Katie Midwinter (27/09/23)
Europe’s showpiece event in Flat racing and one of the most prestigious races in the world, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Run over a mile-and-a-half, the prize has been won by some of the sport’s greatest equine talents. Since its inaugural running in 1920 it has attracted the best, with the racing world turning its attention to Paris on the first weekend in October, each year. Thousands will attend whilst millions will watch in anticipation as the best racehorses take each other on in thrilling fashion.
This year’s renewal is set to be a competitive contest, perhaps not bulging in the depth of quality that has been seen in the past, and become synonymous with the race, but it features many improving three-year-olds, and older horses that are perhaps not given the recognition they deserve.
The race features multiple Classic winners, horses with a multitude of Group One honours to their names, and a Japanese-raider on par with the highest-rated horse in the world on form. It is an intriguing contest, lacking an obvious standout contender, which could make it all the more thrilling. It is a fascinating race from which a superstar may emerge, perhaps in the form of unbeaten colt Ace Impact.
The prize may head back to Ireland, to Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle for a third time, with Continuous, surprisingly the sole representative for a nation that has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Thoroughbred talent. Hukum, a brother to Baaeed, the horse who provided trainer Owen Burrows with his first Group One success, would be a dream winner for his yard, if he was to defy odds by returning from a serious fetlock fracture that could have been the end of his career.
Few would begrudge Westover, often seen playing second fiddle to more established rivals, an Arc success after so many near-misses. The consistent son of the incomparable Frankel would be as deserving as any of a day in the brightest sun.
Whichever way the wind blows on Sunday, history will be written, with one lucky talent earning immortality as a winner of the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a title held only by a distinguished group of equine athletes, who are forever remembered not for their other successes but for that 2 minutes, 30 seconds at Longchamp.
ACE IMPACT– J-C Rouget
A warm favourite for in-form Jean-Claude Rouget, the unbeaten three-year-old has amassed £1 million in prize winnings in five races to date. The exceptional son of Cracksman has barely been challenged so far, winning the Prix du Jockey Club convincingly, before an assertive victory in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano when last seen.
It’s plausible that the best is yet to come from this colt who cost a mere €75,000 as a yearling, a shrewd purchase by his trainer. Cracksman is yet to sire a winner of the prestigious race, and if his most successful progeny is to win the Longchamp showpiece, his stud fee of £17,500 at Dalham Hall Stud where he stands a stallion will surely increase.
This is Ace Impact’s toughest assignment yet, but there is an air of invincibility surrounding him, with the sign that there could be further progression to come now up in trip.
HUKUM – Owen Burrows
The six-year-old son of Sea The Stars, a full brother to the magnificent Baaeed, out of Aghareed, by Kingmambo, who was a Prix de Liancourt Listed winner at Longchamp, is two from two this season, last seen narrowly prevailing over Westover in the King George And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He has been absent since, which is of little concern given he goes well fresh.
Seen sparingly the last two terms having suffered a fetlock fracture following his Coronation Cup success at Epsom, a first Group One for trainer Owen Burrows, he beat Desert Crown to win the Brigadier Gerard Stakes on seasonal reappearance and now faces the toughest task of his career.
The talented individual is an admirable horse who has shown great tenacity in his races, a battling attitude and will to win. It would be an exceptional effort by the horse, and a reflection of his character if he was to come back from such a serious injury to win the ultimate prize.
CONTINUOUS – A P O’Brien
The Heart’s Cry colt will attempt to create history by becoming the first St Leger winner to claim the prestigious Longchamp prize shortly after his Doncaster Classic success. He has been supplemented for €120,000 by connections who were perhaps, along with being impressed by his two recent performances, struggling to find another Ballydoyle representative that would go to Paris with a winning chance in this particular race. Last year’s seventh Luxembourg was unsuited by the softer going at Longchamp, and his optimum trip appears to be over 1m2f, and Emily Dickinson, an initial entry, is set for the Prix du Cadran. She is an out-and-out stayer and will need testing conditions to be seen to her best, over further than th
Continuous is a strong stayer, proven at both Doncaster with 1m6½f success, but also at York where he landed a Great Voltigeur Stakes win in a strongly run race over stamina-laden colts in Castle Way and Gregory. He is also ground versatile and stays well but has a burst of speed that has allowed him to gallop away from his rivals.
Whilst this is a quick turnaround following an impressive St Leger performance, and it is of concern that he has not been trained specifically for this race, as many of his rivals have, Continuous has been progressing well with each performance, with both trainer and jockey Ryan Moore learning plenty about him.
Moore timed the ride to perfection at York, allowing the prominent runners to go on at their own pace, whilst restraining his mount at the rear of the field, riding patiently before galloping clear of his rivals towards the line. Things hadn’t gone to plan in the Prix du Jockey Club and a slowly run race didn’t suit at Ascot when second to King Of Steel in the King Edward VII Stakes, but he returned to form and now looks better than ever.
WESTOVER – Ralph Beckett
Being by Frankel, out of Mirabilis, a granddaughter to Nijinsky, there is plenty of class and winning credentials in Westover’s pedigree, and his dam’s half-sister Nebraska Tornado won two black-type contests at the track, including the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp.
A respectable sixth in the race last year on softer ground than his ideal, the son of Frankel has had a good and consistent season this term. He won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and finished second in three Group One contests, including behind Equinox in the Dubai Sheema Classic and when narrowly denied by Hukum in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The four-year-old has enjoyed a successful career without receiving the recognition he perhaps deserves. He has often found one or two better on the day, failing to find quite enough in his reserves to overcome a battling rival. Whilst he can be expected to put in another good performance, he is yet to show the tenacity required to win a competitive race of this level.
However, elemecould be in his favour and he excels over this trip. All of his last eight races have come over a mile-and-a-half, and he will have been trained with this race in mind. He is a consistent horse and, barring his blowout at Ascot last year, he has performed well in every race he has run in.
FEED THE FLAME – P Bary
The three-year-old Kingman colt made his debut at the track in April, winning a maiden with ease before recording another success in the following weeks, beating subsequent Group Three winner First Minister who would finish fourth behind him in the Grand Prix de Paris. His 1m4f success in the aforementioned Group One contest is his best performance to date but he was well beaten by Fantastic Moon when second in the Prix Niel and must reverse form with the German-raider.
FANTASTIC MOON – Frau S Steinberg
The supplemented German Derby winner has beaten a couple of his rivals already this season having enjoyed great success during his three-year-old campaign. Victory in the Deutches Derby followed by a second-place finish to 120-rated Nations Pride in a Munich Group One earned him plenty of plaudits, before he was sent off as second favourite for the Prix Niel behind Feed The Flame, before overturning the odds-on favourite in emphatic fashion. His form suggests he is improving race by race, with the ceiling of his ability yet to be reached. He is one of many improving three-year-olds in the race, receiving the allowances from their elder rivals, and is worthy of taking his chance at Longchamp.
German runners are often overlooked at Longchamp, as Torquator Tasso proved in 2021, surging late to claim the prestigious prize as the 72/1 outsider. Danedream had won 10 years earlier, beating an impressive field of rivals to win at odds of 20/1 in the fastest recorded time, a record that would later be broken by Ballydoyle superstar Found in 2016.
Irish-bred Star Appeal, formerly trained by John Oxx, became the first German-trained horse to win the Arc in 1975 when sent off at odds of 119/1 for trainer Theo Grieper, ridden by Newmarket-born jockey Greville Starkey who would go on to win the Derby on Arc winner Mill Reef’s son, Shirley Heights, and the 2000 Guineas aboard one of racing’s true greats in 1986 victor Dancing Brave. With three big-priced German-raiders already claiming the prize, it is unwise to discount the form, and Fantastic Moon is the shortest-priced of the contingent this year.
BAY BRIDGE – Sir Michael Stoute
The son of New Bay possesses plenty of ability but doesn’t show it as regularly as perhaps was expected following an unbeaten three-year-old campaign that promised plenty. Beating a field including Adayar and Baaeed to win the Champion Stakes at Ascot is his best run to date, suited by the softer going on that occasion that was the undoing of the previously unbeaten Baaeed.
After three defeats as a five-year-old, including being beaten a head by Simca Mille when third in the Prix Ganay behind winner Iresine, Bay Bridge returned to winning ways with a comfortable Group Three victory in the September Stakes at Kempton. His trainer Sir Michael Stoute saddled his only winner of the race in 2010, as Epsom Derby winner Workforce landed the prize.
More is needed from Bay Bridge to win a race of this calibre, but he is trained by a masterful gentleman who has winning form in the race, and given it may not be as deep a field as expected, he has a chance.
THROUGH SEVEN SEAS – Tomohito Ozeki
Japan’s first representative in the Longchamp showpiece was Speed Symboli in 1969, and since then they have been trying to land the prize with no success. Often unlucky and, in recent seasons especially, unsuited by the testing conditions, their horses have come to Europe with a great degree of hope surrounding them, the hope of a nation on their shoulders.
Through Seven Seas is their sole representative this year. Japanese-bred by Dream Journey, a three-time Grade One winner, out of Mighty Slew, the five-year-old mare was last seen finishing a neck second to Equinox, the highest rated horse in the world according to Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.
Her performance in the Hanshin Grade One, to finish as close to a superstar that was able to put three-and-a-half-lengths between himself and Westover, fourth in the aforementioned rankings, in the Dubai Sheema Classic, was an exceptional performance and if able to replicate that level of form she holds leading claims.
SIMCA MILLE – Stephane Wattel
The son of Tamayuz was last seen winning a Hoppegarten Group One, won by Torquator Tasso in 2020 and Alpinista in 2021, beating a rallying Sisfahan by three-quarters-of-a-length. It was a comfortable victory that puts him in contention heading to Longchamp. He would be the first Arc winner sired by Tamayuz, whose dam’s granddam was a half-sister to 1993 winner Urban Sea.
In excellent form this year with three Group successes, including the aforementioned Group One win when last seen beating Sisfahan, his only defeat of the season came when beaten a length-and-a-quarter by Iresine, who was reversing the Prix d’Harcourt form, in the Prix Ganay, when Simca Mille finished ahead of Bay Bridge, Vadeni and Place Du Carrousel.
He has been beaten only once over the trip when close second to Onesto in Prix de Paris last year but has been progressing well since with consistent performances and is ground versatile. Crucially, he has good form ahead of, and closely tied with, many others in the race, and has the potential to go close.
PLACE DU CARROUSEL – A Fabre
Four-year-old filly Place Du Carrousel reversed form with Iresine to land the Prix Foy on trials day, suited by the step up in trip and slower pace in comparison with a faster run Prix Ganay in which she could only manage fifth. She is a filly with plenty of speed but is yet to be tested in a strongly run 1m4f race. Her greatest weapon, her turn of foot, could be key, with which she could land a blow to her rivals in the closing stages.
The manner of her victory in the Prix de l’Opera last year was extremely impressive, to come from the back of the field down the outside to close on an exceptional filly in Nashwa was a statement of intent. She had been overlooked when sent off at odds of 41/1, but produced a fine effort to reverse form with Above The Curve and deprive Nashwa of another Group One success.
By Lope De Vega, out of a Group Two winner Traffic Jam, daughter of five-time Group One winner, including a Prix Ganay at the track, Duke Of Marmalade, there is plenty of class in her pedigree, and she is the sole representative of leading trainer André Fabre.
FREE WIND– John & Thady Gosden
The John & Thady Gosden-trained five-year-old is likely to be leading jockey Frankie Dettori’s final ride in the race. Free Wind, a daughter of Galileo, cost 325,000gns as a yearling and landed the Group Two Park Hill Stakes in her second season, looking every bit a stayer. She was seen once as a four-year-old when remarkably landing the Lancashire Oaks in difficult circumstances.
This season started well for the mare with a Group Two success at York over subsequent Duke Of Cambridge Stakes winner Rogue Millennium, but she could only manage fifth in the Hardwicke Stakes, disappointing when sent off as the 6/4 favourite. A step back up to 1m6f was a struggle on heavy ground at Goodwood, with the surface used as a reasonable excuse for her below par performance, and she returned to form with a narrow defeat in Yorkshire Oaks, beaten only by subsequent Prix Vermeille winner Warm Heart.
If she is back to her best Free Wind is an intriguing contender in an open race, but she may have to produce a career-best if to beat a field of this quality. Dettori has been enjoying his ‘Farewell Tour’, landing many of the sports big prizes, but bowing out with another Arc win would surely be his greatest achievement of his final season in Europe.
ONESTO – F Chappet
Tenth in the contest last year, the Fabrice Chappet-trained colt narrowly beat Simca Mille in the Grand Prix de Paris to land his sole success over 1m4f, but has failed to make an impression in two starts over the trip since.
A second to Luxembourg in last year’s Irish Champions Stakes is arguably his best form to date, but he was beaten seven-lengths as seventh of eight in this year’s renewal at Leopardstown and will need to find more if he is to be competitive at Longchamp. Softer ground will likely be in his favour, but it’s questionable whether or not the 1m4f trip is his optimum.
A son of Frankel out of a Sea The Stars mare, Onesto failed to meet his reserve as a yearling before selling for $535,000 as a two-year-old. His dam, Onshore, has a two-year-old filly by Gleneagles, named Before Night Falls, who sold for €460,000 as a yearling at the Arqana Deauville August Sales last year. It is a classy pedigree and his sire Frankel sired his first winner of the race in Alpinista last year.
MR HOLLYWOOD – Hank Grewe
With a string of second-placed finishes to his name, Mr Hollywood has found one better than him in every race since making the step up from Group Three company.
Beaten by Fantastic Moon when finishing second in the Germany Derby was a respectable performance and a good level of form, but he has plenty to find with the son of Sea The Moon and may need testing ground to be seen to best effect.
Both of his wins to date have come on ground described as heavy over 1m2f. There is no doubting his stamina over a mile-and-a-half, and he was unlucky not to land a Baden-Baden Group One in early September, however the €15,000 yearling will need to show significant improvement to claim this prize.
SISFAHAN – Henk Grewe
Five-year-old son of German Derby winner Isfahan won on debut at Lyon Parilly beating a field including Rubaud, now a Scottish Champion Hurdle winner for Paul Nicholls, before winning the German Derby at Hamburg in 2021.
The first foal of Kendalee, a half-sister to Grade One Prix Cambaceres winner Beaumec De Houelle, by Kendargent, sire of highly successful dual Group One winner Skalleti and three-time Group Two winner Skazino, cost €20,000 as a yearling.
A length second to subsequent Arc winner Torquator Tasso in a Baden-Baden Group One, before a three-length defeat to Alpinista in Cologne followed his Derby success. During his four-year-old campaign he landed the Gran Premio Jockey Club in San Siro, his most recent victory, and is yet to win this season.
Despite beginning his season over the staying trips this year, a drop back in trip sparked a revival, with two second-place finishes in Group company, the latter in a Hoppegarten Group One where he was beaten three-quarters-of-a-length by Simca Mille, coming wide from the rear of the field to mount his challenge, closing on the eventual winner towards the line on ground described as good.
An easier surface may have seen him perform to better effect, with all of his wins to date coming on ground with soft in the description. Despite a lack of rain forecast in Paris this week, the Longchamp track usually rides softer than expected, which will benefit this overlooked German-raider.
HAYA ZARK – Adrien Fouassier
Four-year-old colt Haya Zark is likely to be the outsider of the field in Paris on Sunday.
A Group Three success over a regressing Skalleti in the Prix Exbury on heavy ground at Saint-Cloud looks the pick of his form, but the son of leading sire Zarak will need to improve plenty to be competitive in a race of this magnitude, needing to reverse form with Simca Mille.
He won a modest Prix Ridgway at the track last year and has a strong bloodline, with credentials to challenge for a hard-fought race of this magnitude in his pedigree. His dam, a half-sister to Haya Landa who finished fourth in the Arc at 150/1, is a granddaughter to Singing Lark, a full sister to Arc winner Subotica. There is potential for him to outrun his odds, but testing ground would increase his chan
A victory for St Leger winner CONTINUOUS, supplemented for the race just four days prior, would be a poignant success, and would also be important for the Thoroughbred breed.
With the apparent obsession for the fashionable need for speed and quick results in the current climate, which could be suggested as diluting the pedigree, a St Leger winner of one of the most competitive and sought after races in the world be a significant boost for the middle-distance and staying pedigrees that are so important to the future of the sport.
Coolmore have never been an operation to shy away from the stamina-laden pedigrees that have seen them gain monumental success in the past with their stallions and respective progeny, and having a Classic winner over a 1m6f trip with the class and speed to win an Arc, by the late Heart’s Cry, a champion over the middle distance trips and the first horse to inflict defeat upon Deep Impact, would certainly have a significant impact.
After two emphatic recent performances following a number of runs from which he will have learnt plenty, the maturing three-year-old has what it takes to become an Arc winner, given he is fully recovered from his recent Doncaster success.
The proven form over 1m4f with the stamina to be effective over further is particularly attractive, especially if the ground is softer than expected on the day. He has proven form on good to firm ground too however, and his versatility puts him among the most reliable contenders in the field.
Running in the familiar purple and white colours of Derrick Smith for Coolmore, for a genius trainer in Aidan O’Brien, under a jockey that must be among the best in the world in current form in Ryan Moore, Continuous has many factors in his favour and could be capable of making history at Longchamp.
- ACE IMPACT
- PLACE DU CARROUSEL
All runners correct at the time of publication.
Photo by Philippe Gras on Unsplash