PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE, Gr.1
The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Gr.1, run in Paris on the first Sunday in October every year, is arguably the best mile and a half race in Europe not confined to the Classic crop. The King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Gr.1 run earlier in July at Ascot is a very fine race but it generally draws a much smaller field. The Arc has a much more international flavour. The annual conference of the International Federation of Racing Authorities is held in Paris just after the Arc and so who's who of world racing is present at Longchamp for the Arc.
A Brief History
The Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 officially ended World War I. As the world returned to normal, Societe d'Encouragement, the governing racing body in France, decided to frame an international, weight-for-age event to replace the Prix du Conseil Municipal which was a handicap race. The new race, called the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe -- the monument where the Allies had held the Victory Parade -- was first run 1920 and won by Comrade. The outbreak of World War II caused the race to be cancelled in 1939 and 1940. It was also held at Le Tremblay in 1943 and 1944 due to war exigencies while Chantilly hosted the event in 2016 and 2017 as Longchamp underwent a makeover. This year is a special occasion as it marks the 100th renewal of this famous race.
Eight horses, including three fillies, have won the race twice with the filly Enable being the only one to do so at different venues. Frankie Dettori (6 wins) and 'Le Magician' Andre Fabre (8 wins) are the leading all-time professionals while Marcel Boussac and Khalid Abdullah have owned six winners each. Found ran the fastest Arc at Chantilly clocking 2:23:61 but it is another filly, Danedream, who holds the Longchamp record of 2:24:49. It is fashionable to talk, always, of the winners. Do spare a thought, though, for Youmzain who was second in four consecutive renewals.
Some high profile names have been associated with the sponsorship of this race since the mid-1980s. The longest association, however, has been with Qatar who have lent the name since 2008. The Arc Sunday is the second day of a splendid week-end's racing when eleven Group races, including seven Gr.1s, are run. The one certainty of Sunday is that they will run out of champagne at Longchamp before the day is done !
Paris has four race tracks. Those at Maisons-Laffitte and St. Cloud are in the suburbs but the ones at Longchamp and Auteuil -- over jumps -- are both located in Bois de Boulogne within the metropolitan area of the city. The track at Longchamp, on the right bank of La Seine, is picturesque, broad and mostly flat, the gradients being mild. The two landmarks of Longchamp are the Moulin (Windmill) in front of which the Arc field assembles and the Petit Bois, a small clump of trees which screens the runners for a brief while early in the backstretch. There is also a 'false straight' just before the field swings right and heads for the Judge. There are three winning posts at Longchamp; one on the straight five furlongs which is parallel to the stands and two on the main course. Some races finish at the second post. Thiery Jarnet once mistakenly dropped his hands at the first winning post and lost the race at the second ! It was a blunder that would have embarrassed a visiting jockey having his first ride on the course so for Jarnet, a Champion Jockey in France, to do it on an Arc week-end was catastrophic. He was promptly stood down for a couple of days.
Trends - This Century
With just five favourites winning in the last twenty years, this is a bad race to put your money on the public fancy. Three year-olds have won eleven times, seven four year-olds have come good while just two five year-olds have obliged. Both the five year-olds have German connections. Godolphin's Marienbard had gone into the Arc with two Gr.1 wins in Germany on his previous two starts whereas Waldgeist won in the colours of Gestut Ammerland. Though Galileo himself did not run in the Arc, his imprint on the race in the last five years is massive. He is the sire of record breaking Found (2016) and Waldgeist (2019); his son Nathaniel has sired the dual winning filly Enable (2017 and 2018) and he is the damsire of last year's winner Sottsass. Solemia (2012), one of the six fillies to win this millennium, is the longest priced winner at 33/1. French-trained horses have won exactly half the renewals. Fourteen of the winners had won their previous starts and the same number had run -- not necessarily won -- over 2400 m. last time out. The French trials -- Prix Niel, Prix Foy and Prix Vermeille -- have been significant and the only 2000m race which has provided winners is the Irish Champion Stakes, Gr.1 at Leopardstown. On an average, fifteen runners go to the post.
Four races which serve as a 'Trial' for the Arc are Prix Vermeille, Gr.1, Prix Niel, Gr.2, Prix Foy, Gr.2 -- all sponsored by 'Qatar' and run over the Arc course and distance on the same day -- and the Irish Champion Stakes, Gr.1 at Leopardstown. This year, these races have muddled rather than clarified the Arc picture. It is only recently that the Vermeille, often called the "Autumn Oaks", has been opened to older fillies and four fillies -- Zarkava, Solemia and Treve twice -- have used it as stepping stone to the Arc glory. Zarkava and Treve, once, went into the Arc having won it while Solemia and Treve, on the other occasion, had finished on the board. The shock victory of Teona (Sea The Stars - Ambivalent) this year immediately caused the odds of then favourite Snowfall (Deep Impact - Best in the World) to drift significantly. Her own shortened but she has since been withdrawn because of the anticipated going.
Prix Niel is for the Classic crop and this year's favourite for the race -- Bolshoi Ballet -- could not run after failing to meet the French vaccination rules. The five that did run were all French-trained and none of them had placed in a French classic. Not only was the time of the Niel slowest of the three Trials, all runners had earlier been well beaten by Hurricane Lane or St Mark's Basilica. The last Niel to provide an Arc winner was in 2006 when Rail Link won. The fastest time of the three Trials was recorded in the Foy won by the Japanese horse Deep Bond. Deep Bond made all and in the closing stages held Ballydoyle's Broome. Since Broome was thrashed by Adayar earlier in the King George, the Foy winner, yet to win a Gr.1 race himsefl, doesn't come out shining.
There were only four runners in the Irish Champion Champion Stakes, Gr.1 but the race provided a thrilling contest with the first three separated by the camera. St Mark's Basilica won the tactical battle and came out unscathed from the Stewards' Enquiry which followed. Opinion is divided as to whether he should have been allowed to keep the race since he definitely took runner-up Tarnawa's ground. St Mark's Basilica, arguably the best three year-old, has since been retired and doesn't travel to Longchamp. Dylan Thomas, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn had won at Leopardstown enroute to Longchamp glory while Found and Sottsass had been on the board.
The Race This Year
On Wednesday, after the field had whittled down to sixteen -- including the two supplementary entries of Adayar and Snowfall for a fee of 120,00 euros -- odds of only five runners were in single digits with Tarnawa (Shamardal - Tarana) and Adayar (Frankel - Anna Salai) joint favourites at 3/1 with the colt slightly ahead with some firms. The Aga Khan's Tarnawa is attempting to become the first five year-old mare to win the Arc since Marcel Boussac's Corrida did so in 1937. A trifle unlucky not to be awarded the race at Leopardstown, Tarnawa is better at a mile and a half having won five times at that distance. She is a course and distance winner and has recorded her nine wins on all kinds of surfaces from firm to heavy. She did not win at 2, was a fair performer at 3, unbeaten in four starts at 4 and since then has been kept in training with Dermot Weld in Ireland with the Arc as her ultimate target. There are no loopholes in her form or preparation and she will be partnered by Christophe Soumillon who has never lost a race on her. She traces to the Tourbillon mare Tosca, dam of the flying fillies Texana and Texanita. This was originally a speedy family developed by Francois Dupre but has steadily been imbued with stamina since the Aga Khan took over the Dupre stock.
Only two horses -- Mill Reef and Lammtarra -- can boast of an Epsom Derby-King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes-Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe treble. Adayar bids fair to add his name to that duo. He is following more in the hoofbeats of Lammtarra who went into the Arc with the Derby and the King George as two previous starts while Mill Reef had taken in the Eclipse Stakes in between. Adayar beat his better fancied bracket-mate Hurricane Lane in the Derby at Epsom and visually, his King George victory was very impressive. In hindsight, though, there are a few grey areas. He beat just four rivals at Ascot. Mishriff was running beyond his ideal distance; Love hasn't been the same filly this year; Broome doesn't belong to the elite class and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, Gr.1 runner-up Lone Eagle broke down during the race. Further, Adayar missed his intended prep-race -- the Niel -- because of a foot infection. At the very exalted level, such small matters can have significant repercussions.
After four consecutive wins in scintillating fashion -- Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, Gr.3, Cazoo Epsom Oaks, Gr.1, Juddmonte Irish Oaks, Gr.1 and Darley Yorkshire Oaks, Gr.1 -- Snowfall (Deep Impact - Best in the World) appeared to an exceptionally talented filly and headed the Arc betting. Her prep race in the Vermeille was meant to be a formality but it turned into a disaster. Not only was she beaten by Teona, a filly she had summarily disposed of twice earlier, she had to be hard ridden to pip her own pacemaker La Jaconde who is yet to win a black-type race. That defeat saw her adrift in the market but in the last few days -- possibly on the grapevine news of her well being at Ballydoyle -- she has had some support and is trading around 5/1. Anyone who had fancied her before her Vermeille debacle but believes that everyone is entitled to an off-day can now back her at double the odds. She has won on good to soft but doesn not want rain on the week-end to make the going heavy. Ryan Moore, who was in Ireland doing duty on other Ballydoyle horses when Snowfall was beaten in the Vermeille, is back in the saddle on Sunday.
With six wins from seven starts including three Gr.1s in his last three outings, Hurricane Lane (Frankel - Gale Force), available at 4/1, has a record that none of his rivals can match. He was beaten in the Cazoo Epsom Derby, Gr.1 by his own, lesser fancied stablemate Adayar. He had a ready excuse for he lost both his front shoes in that race. His Gr.1 hat-trick since that reverse comprises of Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, Gr.1, Grand Prix de Paris, Gr.1 -- which makes him a course and distance winner -- and the Cazoo St. Leger, Gr.1. He handles soft ground well. Despite all this, the stable jockey William Buick, with a first hand feel of both runners, has opted for Adayar. Hurricane Lane will have James Doyle in the saddle and it will be the first time that he rides him in a race. The weight of history is also against him for no winner of the St. Leger has won the Arc in the same year. (Ballymoss did win both the races but his Arc win was as a four year-old). It must be said in favour of Hurricane Lane that he has more speed than the usual obdurate St. Leger winner. After all, he did win the Dante in May.
The Japanese invader Chrono Genesis (Bago - Chronologist), is a five year-old daughter of an Arc winner who is generally at 9/1 but 10/1 can be had on some books. Like Tarnawa, her target for the year has been the Arc, a race in which a Japanese horse has been second four times but a win has so far proved elusive. Her best performance has been in running a neck second to Mishriff in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, Gr.1 over the distance. That testifies to her class but not necessarily her stamina because that is the only victory of Mishriff over 2400m. and despite a sparkling win in the Juddmonte International, Gr.1 that horse has opted to miss the Arc. Mishriff is much more effective at 2000m. Chrono Genesis hasn't raced since winning the Takarazuka Kinen, Gr.1 on 27 June. That is a gap of 97 days and no horse has won the Arc this century with such a long gap. She is owned by the Yoshida family's Sunday Racing and trained by Takashi Saito. Oisin Murphy was engaged to ride her in Arc as early as July when her regular partner Yuichi Kitamura was injured. Murphy was thrown off his mount at Salisbury on Thursday, required some stitches but is said to be fit to ride. The mare handles soft ground which is a plus as she seeks to become not only the first Japanese runner to win the Arc but the first grey -- trusting memory -- to win the race since Migoli in 1948.
These then are the obvious front runners. The remaining runners can be backed at odds of 25/1 or more. The odds never bar a horse from winning and every runner in the “Arc" has some claims for consideration. Choosing an outsider depends on one's own risk threshold. Three longer odds runners which merit a thought -- not necessarily a bet -- are Love, Alenquer and Torquator Tasso. Love hails from Ballydoyle and a Ballydoyle runner should never be ignored. She hasn't been at her best this year but fillies often find form in autumn. A vastly underrated German sire, now sadly no more, is Alderflug. Like Galileo, Alderflug was from the Sadler's Wells male line and had Anatevka in the bottom line. He has two sons in the field -- Alenquer and Torquator Tasso. Alenquer beat Adayar in the bet365 Classic Trial, Gr.3 at Sandown in April while Torquator Tasso won the Wettstar Grosser Preis von Baden, Gr.1 on his last start over the Arc distance.
PAST THE POST
Anyone entering Longchamp on the Arc day in 2006 would have pinched himself to make sure he was in the right place. The place was so full of Japanese and he would have been forgiven if, for a moment, he thought he was at Fuchu. Deep Impact was running the Arc and the Japanese were there to cheer him. In the end, they went home crestfallen as their Champion could finish only third to Rail Link and Pride. (Worse was to follow for Deep Impact was disqualified for testing positive).
This year there are three Japanese-born runners in the Arc -- Snowfall (a daughter of Deep Impact), Chrono Genesis and Deep Bond (a grandson of Deep Impact). Given that people are now very wary of travelling, Longchamp this year may not look under Japanese occupation. But many will be there, carrying the hopes of the Land of the Rising Sun.