“It’s not a race, it’s a landmark” – the slogan of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. A pun that works in English as well as the original French, and it really does say it all about Europe’s most prestigious horse race. Also, the world’s richest race on turf, the ‘Arc’ is run over a mile and a half, usually at Longchamp Racecourse. This year, however, it is being held at Chantilly, one of the most hotly anticipated events in the racing calendar. This year in particular did not disappoint, with the high-class filly Found and Ryan Moore leading home a sensational 1-2-3 for Irish Champion Trainer Aidan O’Brien, with Highland Reel and Seamie Heffernan and Order of St George and Frankie Dettori completing the trio. A luckless ninth in last year’s edition, five lengths behind John Gosden’s superstar Golden Horn, Found put her previous five races (all of which she finished second in) behind her to defeat a high-class field including four-time Group One winner Postponed, this year’s Derby victor Harzand and Japanese raider Makahiki, who clearly failed to run his race, finishing 14th of the 16.
It’s difficult to exaggerate O’Brien’s achievement in saddling the first three home in such a hotly contested race. Probably not since Michael Dickinson’s 1-2-3-4-5 in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup has such a unique and impressive training feat been accomplished, especially considering that Found was only O’Brien’s second Arc winner, after Dylan Thomas kept the race following a tense stewards’ enquiry in 2007. It was a big day too for preeminent stallion Galileo, the sire of all three of O’Brien’s trio, who was also experiencing his first winner in the race having produced the winner of just about every other major flat race in Europe over the past 15 years.
And what of those defeated? Postponed, the 2/1 favourite at the off, had no real excuses back in fifth place. Asked for his effort by his devoted jockey Andrea Atzeni, he found very little in the final two furlongs and perhaps was simply paying the price for a long season, which started in Dubai back in March and has taken in Epsom and York along the way. Harzand was equally unimpressive, and perhaps is a below-average winner of a below-average Derby. Maybe as he has grown and developed as a three-year-old now wants further. Unlike Postponed, who will race on at six, the Aga Khan-owned colt is likely to be retired to stud at the end of the season, and this race may be the last time we’re going to see him.
For O’Brien, his staff at Ballydoyle and owners at Coolmore, it was a day to remember. Certainly the most important of his illustrious training career so far, probably one that will never be repeated and possibly the one which sees him become a candidate for the best trainer of all time.
Photo Credit: Irish Times