|Guest Column: Prix De L Arc De Triomphe|
03 October, 2012
– Lisa Barrett
Sunday sees the 91st renewal of Europe’s greatest race, the Qatar Prix de la Arc de Triomphe at the famous Longchamp racecourse in Paris, France. The “Arc” as it is popularly referred to, is currently the world’s third richest turf race behind the Melbourne and Japan Cups. The idea for the Arc was first conceived as far back as 1863 by the Société d’Encouragement (the former governing body of racing in France), they wanted to institute a race that would equally match horses of various ages against each other over 1 ¼ miles (2400m).
In January 1920 the society met to discuss the possible staging of such a race, the idea was to honour the Allies who paraded through the famous Arc de Triomphe monument after the conclusion of World War 1 and victory over Germany.
The first running was in that same year on October 3rd and was won by Comrade, a colt who went onto become one of France’s best middle distance runners of his generation. The prize money at the time was a mere 150 000 francs, however in 1935 the race acquired a welcome boost of funds thanks to the state lottery, which then awarded prizes according to race position and lots. Prize money for the race did however dip substantially over the years, but thanks to the sponsorship of the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club it now stands at €4 million.
The Arc has a proud and prestigious tradition of being one of the most challenging turf races around, and over the past 90 years, only six horses have won the race twice. One in particular captured the imagination and went onto to become one of the greatest sires of the modern era, the Frederico Tesio-bred Ribot, who won the race in 1955 and 1956.
Ribot was one of those rare horses, winning all 16 of his starts over a variety of distances from 1000m to 3000m, an incredible feat indeed, and he retired with a Timeform rating of 142, the sixth highest of all-time. It’s not his racing though that he is only remembered for, Ribot was renowned for a foul temper, and he was often so unmanageable that a special stall with a gate which could be opened directly onto his paddocks from outside his stall was installed at Darby Dan Farm.
Ribot could only be handled by the most experienced grooms, and even then, they often came away with some form of injuries as a result of his infamous temper.
Unfortunately, Ribot passed his wicked temperament to several of his offspring, one of them was his great grandson Alleged who went onto to emulate his grandsire with back-to-back Arcs in 1977 & 1978, before retiring with 9 wins from 10 starts and a Timeform rating of 140.
Alleged was like Ribot possessed of a vile temper, and was often nearly impossible to handle, and only the most experienced grooms were ever able to handle him. Extremely vocal, Alleged liked to run around his paddock huffing and squealing whenever he saw people approaching him, though he could apparently be tempted into a form of submission with a nice bunch of juicy carrots!
This year’s Arc has been plagued with several high profile withdrawals, including last year’s winner Danedream (who set a winning new course record last year in an amazing 2m 24.49s), Snow Fairy and Nathaniel. There is some consolation for racing fans though, as Camelot is confirmed to line up at odds of 3-1 for a crack at the Arc on Sunday. Looking to put his failed English Triple Crown bid behind him, and redeem himself in the Arc, Camelot should relish the distance, as Derby winners historically tend to do well in the Arc.
He will face some stiff competition from his half-brother, St Nicholas Abbey, as well as the Japanese Triple Crown winner and middle distance sensation Orfevere, who is bidding to become Japan’s first Arc winner. Fate is a fickle lady though, and one can never write off the likes of Mikhail Glinka and Sea Moon as outside chances in the big race.
A promotional poster in 2003 came up with this fitting slogan for the Prix de la Arc de Triomphe: “Ce n’est pas une course, c’est un monument” translated means “Not so much a race as a monument”. A monument that has stood the test of time!
– Guest Writer
“Lisa Barrett”, her psuedonym, currently works at a stud farm in the KZN Midlands. She is absolutely and totally crazy about horses and every aspect of them. She is fascinated by every aspect of the racehorse business, especially pedigrees and would like to one day write a book on her favourite sire!