Undefeated Zarkava confirmed her place in the record books by drawing off to a two-length victory in the $5.5 million Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) at blustery Longchamp Oct. 5. The 3-year-old daughter of Zamindar became the first filly since Urban Sea in 1993 to capture the historic race.
Superbly handled by Christophe Soumillon, favored Zarkava, breaking from the inside stall, almost lost her rider when she lurched to the right coming out of the gate. Soumillon never lost his cool, however, and kept his star filly reserved near the rear of the 16-horse field for much of the race.
Red Rock Canyon went straight to the front as expected, as stablemate and second betting choice Duke of Marmalade was rated in mid-pack by Johnny Murtagh.
Red Rock Canyon surrendered his lead as the field entered the home straight. It’s Gino and Soldier Of Fortune quickly took command, with Godolphin’s Schiaparelli and Khalid Abdullah’s Zambezi Sun also in contention.
Zarkava only had four horses beaten at this point, but began to weave her way through traffic, as Andre Fabre’s Getaway began to roll on the far outside.
As the field entered the final furlong, Zarkava and Soumillon split horses and sprinted clear to victory.
Soumillion thumped his chest and blew kisses to the home crowd after winning.
“This is the best present I could ever have,” said the French jockey, who also won the race with Dalakhani in 2003. “Both (horses) had completely different characters, but the quality is the same. They are the two best moments of my life.”
The victory was the seventh in a row for Zarkava, who won the group I Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French One Thousand Guineas) and the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) this spring for trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre. She tuned up for the Arc with a two-length victory in the Prix Vermeille (Fr-I), her first try against older fillies and mares at the Arc's 1 1/2-mile distance Sept. 14.
Youmzain, runner-up to Dylan Thomas in the 2007 Arc, found himself in the same spot again, a half-length in front of It’s Gino and Soldier Of Fortune, who dead-heated for third.
Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:28.80 over turf rated as good to soft. Wind and light rain had softened the track.
Royer-Dupre, who conditions Zarkava for the Aga Khan, was jubilant after the race, telling reporters, “She’s beautiful; it’s marvelous because she had a very easy race. It’s perfect.”
Royer-Dupre continued, ““I know she has great acceleration. It’s great to train a filly like that. She’s the best I’ve had.”
Duke of Marmalade, one of three in the race trained by Irish conditioner Aidan O'Brien, was never a factor, finishing seventh.
Duke of Marmalade won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) in England earlier this year, but is much better on firmer ground and struggled to make any impact.
“I’m not using the ground as an excuse,” said O’Brien, who won the Arc last year with Dylan Thomas.