The 91st edition of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) Oct. 7 at Longchamp attracted a large and competitive field of 18, headed by reigning Japanese Horse of the Year Orfevre and multiple European classic winner Camelot.
Post positions were drawn Oct. 5 for the 1 1/2-mile (2,400-meter) event that is Europe's richest race at $5.1 million. The winner will join a win roster of the Thoroughbred racing's elite that includes the likes of Ribot, Sea-Bird, Vaguely Noble, Mill Reef, Alleged, and Sea The Stars, to name only a few.
The Arc is one of seven group I races on the Oct. 7 card, which will provide American bettors the chance to wager into world's second-largest pool. Kentucky-based simulcast and wagering company AmWest Entertainment has joined with France's Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) to simulcast the Arc weekend races, beginning Oct. 6.
The run-up to the race took several surprising turns during the week.
Last year's winner and course record-holder Danedream was withdrawn when her owner's stable in Germany was placed into quarantine due to an outbreak of an equine infection. On Oct. 3, Camelot was entered while other British contenders Nathaniel and Snow Fairy were withdrawn.
Danedream's winning time of 2:24.29 for the 2,400-meter Arc broke the record set by Peintre Celebre in 1997.
Orfevre will have to overcome the widest post in stall 18 in his bid to become the first Arc winner from Japan, where the event is widely regarded as racing's top prize. The last horse to win the Arc from a double-digit post was Dalakhani in 2003
Winner of last year's Triple Crown in his native country, the 4-year-old Stay Gold colt will be the 11th Arc starter from Japan, which has come tantalizingly close to victory, most recently finishing second in 2010 with Nakayama Festa; third in 2006 with Deep Impact before he was disqualified; and second in 1999 with El Condor Pasa.
Orfevre will be guided by four-time French champion jockey and two-time Arc winner Christophe Soumillon, who rode the strong-willed colt to a last-to-first victory over Arc opponent Meandre in the Prix Foy (Fr-II) on Sept. 16 in his French debut.
Three-year-olds have captured the Arc eight times in the past nine runnings, and eight will take a shot this year.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien, who won the Arc with Dylan Thomas in 2007, has a strong chance with Coolmore and associates' Camelot, who will start from post 5.
Winner of the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and Investec English Derby (Eng-I), the Montjeu colt just missed becoming the first English Triple Crown winner in more than 40 years in a stunning upset under a tactically flawed ride from O'Brien's son Joseph in the Ladbrokes St. Leger (Eng-I) Sept. 15 at Doncaster. A win in the Arc for the colt, who also won the Irish Derby (Ire-I) this season, could go far in softening the blow of his tough St. Leger loss as the overwhelming favorite.
Joseph O'Brien was deemed too heavy to ride Camelot in the Arc. In a surprise announcement this week, the colt will be ridden by Godolphin stable rider Frankie Dettori, who has ridden in the past 24 Arcs and won three times.
``He looks to be tremendously well balanced. He came into his own in the Derby when he ran over a mile and a half,'' the 41-year-old Dettori told Racing UK. ``He spread-eagled the field and was mighty impressive ... The Arc will be his absolute cup of tea.''
Dettori won the Arc with Lammtarra in 1995), Sakhee in 2001, and Marienbard in 2002.
Godolphin will be represented in the Arc by French-based 3-year-old Masterstroke, winner of the Lucien Barriere Grand Prix de Deauville (Fr-II) in August at Deauville. The colt is by recently deceased sire Monsun. His second dam is 1993 Arc winner Urban Sea, who produced Galileo and Sea The Stars. Masterstroke is trained by seven-time Arc winner Andre Fabre and will be ridden by Mickael Barzalona from post 17.
Other sophomores set to contest the Arc include Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I, French Derby) winner Saonois, a Chichicastenango colt who will start from post 2 under Antoine Hamelin, and Irish Oaks (Ire-I) winner Great Heavens, a full sister to Nathaniel, who was withdrawn from the race earlier this week with a fever. Saonois and Great Heavens were each supplemented at a cost of (€100,000). The Galileo filly will start from post seven under William Buick.
The younger O'Brien retains the mount on St Nicholas Abbey, who finished fifth in last year's Arc after leading in the stretch, then rebounded to win the 2011 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
The Montjeu horse won the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup (Eng-I) for the second straight year in June. He returns to his best distance in the Arc, where he will start from post 10.
Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms aims for a fourth win in the race. The expected soft ground at Longchamp this weekend will be an advantage for Sea Moon. The 4-year-old Beat Hollow colt was runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf and fifth in the Betfair King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) July 21 at Ascot in his most recent start.
Jockey Ryan Moore, who was to make his comeback riding Oct. 5 after being has been sidelined since August with a broken wrist, has been named to ride Sea Moon, who will start from post 16.
Second in the Arc last year, the Aga Khan's 4-year-old filly Shareta landed the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) Aug. 23 at York and followed with a comfortable win in the Qatar Prix Vermeille (Fr-I) Sept. 16 at Longchamp to secure her place as a leading contender to win the Arc. The Sinndar filly drew 11 and will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire.
``This year we decided to have two races before the big race,'' said Alain de Royer-Dupre, who also trained Dalakhani. ``Shareta is a strong filly and she can accept everything. It is very interesting to have a filly like that in a big race.''
The Arc program begins at 7:30 a.m. EDT, with eight Thoroughbred races extending through 12:25 p.m.
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