Cirrus des Aigles
got the best of Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Treve
in a stretch-long duel April 27 at Longchamp, handing the filly the first defeat of her career in the Prix Ganay (Fr-I).
The 4-year-old filly, making her 2014 debut, got her head briefly in front in the final 200 meters for Frankie Dettori before 8-year-old Cirrus des Aigles, sharp from two previous starts this year, dug down in the final strides for Christophe Soumillon. He won by a short neck in a knuckle-whitening finish.
With Dettori trying to settle Treve at the back of the field, stablemate Belle de Crecy
took to the front from the gate, setting a quick pace and opening a long lead while stalked by Joshua Tree
, who was several lengths clear of the six other rivals in the eight-horse field.
Tiring from the tempo, Belle de Crecy yielded to Joshua Tree entering the straight with Cirrus des Aigles poised to strike from third on the fence as Treve moved up to fourth.
Joshua Tree led only briefly before Cirrus des Aigles was joined by Treve to his outside. Locked in battle, the pair thundered toward the finish line before Soumillon urged the winning thrust from Cirrus des Aigles.
checked in third, 4 1/2 lengths behind Treve.
Cirrus des Aigles, who at 127 pounds was conceding three pounds to Treve, covered 2,100-meter (about 1 5/16-mile) test on very soft ground was 2:14.13. The race was the first group I event of the European season.
Trained in France by Corine Barande Barbe, Cirrus des Aigles took his career line to 19-20-6 from 56 starts and won the Prix Ganay for the second time after capturing the race in 2012. He will now be pointed to the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) June 7 at Epsom and Prince of Wales's (Eng-I) later in the month at Royal Ascot.
"He had his track, his ground and two races under his belt—it made sure he would operate to the maximum—but this is really something extraordinary for racing," Soumillon told England's Press Association after the race.
"It's what we love in European sport—horses so closely matched and fighting it out together. He is probably on his top level of form and to beat Treve, he had to be there."
Treve suffered her first loss in six career starts, and trainer Criquette Head-Maarek said the ground conditions and fast pace might have played against Al Shaqab Racing's Motivator filly. But she is already thinking of a rematch with Cirrus des Aigles.
"If she comes out of it well, in principal we will be going to Royal Ascot," she said. "We might have lost a battle, but we haven't lost a war.
"In the rematch, I'm sure we can get it back. She took the lead but in the end he's come back at us—that's racing. Horses are not unbeatable, that is for certain."
Bred in France by Yvon Lelimouzin and Benoit Deschamps, Cirrus des Aigles is a son of Even Top out of the Septieme Ciel mare Taille de Guepe. He came into the Prix Ganay having finished second to Gentildonna in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) March 29 at Meydan after posting a fourth-place finish in an allowance race at Chantilly March 4 in his season debut.
The second-highest rated horse in the world in 2012, Cirrus des Aigles is owned by Jean-Claude-Alain Dupouy and enjoyed a 15th stakes win in this year's Prix Ganay. His record also includes wins in the 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic, defeating St Nicholas Abbey
, and the 2011 QIPCO Champions Stakes (Eng-I) over So You Think
and Snow Fairy