PRIX DE L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Longchamp, Turf, 2400m
Sunday 6 October 2013
When the French inaugurated the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1920, its intention was a celebration of the virtues of Continental racing. It was designed to unearth the greatest thoroughbred of each year with a view to the upliftment of French breeding. It was to be run at Longchamp, the temple of their racing, on the first Sunday of October, and while their plans were grand, no-one could’ve imagined it would become the mile and half championship of the world. A quick glance at Sunday’s field and its principal protagonists, tells you plainly enough, the “Arc” is just that: a Japanese favourite, a German second favourite, a dual Gr.1-winning English raider in third slot, and an armada of Group One and Classic heroes from Ireland.
The Japanese have twice come agonisingly close, with El Condor Pasa in 1999 and Orfevre last year, a salute to a breeding programme which has its genesis in a decision made by the late Zenya Yoshida (founder of the internationally celebrated Shadai Farm) to get in where the Europeans were getting out. In brief, when the likes of Sir Ivor and Nijinsky first demonstrated the virtues of American speed in Europe, British and European breeders were quick to jettison the mile and half champions which had served their breeding industries so well for so long. Never one to forsake an opportunity, in typical Japanese fashion, Yoshida and his colleagues took up where the Argentineans had left off in the thirties, lassoing the best mile and a half blood in Europe, the Derby and Arc heroes of that era, and founded one of the most formidable breeding industries in the world.
With 200 meters left in the Prix l’Arc de Triomphe last year, it looked certain that Orfevre, the Japanese star with the French name for “Goldsmith”, would erase his nation’s past disappointments in this special race. But with the field in his explosive wake, the Japanese Triple Crown winner hung to the right hand rail. His acceleration dwindled, he sulked against his jockey’s whip, and slowed as if stuck in a bog.
He bumped the rail meters from the finish, but by then the race was already, incredibly, lost. Wertheimer et Frère’s filly, Solemia, obliterated only moments earlier, caught Orfevre. For the 2,000 Japanese fans who had travelled to Paris and his rapt audience back home, “disappointment” was an inadequate adjective. Since 1969, 12 Japanese horses had run in the Arc. None had won.
In the aftermath of the heartbreak came foresight. Orfevre’s trainer, Yasutoshi Ikee, immediately laid his plans for this year, hoping to fix his mercurial charges’ enigmatic ways. This week, Orfevre is back at Longchamp, with none of his lustre lost. With a rare shot at redemption, he is ruling favourite again.
While they’re not new to the inside of the Arc winner’s box (Danedream is the record-holder), the Germans celebrated their first King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr.1) ace earlier this year, and Novellista is a deserving second favourite. England’s dual Group One winner, Al Kazeem, who’ll be making his way to the Queen’s Sandringham Stud when this is behind him, is the third chalk, while the Irish send a brace of Classic stars, the Derby and St. Leger winners, Ruler Of The World and Leading Light, into battle. Never discount André Fabre (Ocovango) in the Arc, and in a race which counts Corrida, Allez France, Ivanjica, All Along, San San, Three Troikas, Detroit, Pearl Cap, Gold River, Akiyda, Urban Sea and Zarkava among its heroines, never discount a filly: The Fugue has done enough this year, to come right into the reckoning.
It may not be the greatest renewal in the history of the Arc, but it could certainly be as competitive as any, and if you’re anywhere near the television around 5pm on Sunday, you’d do well to tune into channel 239.
|1||VERY NICE NAME||4||A De Mieulle||Pierantonio Convertino||113||128|
|2||NOVELIST||4||A Wohler||Johnny Murtagh||135||136|
|3||AL KAZEEM||5||R Charlton||James Doyle||124||136|
|4||JOSHUA TREE||6||E Dunlop||Richard Hughes||93||124|
|5||MEANDRE||5||A Savujev||Umberto Rispoli||-||126|
|6||ORFEVRE||5||Y Ikee||Christophe Soumillon||131||138|
|7||GOING SOMEWHERE||4||D Smanga||Gregory Benoist||33||126|
|8||HAYA LANDA||5||M Audon||Franck Blondel||109||124|
|9||PIRIKA||5||A Fabre||Pierre-Charles Boudot||103||122|
|10||FLINTSHIRE||3||A Fabre||Maxine Guyon||96||131|
|11||LEADING LIGHT||3||A O’Brien||Gerald Mosse||106||128|
|12||OCOVANGO||3||A Fabre||Stephane Pasquier||95||127|
|13||PENGLAI PAVILION||3||A Fabre||Mickael Barzalona||95||124|
|14||KIZUNAS||3||S Sasaki||Yutaka Take||87||129|
|15||RULER OF THE WORLD||3||A O’Brien||Ryan Moore||109||131|
|16||SAHAWAR||3||C Ferland||Thierry Thulliez||64||114|
|17||INTELLO||3||A Fabre||Olivier Peslier||124||132|
|18||TREVE||3||C Head-Maarek||Thierry Jarnet||128||133|