe, in which Sakhee faced the 2,000 Guineas winner and Derby second Golan, St Leger winner Milan, Prix de Diane winner Aquarelliste and Egyptband.
But Sakhee was in the form of his life and travelled strongly throughout, taking up the running with 3 furlongs to race and impressively drawing away from the toiling Golan early in the home straight. Eventually Aquarelliste came through for second place but that counted for little as Sakhee drew further and further clear, eventually winning by 6 lengths in stunning style. Sakhee then headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt and in a fantastic fight, finished a nose second to Tiznow.
Whilst Sakhee was making big waves for Godolphin during 2001, another Saeed bin Suroor inmate Marienbard, was steadily improving and had won the Yorkshire Cup that May. The following May Marienbard was plying his trade in middle distance races and had won the Jockey Club Cup but still seemed quite a way short of Group 1 class against the elite. During the summer of 2002 Marienbard did land a couple of Group 1 races in Germany but these were not considered anywhere near Arc standard in strength.
Among those expected to play a leading role in the 2002 Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe were Aquarelliste, who had run so well the previous year. Aidan O’Brien fielded his English and Irish Derby winner High Chaparral as well as Black Sam Bellamy, a full brother to Galileo. Sulamani had won the Prix du Jockey Club and had followed up with victory in the Prix Niel, while Manhattan Cafe was another top class challenger from Japan and Islington was an improving 3 year old filly who had easily won back-to-back Group 1s in the Nassau Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks.
Black Sam Bellamy took the field along from Islington and High Chaparral and that remained the order as the field entered the final straight. Black Sam Bellamy continued to battle on but gradually faded and Islington hit the front from High Chaparral who was struggling to improve. In behind Sulamani began his run with Aquarelliste and few people would have noticed Marienbard gradually closing on the leaders but behind a wall of horses. However at the furlong pole, as the race up front became desperate, a large gap opened for Marienbard, who made ground on Islington, the fighting High Chaparal and Sulamani. Once Marienbard struck the front he went away from Islington and it was left to Sulamani to give chase in vain, with High Chaparral finishing third. The victory was by far and away a personal best for Marienbard and gave Frankie Dettori back-to-back wins in the race.
The autumn of 2002 had seen the arrival of a new potential superstar on the French racing scene as the grey Aga Khan colt Dalakhani won all 3 starts, culminating in the Group 1 Criterium International. The following spring Dalakhani extended his unbeaten record to 5 races before adding the Prix du Jockey Club by 2 lengths from Super Celebre. He then travelled to the Curragh for the Irish Derby and ran a somewhat flat race to finish ½ a length second to the very smart Alamshar. That reversal was a big shock although Alamshar went on to win the King George afterwards. In September Dalakhani returned with a 1 ½ length success over Doyen in the Prix Niel and headed to the Arc a warm order.
Doyen was back in opposition for the Arc de Triomphe along with other leading 3 year olds including the Epsom Derby winner Kris Kin, while the older runners included High Chaparral and Black Sam Bellamy, the three-time Irish St Leger hero Vinnie Roe, St Leger winner Bollin Eric and the dual winner of the Geoffrey Freer Stakes Mubtaker.
After the pacemakers had given way, Black Sam Bellamy headed the Arc field from Mubtaker and High Chaparral and that was the order as the runners turned for home, with Mubtaker going on into the straight. He was followed by Black Sam Bellamy and Bollin Eric, while High Chaparral held the inside rail and the leaders were tracked by Vinnie Roe in a wide open contest.
Mubtaker led into the straight but all of a sudden, with jockeys’ whips flailing, Dalakhani ranged up smoothly under a quiet ride from Christophe Soumillon. With 2 furlongs to race Mubtaker pulled clear of his earlier rivals but Soumillon began to pump and Dalakhani followed him through, the pair drawing right away from High Chaparral who had moved into third but could not go on. With a furlong to race, Mubtaker bravely stuck to his guns but Dalakhani moved into the lead and smoothly held on to crown a glorious career.
Clues to the winner of the following year’s Arc were once again produced by a leading juvenile in 2003, one who would emulate Dalakhani by winning the Criterium International although this time by an impressive 6 lengths. In the spring of 2004 Bago returned with success in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat and extended his record to six from six when beating Cacique by ½ a length in the Grand Prix de Paris. However the lustre disappeared when Bago disappointed when only third to Sulamani in the Juddmonte International Stakes and was then only a length third to Valixir in the Prix Niel.
Despite these setbacks, Bago lined-up in the Arc against a brilliant field that included: Epsom Derby winner North Light, Epsom and Irish Oaks winner Ouija Board, Coronation Cup winner Warrsan, Valixir, Prix du Jockey Club winner Blue Canari, Irish Derby winner Grey Swallow and future French star mare Pride.
North Light led the field from the Japanese runner Tap Dance City and that pair turned for home with a slight gap to Mamool. At that stage Bago was seemingly floundering towards the inside, behind a wall of horses. However, as the Japanese runner faded at the 2 furlong pole, North Light bravely battled on with a greatly reduced lead and was under pressure from Cherry Mix, as the field came back to Bago. Cherry Mix made a bold bid for glory with just over a furlong to run but Bago emerged from the pack to give chase and impressively quickened to catch and pass the leader late on for a famous win. Cherry Mix held on for second, just ahead of Ouija Board, who endured a troubled passage but flew home for third place.
The first and second returned to Longchamp a year later, while Ouija Board went on to prove herself an outstanding race mare with success in the Breeders’ Cup and multiple Group 1 victories.
In 2005 there was another vintage line-up for an Arc run on good to soft ground. The admirable Mubtaker was back again, as were Warrsan and Pride. Another interesting older horse was the high class stayer and winner of the Gold Cup (run at York in 2005): Westerner, while the ex-German horse Shirocco (now trained by Andre Fabre) had solid form. Among a vintage crop of 3 year olds was the Epsom Derby winner Motivator, while Scorpion had won the St Leger and Shawanda had recorded stunning victories in the Prix de Diane, Irish Oaks and Prix Vermeille. However it was the Prix du Jockey Club runner-up, Hurricane Run who attracted greatest interest. A son of Montjeu, Hurricane Run seemed to have inherited plenty of his sire’s traits and after finishing second to Shamardal at Chantilly, had defeated Scorpion in the Irish Derby before recording an impressive 3 length victory in the Prix Niel.
The pace makers went on and were closely followed by the stamina-laden Westerner, with Shawanda also prominent early on, while the previous year’s winner Bago and Hurricane Run settled towards the back of the field.
As the field entered the home straight the pace makers finally gave way and a sprint ensued, with Cherry Mix the first to commit for home with Shawanda to his inner and Motivator towards the inside rail. Shawanda went on with 1 ½ furlongs to race and was pursued by Motivator and Westerner, while Hurricane Run began to respond towards the inside.
At the furlong pole Westerner, Shawanda and Motivator were virtually in a line, while Hurricane Run and Kieren Fallon switched to the inside and gained a charmed passage through next to the rails, sprinting past the other three horses and into an unassailable lead. Westerner stayed on best of the rest for second ahead of Bago who flew home late and was followed through by Shirocco, who would frank the form by winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf a few weeks later.
Like his sire before him, Hurricane Run proved a top class 4 year old the following year, winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup and King George, but succumbing to defeat behind the improving Pride in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. However Hurricane Run was also beaten ¼ of a length by Shirocco in the Prix Foy and he lined-up for the Arc with mixed feelings about his credentials in a field of only 8 runners which guaranteed quality over quantity. In 2006 Longchamp was invaded en masse by a huge influx of Japanese racing fans who had travelled half way around the world to cheer on their own superstar horse Deep Impact, a colt who had won the Japanese Derby and St Leger and was a prolific Grade 1 winner in his homeland. He was backed off the boards by the Japanese visitors and started an odds-on favourite for the Arc, despite having not raced for over 4 months.
Shirocco and Pride had both beaten Hurricane Run this season and had their chances, while the 3 year olds were represented by St Leger winner Sixties Icon and the Grand Prix de Paris winner Rail Link, an improving Andre Fabre colt who had beaten Youmzain by ½ a length in the Prix Niel.
As the gates opened to a tremendous roar from the crowd, Hurricane Run, Rail Link and Deep Impact were the early leaders, before the outsider Irish Wells went on from the Japanese runner. Turning for home Irish Wells still led narrowly from Shirocco who was a close second and poised to take over. In behind these came Deep Impact travelling well on the outside, while Hurricane Run was under pressure in fourth and angling out for a run. Tracking Deep Impact through came Rail Link, while Sixties Icon and Pride were at the back of the field.
With a furlong and a half to race, Deep Impact went into the lead but was immediately challenged by the held up Rail Link, the pair settling down to a terrific duel. And it was the 3 year old colt, under Stephane Pasquier, who had the greater reserves of stamina and perhaps fitness – and he forged on, as Pride stormed home from the back of the field. At the line Rail Link defeated the filly by a fast-diminishing neck, with Deep Impact ½ a length further back and clear of Hurricane Run. Sadly Deep Impact later failed a dope test and was disqualified to add insult to injury for the Japanese racing fans who were beginning to wonder if they would ever win an Arc de Triomphe.
One colt who missed the 2006 Arc was the progressive Danehill colt Dylan Thomas. Aidan O’Brien’s 3 year old had run a smashing race to finish ¼ of a length third to Sir Percy in a driving finish to the Epsom Derby and had then easily defeated his rivals in the Irish Derby. After running a disappointing race at York, Dylan Thomas showed tremendous battling qualities to fight back when headed and defeat the magnificent Ouija Board at Leopardstown. However he then travelled to America and flopped in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, rather than heading to Longchamp.
With a large frame there was every chance that Dylan Thomas would blossom as a 4 year old and so it proved as he won the Prix Ganay. However defeat by his old rival Notnowcato in the Tattersalls Gold Cup was disappointing and he was comprehensively beaten by Manduro at Ascot and it appeared that Manduro – another ex-German horse now with Andre Fabre, was the superstar of the year. Whilst Dylan Thomas went on to beat Youmzain by 4 lengths in the King George, he was subsequently beaten again in the Juddmonte International Stakes, by the 2007 Derby winner Authorized, himself a serious Arc contender. Meanwhile Manduro had dropped down to a mile and brilliantly defeated the best milers around in the Jacques Le Marois, before completing his Arc preparation with a facile 2 ½ length defeat of the smart filly Mandesha in the Prix Foy.
However in the final days before the Arc, there was a sensation as Manduro was ruled out of the contest with a career ending injury. Dylan Thomas went to Longchamp strongly supported, but with plenty of competition from old rivals Authorized and Youmzain. Grand Prix de Paris winner Zambesi Sun was there and looked an improver like Rail Link before him, but had been comprehensively outpointed by the runaway Irish Derby winner Soldier Of Fortune in the Prix Niel – and that Aidan O’Brien colt also lined up along with Dylan Thomas.
As the pacemakers took the field along early, Authorized raced wide and was in last place. The two Ballydoyle pacemakers Song Of Hiawatha and Yellowstone continued to lead as the field started turning for home, with Soldier Of Fortune best placed of the main contenders in fourth place. Into the home straight it was Soldier Of Fortune who went on, chased by Zambesi Sun and the improving Dylan Thomas, as Authorized flattered to deceive and dropped away disappointingly.
Dylan Thomas and Kieren Fallon powered on into the lead approaching the furlong marker and his stable mate Soldier Of Fortune could give no more. It was left to Youmzain, a virtually unconsidered outsider, to give chase to the giant 4 year old and he made huge inroads into Dylan Thomas’s lead, going down by just a head in similar fashion to Mtoto’s defeat back in 1988. Dylan Thomas had veered right in the latter stages, hampering other horses and had to survive a lengthy stewards’ enquiry before the result was confirmed.
Every few years an exceptional light comes along in the world of horse racing and captures everybody’s heart and imagination. In 2008 and 2009 the European racing scene was dominated by two outstanding horses who illuminated our sport and defined the term champion.
The first of these was the charismatic, quirky but devastatingly brilliant filly Zarkava. Owned by the Aga Khan and trained by Alain de Royer Dupre, the daughter of Zamindar out of the Aga Khan’s own filly Zarkasha, was unbeaten in both juvenile starts, winning the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac in the second of these. In the spring of 2008 she showed brilliance with victories in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte and then the French 1,000 Guineas, where she easily disposed of future miling great Goldikova by 2 lengths. Success followed with another exquisite performance in the Prix de Diane, taking Zarkava’s unbeaten record to five. After a mid-summer break, the champion filly returned to Longchamp and disposed of the English filly Da Re Mi by 2 lengths in the Prix Vermeille, with the Arc now firmly in her sites.
That first Sunday in October brought together a strong field of rivals for the wonder filly. Youmzain and Soldier Of Fortune were back along with Zambesi Sun, while Duke Of Marmalade had proved an outstanding 4 year old, landing the Prix Ganay, Tattersalls Gold Cup, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, King George and Juddmonte International, in which he beat the Derby winner New Approach.
There was drama from the outset, as Zarkava swerved violently right as the gates opened, crashing into the rails and almost losing Christophe Soumillon, but conceding ground to sit last of the 16 runners. Meanwhile, Red Rock Canyon, the Ballydoyle pace maker took the field along at a good clip and shot many lengths clear by halfway.
Turning for home Red Rock Canyon still led but he went very wide, leaving Schiaparelli in front of It’s Gino, with Soldier Of Fortune poised to pounce. In behind these Zarkava was tracking Soldier Of Fortune, while Youmzain began to weave a pathway through on the inside.
With a furlong and a half to race, the rank outsider It’s Gino hit the front and a sensational shock looked on the cards. Soldier Of Fortune battled on and Youmzain was still getting closer, albeit short of room.
Then it happened. Zarkava was moved out to deliver her challenge and swoosh, in the flash of an eye she had imperiously stormed into the lead and pulled away from the battling Soldier Of Fortune and Youmzain. Youmzain had pulled around those two horses, losing ground, but finished with a rattle to claim second place for the second year running, with Soldier Of Fortune winning the race for third place. But Zarkava returned and retired an unbeaten champion.
It seemed that the 2009 Arc would have a mighty hard act to follow after the mighty Zarkava’s exploits, but racing fans were in for another real treat. John Oxx had enjoyed a fine time of things since the days of Sinndar, thanks largely to the exploits of Alamshar and Azamour. However in 2009, he produced a colt that would surpass all of his previous champions.
Sea The Stars was a son of Cape Cross and that marvellous 1993 Arc heroine Urban Sea, who was famed almost as much for throwing Galileo. He was given a relatively easy time of things as a two year old, recording his most significant win in the Beresford Stakes of 2008.
The colt returned in the 2,000 Guineas with his trainer hopeful of a big run but conscious that the horse might need the race and would probably improve for a longer trip. However, in the final furlong he put in a performance that would become his trademark over the coming months, making smooth progress to the front and just doing enough to defeat Delegator. At Epsom Aidan O’Brien took on Sea The Stars with his unbeaten colt Fame And Glory and Rip Van Winkle, but the result was still the same as Sea The Stars got on top in the final furlong for a comfortable victory from subsequent Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory.
With rain softened ground at the Curragh, Sea The Stars missed his rematch with the O’Brien colt and instead headed to Sandown park for a brilliant renewal of the Coral Eclipse Stakes. Rip Van Winkle put up a terrific scrap and Sea The Stars had to dig deep for victory but always had enough in hand at the line, the pair drawing clear of dual Breeders’ Cup, St Leger and subsequent King George winner Conduit. The dual Champion Stakes winner Twice Over was further back. The following month Sea The Stars despatched three more O’Brien horses as he quickened effortlessly past Mastercraftsman in the Juddmonte International, a race which added thousands more spectators to the York attendance.
In September Sea The Stars was back on home soil and brilliantly defeated Fame And Glory and Mastercraftsman again, making it five Group 1 victories in five months.
So to Longchamp – and what would prove the final stop for Sea The Stars. Fame And Glory was back for another clash with his old rival, while Cavalryman had won his last 3 races, including the Grand Prix de Paris and Prix Niel. Youmzain was back again, along with Conduit, the former Prix du Jockey Club winner Vision D’Etat and the brilliant fillies Stacelita and Da Re Mi.
The pacemaker Set Sail went straight into the lead with Sea The Stars also quickly away but unusually taking a little while to settle for Mick Kinane. The other Ballydoyle pacemaker Grand Ducal then sprinted up into the lead as the race settled down. Set Sail and Grand Ducal continued to lead, going several lengths clear of the main field, which was headed by Stacelita, with Da Re Mi and Cavalryman next.
The two leaders were still many lengths clear turning for home but had cut their own throats and came back to the field dramatically with 2 furlongs to race, with Stacelita taking over. At that point Sea The Stars looked to be in a spot of trouble, trapped against the rails, several lengths off the pace and surrounded by horses.
Stacelita kicked for home and was chased through by Cavalryman but in a flash Sea The Stars had extricated himself from his position and had room to make his move. By the furlong pole Sea The Stars had accelerated between Stacelita and Cavalryman and into the lead, pulling clear, with nothing threatening to get back on terms with him. It was a majestic performance and the perfect bookend to a magnificent career. Amazingly Youmzain sprinted down the outside to claim second place for the third year running and great testament should be given to Mick Channon’s remarkable horse for his soundness and resolution over such a long period of time. Cavalryman snatched third place with Conduit a fast finishing fourth in another memorable renewal.
Throughout its history, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has provided mixed results for Epsom Derby winners. In 2010, the most recent Epsom hero Workforce went to Longchamp with a tarnished reputation to repair. The colt had been lightly raced as a juvenile and appeared in need of the run when beaten fair and square by Cape Blanco in the Dante Stakes at York in May. No beaten horse from that race had ever triumphed at Epsom but Workforce seemingly improved enormously between York and Derby Day and was given the go ahead to run by Sir Michael Stoute. What followed was a sublime performance as Workforce smashed the track record in winning the Derby by 7 lengths from At First Sight, conjuring memories of Shergar, whom Sir Michael had also trained. Workforce next appeared at Ascot in the King George but seemed slightly ill at ease beforehand and was simply blown away by an extraordinary run by stable mate Harbinger, who won the race by a staggering 11 lengths from Cape Blanco, with Workforce running under a cloud and finishing only fifth of the 6 runners.
Harbinger was immediately hailed as a superstar and all the rage for the Arc – but 2 months can be a very long time in racing and the media darling sadly sustained a career ending injury. So it was Workforce who turned up at Longchamp, against 17 rivals in very soft ground.
The Japanese were represented by two horses thought to have big chances; Victoire Pisa had won the Japanese 2,000 Guineas and finished third in the Japanese Derby earlier in the year and had run reasonably well to finish fourth to Bekhabad in the Prix Niel after more than 3 months off the track. In time he would go on to win the Dubai World Cup.
Nakayama Festa however was considered the main challenger from Japan and had run a close second to Duncan in the Prix Foy the month before the Arc, with plenty of improvement expected.
Lope De Vega had won the French 2,000 Guineas and the Prix du Jockey Club, although he had struggled when dropped down in distance thereafter. Bekhabad had finished fourth at Chantilly but had since won close duels with Planteur in the Grand Prix de Paris and Prix Niel and both colts reappeared in the Arc. Cape Blanco, who had two victories over Workforce was there for Aidan O’Brien. The top class filly Sarafina also represented the 3 year old generation and had been a brilliant winner of the Prix de Diane, although she had been defeated by Midday in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille on Arc Trials Day.
Of the older horses, Duncan was there trying to follow-up his Prix Foy victory, while Cavalryman bid to go two places better than in 2009. Fame And Glory had also stayed in training and had landed the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup and Coronation Cup, as well as the Royal Whip most recently. And of course, Youmzain was back, having finished second in the last three renewals of the Arc.
The pace maker Pouvoir Absolu was driven hard into the early lead from Planteur, with Duncan also prominent. As the field started turning right handed, Pouvoir Absolu still led from the Ballydoyle pace setter Midas Touch, with Planteur and Duncan next, followed by Fame And Glory and Bekhabad, with Lope De Vega making ground. Towards the rear of the field and trapped against the rails behind a wall of horses was Workforce, who appeared to have little hope of an escape route.
Turning into the home straight the French Derby hero Lope De Vega moved into the lead from Planteur as the pace makers dropped away, with Cape Blanco’s white face challenging down the outside. As Lope De Vega’s pace gave way, Planteur went back to the front, with Fame And Glory close-up and tracking the leader. Down the outside Nakayama Festa was starting to get into top gear and with quarter of a mile to run, Workforce had also suddenly appeared, with jockey Ryan Moore having moved the horse off the rails and four wide but now with daylight.
With a furlong and a half to race, Nakayama Festa went to the front with Workforce surging through and the English 3 year old showed slightly stronger acceleration to move to the front. The English Derby winner continued to hold the Japanese horse who kept up a sustained challenge throughout the final furlong but was unable to pass Workforce. From a mile back, Sarafina finished like a train down the outside but had been given far too much to do, while the Aga Khan, who owned Sarafina, also had the fourth placed horse in Bekhabad.
Workforce was kept in training in 2011 and after winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes on his return, was narrowly beaten by So You Think in the Coral Eclipse Stakes, before finishing a well beaten second to Nathanial in the King George. With that Workforce returned to the scene of his Arc glory.
If Workforce’s 4 year old career had fallen slightly below expectations, Sarafina appeared as good as ever, winning the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Prix Foy and going into the Arc as favourite. Nakayama Festa was also back having finished a close fourth (of four) to Sarafina in the Prix Foy. However that had been his first race since the previous November’s Japan Cup and he was sure to improve. Hiruno D’Amour was another Japanese contender and had finished a short neck second to Sarafina in that Prix Foy.
The giant horse So You Think represented Aidan O’Brien, having won the Eclipse Stakes and then beaten Snow Fairy by ½ a length in the Irish Champion Stakes. O’Brien also fielded his one-time Classic hope St Nicholas Abbey, who had won the Coronation Cup at Epsom before finishing third in the King George and third in the Prix Foy.
Snow Fairy was in the field too; the English and Irish Oaks winner the previous year had also won in Japan and Hong Kong.
The Prix du Jockey Club winner Reliable Man was in the field and he had beaten the Grand Prix de Paris winner Meandre, another runner, in the Prix Niel most recently. The French 3 year old filly Galikova, winner of the Prix Vermeille, took her place and the Epsom Derby runner-up and Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach was in the field, so too was the St Leger winner Masked Marvel.
From Germany came the Italian Oaks and double Group 1 winning filly Danedream, who was largely unconsidered but underlined the improvement in German contenders.
On good ground this stellar line-up set off with Treasure Beach heading the field by about 3 lengths from the Aga Khan’s pacemaker Shareta, with Testosterone a couple of lengths further back with St Nicholas Abbey.
As the field turned for home, St Nicholas Abbey moved up between the two pacemakers and into the lead from Treasure Beach and Shareta, with many of those in behind struggling to make an impression. One horse who did close however was Danedream, who moved into fourth place.
As Treasure Beach dropped away, St Nicholas Abbey grabbed the far rail but had not yet seen off the attention of Shareta, who was running the race of her life. However Danedream, who had conserved energy early on, was now on the heels of the leading pair and swept into the lead just before the furlong pole, sprinting away from Shareta, as St Nicholas Abbey could give no more. Further back Snow Fairy finished well with So You Think but the German filly was long since gone and recorded an easy 5 length victory in a new course record.
The incredible run of Shareta earned her second place ahead of Snow Fairy, with So You Think just beating his stable mate St Nicholas Abbey for fourth place. It was a stunning victory for Danedream, trained by Peter Schiergen and brilliantly ridden by Andrasch Starke.
To some sceptics the victory of Danedream had been a fluke but they were comprehensively silenced in 2012 as the filly narrowly defeated Nathaniel and St Nicholas Abbey in the King George at Ascot, before winning the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Baden. It appeared she had an outstanding opportunity to equal Alleged’s achievement but then disaster struck in the final week before the Arc, as swamp fever led Cologne, where Danedream was based, to be quarantined. Danedream was banned from travelling and had to miss her big chance. Nathaniel was also ruled out on account of a high temperature, while Snow Fairy had also been taken out of the race due to injury.
With persistent rain, the going on Arc de Triomphe day 2012 was heavy but a top class field assembled nonetheless. Shareta, Meandre and St Nicholas Abbey were all back again, while Aidan O’ Brien also ran his exciting 3 year old Camelot, who had won the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and Irish Derby and had narrowly failed to win the English Triple Crown when failing to catch Encke in the St Leger. Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive colt Sea Moon had looked exciting when winning the Great Voltigeur Stakes the previous year and had been an impressive winner of the Hardwicke Stakes in 2012, before disappointing in the King George. Great Heavens had won the Irish Oaks and represented the connections of Nathaniel.
But the real superstar of this Arc was the Japanese 4 year old Orfevre, who had won the Japanese Triple Crown in 2011 and had beaten Meandre by a length in the Prix Foy. Orfevre, like Deep Impact before him, attracted massive Japanese support on the racecourse.
Ernest Hemmingway went straight into the lead as the stalls opened and was tracked along the inside by stable mate Camelot, while Mikhail Glinka was prominent and Robin Hood, another Ballydoyle horse, was driven up to join the leaders, while Solemia tracked the leaders next to the rails. At the back of the field, Orfevre was patiently ridden.
Ernest Hemmingway pulled clear of his rivals and approached the final turn with a healthy lead but was under the whip. Solemia headed the main pack along with Mikhail Glinka, with Masterstroke and Great Heavens also in contention.
Ernest Hemmingway was quickly swallowed up and the outsider Solemia took the lead, with a bunch of maybe 6 horses queuing up in behind her. Among these was Orfevre, who had made smooth progress from the back of the field, all the way down the home straight, whilst racing wide.
With 1 ½ furlongs to race, the chestnut colt cruised up to the leader and shot clear, going away from Solemia and Masterstroke, who were both under extreme pressure. At the furlong pole, Orfevre had gone a couple of lengths clear and was still going away, despite drifting across the course and over to the far rail. But all of a sudden, with ½ a furlong to race, Solemia found her second wind and began to catch the Japanese horse. In a desperate finish Olivier Peslier and Solemia got back up as Orfevre tied-up in the final few yards, for a dramatic victory. It had looked as though Orfevre couldn’t lose and yet the Japanese hoodoo had once again reared its head in astonishing circumstances. Did the colt lose momentum by hitting the rail as he drifted? Did he simply run out of stamina? The post mortem continued for weeks but nobody could deny that Solemia had run the race of her life and had been given a wonderfully positive ride, in conditions that she revelled in. Some 7 lengths back in third finished Masterstroke, with rank outsider Haya Landa in fourth.
The first two horses were back in opposition a few weeks later in the Japan Cup on vastly different firm ground. Solemia ran disappointingly down the field, while Orfevre suffered further heartache by finishing a nose second to the brilliant Gentildonna. However Orfevre remained in training in 2013 and naturally connections were keen to set the record straight at Longchamp.
After winning a Grade 2 race in Japan in March, Orfevre sustained an injury which kept him off the track until the Prix Foy which he brilliantly won by 3 lengths from Very Nice Name. All was on track for Orfevre’s second attempt at the Arc.
However Orfevre would face a formidable challenge from a filly called Treve, who won the Prix Vermeille on the same day that the Japanese horse was winning the Prix Foy. Treve was trained by France’s First Lady of Racing, Criquette Head-Maarek. The filly was lightly raced, having won both her starts before blowing her rivals away with devastating speed in the Prix de Diane in June. Having been bought by Sheikh Joaan, the filly next ran in the Prix Vermeille under new jockey Frankie Dettori. In soft ground she had to make up lots of ground in the home straight before catching Wild Coco with another impressive turn of foot. However before the Arc, Dettori suffered a fall in England and injured his ankle, meaning that Treve would be reunited with her former pilot Thierry Jarnet. However there were genuine concerns for Treve ahead of the race as she was drawn wide, often a huge disadvantage in the Arc.
Haya Landa and Meandre were back in the line-up again, while there were some top class horses from England and Ireland. Sadly these did not include St Nicholas Abbey, who had fractured a leg, whilst the German horse Novellist, had been superb when winning the King George at Ascot but was a late scratching.
Al Kazeem was there however and had shown marked improvement during 2013, winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and Eclipse Stakes during the summer, before running well in defeat in the Juddmonte International and again when a close second in the Irish Champion Stakes to The Fugue.
The Epsom Derby winner Ruler Of The World had since disappointed in the Irish Derby, but had run a promising race when a short head second to the latest Japanese Derby winner Kizuna in the Prix Niel, in a race which also included the Andre Fabre pair of Ocovango and Intello. The latter hrose had been unlucky when a close third in the French 2,000 Guineas and had then won the Prix du Jockey Club by a brilliant 2 lengths before dropping back down to a mile. He had finished a close third in the Prix Jacques Le Marois, probably the strongest mile race run in Europe during 2013, finishing 1 ¾ lengths behind Moonlight Cloud. More recent was Intello’s ¾ length defeat of Morandi (whom he had also beaten in the French Derby) in the 10 furlong, soft ground Prix du Prince d’Orange in September and despite mixed opinions on his ability to stay the Arc trip, the colt was strongly fancied by many people to give Fabre an eighth success in the race. The ace trainer had a further string to his bow in the shape of Flintshire, the Grand Prix de Paris winner who had been inconvenienced in the Prix Niel by soft ground. That was a concern once again ahead of the Arc. Leading Light, the impressive St Leger winner who had been beaten just once in his life, came over from Aidan O’Brien’s stable and added to the lustre of this magnificent race.
As the field were despatched, Joshua Tree headed the runners from the outside, with Pengai Pavillion (another Fabre runner) in second palce and Ocovango third. Towards the back of the field and racing wide, Treve was already fighting for her head and the signs did not look good for her chances, while Orfevre was nicely settled in the middle of the pack, much closer than 12 months earlier.
As the field headed into the home straight Joshua Tree still led but the action was hotting up – and Treve had made smooth and effortless progress to join the leaders from the wide outside, as the runners entered the final stretch.
Joshua Tree was still the leader as the runners straightened up, with Ocovango poised and Treve positively cruising in third place. Behind these came Intello, with Orfevre under pressure but making ground.
At the 2 furlong pole the filly went into the lead, as Joshua Tree faded – and she quickened really impressively away, taking 4 lengths out of the field in half a furlong. In behind Orfevre came out of the pack and gave chase, while Intello now showed his guts and stamina were beyond question. But they were playing for places only as Treve swept gloriously clear of her field with devastating effect, winning the Arc by 5 lengths from Japan’s answer to Youmzain. In third came Intello, with Kizuna running on with great credit for fourth place.
So it was that 34 years on from Three Troika’s marvellous defeat of Troy, Criquette Head-Maarek had found another superstar filly who ruled at Longchamp.
Yet the excitement of Treve remaining in training during 2014, proved anti-climactic for much of the year as a result of defeats and injury. Indeed, she headed back to Longchamp to defend her crown, under a cloud, after a disappointing run in the Prix Vermeille three weeks earlier.
Despite being written off by many, Criquette Head-Maarek remained confident in her fillies’ ability and not for the first time confounded the doubters. In a fabulous renewal, Treve was drawn towards the inside and took up the running in the final two furlongs, bursting clear of her field and never looking in any danger, as she became the first back-to-back winner since Alleged in 1978, beating Flintshire by 2 lengths.
In 2015 Treve was bidding for an unprecedented third victory in Europe’s premier middle distance contest. However, it was the brilliant three year old colt Golden Horn, who landed the spoils, continuing the strong recent trend towards winners from the Classic generation.
Ridden boldly from a wide draw by Frankie Dettori, the John Gosden trained colt swung into the home straight and bravely held off Flintshire and Treve for a famous victory to add to his earlier successes in the Investec Derby and Coral Eclipse Stakes.
It was an end of era race as Longchamp’s famous old grandstands were demolished a few weeks later, to make way for a modern development, which should be ready in 2018.
The 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe consequently took place at Chantilly, where another staggering chapter of history was written.
As always, a strong international field assembled, including English and Irish Derby winner Harzand, Makahiki travelled over from Japan with a big reputation, Left Hand had won the Prix Vermeille, New Bay was a former Prix du Jockey Club winner and Postponed had swept all before him.
However, the dominant star in 2016 was not equine, rather more human in form.
The brilliant Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien was to saddle the first three home in this race, an astonishing domination of the world’s greatest flat race.
Found and Ran Moore, victorious in the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac two years earlier, led the procession, followed by Highland Reel and Order Of St George. Ironically, Found had beaten Golden Horn when the pair met in the Breeders’ Cup Turf the previous autumn.
It was an incredible outcome and one which will surely never be repeated. Another slice of history that makes the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe such an enthralling race.
The race returned to Chantilly in 2017 and once again, it was the Distaff that proved the most potent force.
Enable arrived in France with a lofty reputation, having annexed most of the UK’s big middle distance races.
The John Gosden trained daughter of Nathaniel, had made a huge impression when winning the Investec Oaks in a thunder storm and torrential rain. She followed-up with a brilliant performance in the Darley Irish Oaks and headed to Ascot, to take on colts and older horses for the first time.
One again, the heavens opened and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes took place in soggy conditions.
Despite the weather, nothing could dampen the effervescence of Enable, a filly in her pomp, as she readily beat the Eclipse Stakes winner Ulysses.
Further success came in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks and Enable entered the Arc arena with greatness awaiting her if she could overcome seventeen rivals.
Enable was quickly into stride and Frankie Dettori, seeking a fifth win in the race, tucker her in, behind Idaho and Order Of St George.
Into the home straight and with three furlongs to run, Dettori angled out Enable and once she saw daylight, she kicked clear at the two furlong pole.
Nothing ever threatened to close and the filly capped a magnificent year with a serene victory, becoming the first British-trained filly ever to win the race.
Cloth Of Stars stayed on for second, ahead of the gallant Ulysses.
But this was a race all about Enable, a true champion in keeping with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe’s long list of greats.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Winners:
|1938||Eclair au Chocolat||3|
|no race 1939–40|
|2009||Sea the Stars||3|