Ce n'est pas une course, c'est monument! It's true that the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the showpiece of French racing, and how could it not be so anointed, when it celebrates the beauty, speed, courage and nobility of the thoroughbred in one of the most celebrated cities on earth, Paris.
The Arc honour roll speaks of champions in the mould of Alleged, Montjeu, Ribot, Pientre Celebre, Dylan Thomas and Sea The Stars, all highly acclaimed horses, and in some cases, prolific sires in their own right. Named for the victory parade that took place abound the Arc de Triomphe following the end of WWI in 1919, 1920 was to be the inaugural running of the race as we know it today – the race that on the first Sunday in October, unveils the world's best thoroughbred over a mile-and-a-half.
As the race approaches, I'm reminded of the pilgrimage Mick and Cheryl Goss made to the home of the "high priest" of French racing and breeding, Alec and Ghislaine Head's Le Quesnay, only weeks before Arc heroine Treve became the first horse in 36 years to claim victory in consecutive years. While it's true that the Head family are no strangers to success in the thoroughbred racing and breeding game, it's hard to think of another team who shares the same rich history with the Arc as they do.
Monsieur Head is not only the trainer of 4 Arc winners, but son Freddy is one of only four jockeys to have won the race on four occasions, once atop his father's mount Ivanjica, and another aboard sister Criquette's star of the time, Three Troikas. When Three Troikas took the laurels in the 1979 version of the world's third richest turf race, Criquette also became the first woman trainer in history to achieve that feat, she did not stop there though; in 2013 and 2014, Criquette went on to take Treve to the winner's enclosure the jewel of the European Racing Crown. Could history repeat itself? Let's see what the experts have to say.
Eagle Top will defend the honour of British older horses when he lines up for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Gr.1) at Longchamp on Sunday, as red-hot favourite Treve was eased to odds against with a number of firms Thursday.
The John Gosden-trained 4-year-old earned his place with a terrific effort in the King George VI (Gr.1) and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July when losing out by a nose to Postponed, although he has since been beaten by The Corsican in the Newbury Arc Trial (Gr.3) on very testing ground in September.
With Postponed taken out of Europe's premier middle-distance event after changing stables, Eagle Top has been left to represent the older brigade in the raiding party, which includes superstar stable-mate, Golden Horn.
Hugo Lascelles, racing manager to owner Lady Bamford, said, "Eagle Top is fine. He's taking his chance on the back of a good run in the King George." Golden Horn is the only other British challenger after Gosden withdrew Irish Derby (Gr.1) winner Jack Hobbs at the latest acceptance stage.
As expected, Golden Horn was supplemented by owner Anthony Oppenheimer at a cost of €120,000, on the back of a season that has included victories in the Investec Derby (Gr.1), Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Gr.1) and QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (Gr.1) already this season.
"Momentum" has been the buzzword in recent days in relation to Golden Horn's chance and Paddy Power and Ladbrokes were among those to push Treve out to 11-10, with the expectation she could get bigger in the market still, with the ground drying in Paris. Also supplemented were Shahah as a pacemaker for the hat-trick-seeking Treve, and Spiritjim.
That means a field of 18 is likely, with the only other defector being Freddy Head's Migwar. The three Irish contenders are the fillies Found and Tapestry from Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle yard and Dermot Weld's Free Eagle. Heading the home team, along with Treve, are Andre Fabre's French Derby winner New Bay and stable-mate Flintshire. Dolniya, Erupt and Prince Gibraltar are the others in the mix.
Will the brother and sister duo manage to take the win home with the Le Quesnay flag flying high – we certainly hope so!
Watch the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, 4th October at 15h55.
Thoroughbred Daily News