First held in 1920, it will be run in 2013 for the 92nd time. Because of the war, it was not held in 1939 and 1940 and took place at Tremblay in 1943 and 1944 over 2,300 m. Record time: 2’ 24’’ 49/100 by Danedream in 2011, only a slight improvement on the record of 2’ 24’’ 60/100 held by Peintre Célèbre since 1997.
After abandoning the poor ground of Champ de Mars in 1857 for its brand-new racecourse at Longchamp, the Société d'Encouragement pour l'amélioration des races de chevaux en France conceived an ambitious project: to pit thoroughbreds of different nationalities against each other on the demanding Bois de Boulogne track in order to unearth the very best.
The first phase came in 1863 with the creation of the Grand Prix de Paris, which served as a vehicle for the winner of the English Derby to compete against that of the Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, over 3,000 metres.
In pursuit of the same goal, the Société d'Encouragement organised a meeting between 3-year-olds and over on a mile and a half course, scheduled for the start of October to give young horses time to develop. This was the Prix du Conseil Municipal, created in 1893.
1920 saw the rebirth of racing in the wake of the Great War. The Société d'Encouragement wanted to create a showcase for French thoroughbred breeding. In its quest for perfection, a new race was founded presenting the same characteristics in terms of date and distance as the Conseil Municipal, but with no overweights or underweights, just weights for age, with each horse on equal terms. On the European racing calendar, the first Sunday in October was a free date.
All that remained was to select an eloquent name for this generously rewarded race. On 14 July 1919, the allied forces had marched victoriously beneath l’Arc de Triomphe, a monument constructed in honour of the French armed forces... So despite the fact that a minor claiming race at Longchamp had been called the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe since 1882, the name passed in 1919 to this new international event, designed to compare the merits of Europe’s finest thoroughbreds and select a champion.
The Arc de Triomphe first secured state funding in 1935, when the government authorised the Société d'Encouragement to organise a sweepstake on the race, like the Grand Prix de Paris run 3 months earlier. A sweepstake is a lottery where the awarding of the prizes is dependent on both a drawing of lots and the race result. This system was used from 1936 to 1938, the sole difference being that the organisation of the sweepstake was entrusted to the national lottery (created in 1933) run by the government.
After the war, it was not until 1949 that the alliance was renewed between the Arc de Triomphe and the sweepstake, a special section of the national lottery. It had a jackpot of 50 million francs, which enabled the Arc prize money to be increased fivefold each year – it currently offers 25 million francs to its winner – and the purse of all the races on what is a particularly bumper weekend upgraded. As a result, the Grand Criterium was added to the Arc meeting for four years, after which it returned to its usual slot on the calendar, one week later. As the years passed, however, the assistance from the national lottery dwindled, to the point that, by the 1970s, it had become only symbolic. And in 1982, the Arc served as a support for a national lottery sweepstake for the final time.
Also in 1982, the Arc de Triomphe joined forces with a London-based hotel chain, Trusthouse Forte, which owned some eight hundred hotels around the world, including two luxury hotels in Paris, the Plazza Athénée and the George V. This relationship would last six years, until 1987.
In 1988, TF was usurped by another hotel chain, the Italian Ciga Hotels group, whose major shareholder was the Aga Khan. It was a marriage made in heaven that would make the “Ciga Weekend” the focal point of world racing. In 1989, the Saturday was enriched by the Grand Critérium, then in 1991, the Prix du Cadran was added, making it a spectacular weekend of five Group I races. On 12 October 1991, 35,000 racegoers (30,000 of them paying) flocked to Longchamp and a further 45 million watched the race on TV, courtesy of the nineteen television channels covering this now major sporting event. After their six years of lavish cohabitation came separation and in 1994, the Arc was reunited with its former suitor Trusthouse Forte, but their renewed tryst lasted just 3 years. Remaining single for 1997 and 1998, the Arc found a partner again in 1999, and once more it was a hotel group, the “Hôtels et Casinos du groupe Lucien Barrière”. This relationship was to last nine years, up until 2007.
2008 brought with it a new partnership. Agreed for a 5-year period with Qatar, a young country in the midst of a boom, it has resulted in a doubling of the prize money of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, from 2 to 4 million euros. The partnership was extended in 2010 for another ten years, ensuring sponsorship until 2022. It has also allowed French racing to enter a new phase in the history of the Arc, which in 2008 became the most richly rewarded turf race in the world. This partnership has primarily been concluded to promote the races organised by the Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club (QREC, founded in 1975), which is venturing into the world of the English thoroughbred with a most ambitious project.
The overall purse for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend now stands at 6.7 million euros. The card consists of fifteen English thoroughbred races (7 of them Group I and 4 Group II), along with two Group I events for Arabian purebreds, organised by France Galop and the AFAC (Association Française du Cheval Arabe de Course). The first of the Arab purebred races is for four year-old fillies and will be run on “Arc” Saturday under the name, “The Qatar French Arabian Breeders Challenge”. The second race, the Qatar Arabian World Cup, is the world’s most prestigious event for Arabian purebreds, courtesy of 450,000 euros in prize money. It is run immediately after the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe dinner.
The 1949 edition of the Arc was also the source of another event greatly appreciated by the foreign celebrities, the dinner offered on the eve of the race at Maxim's by Racing & Breeding magazine of which Marcel Boussac was the patron. He himself had expressed the wish for such an international meeting thirteen years earlier, when, at the Gimcrack Dinner, he made the traditional speech given by the winner (Goya) of the Gimcrack Stakes at York. After the death of Marcel Boussac, who used to organise things personally, this so-called Arc de Triomphe dinner was taken over by the Société d'Encouragement, then by France Galop, the sole difference being that it was held at various locations representative of Paris and capable of hosting some four hundred guests.
A monumental race.
"Not so much a race as a monument". This slogan was used for the first time on the event poster in 2003. And each edition has supplied its stone to help form the edifice, the current dimensions of which make it a monument symbolic of French racing. But while, like any monument worthy of the name, the Arc exalts the memory, it remains firmly rooted in the present.
In 2011, a new record time for the race (2’ 24’’ 49/100) was set by Danedream. This time only just bettered the record held by Peintre Célèbre since 1997 (2’ 24’’ 60/100), which in turn had broken the record set ten years earlier Trempolino (2’ 26’’ 30/100).
In 1999, having travelled specially from Japan, El Condor Pasa narrowly failed to offer the Land of the Rising Sun its first victory in the Arc. He was outstripped by a half-length by Montjeu, who thereby earned the title of “world horse of the year.”
In 2001, thanks to the sponsorship of the "Groupe Lucien Barrière", "France Galop" was able to put together, for the first time in Europe, on a single day, a Racecard comprising six Group I races, including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which was celebrating its eightieth edition in fine style.
The global interest provoked by the Arc de Triomphe can be summed up as follows: over 200 countries broadcast the Arc, giving a combined television audience of over one billion. In 2009, the Arc benefited from over 18 hours of international television coverage. Also in 2009, some 56,000 racegoers (including 20,000 from the UK) were at Longchamp for the weekend’s racing.
The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is globally recognised as the supreme test of thoroughbreds. The race winner will usually go on to become a champion breeder.
The race winners, full details of which can be consulted on the Officiel du Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe website, bear witness to this fact.
Doubles successes or near misses.
Only six horses have managed to win the Arc twice. They are:
Ksar in 1921 and 1922,
Motrico in 1930 and 1932,
Corrida in 1936 and 1937,
Tantième in 1950 and 1951,
Ribot in 1955 and 1956,
Alleged in 1977 and 1978.
Before achieving the double, two of them had already taken part in the Arc: Motrico, 4th as a 3-year-old in 1928 and Corrida, 3rd as a 3-year-old in 1935. The other four champions achieved their doubles at 3 and 4 years of age.
Twelve horses had taken part unsuccessfully in the Arc before their victories. They are:
Massine 2nd at 3 years in 1923,
Djebel 3rd at 4 years in 1941,
Nuccio 2nd at 3 years in 1951,
Oroso 6th at 3 years in 1956,
Exbury 6th at 3 years in 1962,
Allez France 2nd at 3 years in 1973,
Star Appeal unplaced at 3 years in 1973, winner at 5 years,
Ivanjica unplaced at 3 years in 1975,
All Along unplaced at 3 years in 1982, winner at 4 years, then 3rd at 5 years,
Sagace unplaced at 3 years in 1983, winner at 4 years then 2nd at 5 years,
Rainbow Quest unplaced at 3 years in 1984,
Tony Bin 2nd at 4 years in 1987.
Two of them, All Along and Sagace, number one victory in three attempts.
Seventeen Arc winners have failed in their attempts to repeat their victories. They are:
Priori 5th at 4 years in 1926,
Kantar 2nd at 4 years in 1929,
Ortello 4th at 4 years in 1930,
Brantôme 4th at 4 years in 1935,
Le Pacha 6th at 4 years in 1942,
Ardan 2nd at 4 years in 1945 and 4th at 5 years in 1946,
Coronation unplaced at 4 years in 1950,
La Sorellina unplaced at 4 years in 1954,
Puissant Chef 6th at 4 years in 1961,
San San unplaced at 4 years in1973,
Three Troikas 4th at 4 years in 1980,
Detroit unplaced at 4 years in 1981,
Carnegie 6th at 4 years in 1995,
Helissio 6th at 4 years in 1997,
Montjeu 4th at 4 years in 2000.
Bago 3rd at 4 years in 2005.
Hurricane Run 3rd at 4 years in 2006.
Fillies and mares have won nineteen times, equivalent to 20.8% of the 91 editions held. These 18 heroines – one has achieved the double – are named as follows: Pearl Cap (1931), Samos (1935), Corrida* (1936, 1937), Nikellora (1945), Coronation (1949), La Sorellina (1953), San San (1972), Allez France* (1974), Ivanjica* (1976), Three Troikas (1979), Detroit (1980), Gold River* (1981), Akiyda (1982), All Along* (1983), Urban Sea* (1993), Zarkava (2008) and Danedream (2011) and Solemia* (2012).
The asterisk signifies that the race was won at 4 years of age.
Ten of them had participated in the Prix de Diane, five winning it (Pearl Cap, Nikellora, La Sorellina, Allez France, Zarkava), three coming second (Samos, Three Troikas, Akiyda) and two, All Along and Urban Sea, coming in fifth and sixth respectively.
Fifteen of them had taken part in the Prix Vermeille, eight of them winning it (Pearl Cap, Nikellora, San San, Allez France, Ivanjica, Three Troikas, All Along, Zarkava), with the other seven obtaining the following placings: 2nd Akiyda, 3rd Detroit and Urban Sea and Solemia, 4th Gold River, 6th La Sorellina and unplaced Samos.
4 October 1925. On account of his third-place finish behind Massine the previous year and six other victories (including the Cadran and the Prix du Président de la République), the 4-year-old Cadum – ridden by Matthew MacGee and trained by Clément Duval – was favourite for the Arc (11/10). And he passed the finish post first, a length ahead of Priori. But his numerous backers started to sweat when the siren sounded. Baron Edouard de Rothschild’s horse had strayed off course just before the finish, cutting across Priori’s path. As a result, the latter was declared the winner by race stewards. The fortunate Priori (40/1) ridden by Marcel Allemand, belonged to Count Gérard de Chavagnac and was trained by Percy Carter. He had just won the Prix Royal Oak.
4 October 1959. A neck-and-neck finish. Everyone had to wait thirty-two minutes to discover the winner: twelve for the examination of the photograph, then twenty to study the film (introduced a month before). Eventually, it was established that the first five horses respectively were “separated” by a dead heat, a short head and two short necks. But at the intervention of the stewards, Midnight Sun (50/1) – ridden by Jacques Fabre, owned by François Dupré and trained by François Mathet – was demoted to second place for having obstructed his "dead-heater" Saint Crespin (17/1), himself owned by Prince Aly Khan, ridden by George Moore and trained by Alec Head. Third was Le Loup Garou (45/1) ahead of Mi Carina (40/1) and England’s Primera (9/1).
6 October 1985. The previous year’s winner, Sagace, Daniel Wildenstein’s 5-year-old trained by Patrick Biancone, was the hot favourite (6/10). Upon entering the home straight, Sagace, tight on the rail, was heading for the finish post. The only danger was Rainbow Quest, who was gaining ground and getting nearer to the rail. Whipped to the right by his new jockey Eric Legix, Sagace instead veered left, striking Rainbow Quest twice. On passing the post, Sagace was ahead by a neck from Rainbow Quest (fading fast). The incident passed almost unnoticed. While the crowd was acclaiming the French victory, the siren sounded to announce a complaint by the jockey of the English horse. After seven minutes delay, a crestfallen public learnt of the disqualification of their favourite. The immediate broadcast of the film on the television screens, while not soothing the spirits, provided proof of the fault. An appeal against the decision was submitted, arguing that Rainbow Quest had left the outside and approached Sagace, thereby causing the latter’s defensive reflex, Despite being judged admissible, this appeal was deemed to be without foundation. The lucky beneficiaries of the stewards’ difficult decision were Prince Khalid Abdullah, the trainer Jeremy Tree and the jockey Pat Eddery.
2006 brought a major surprise a few days after the Arc de Triomphe, when the Japanese horse Deep Impact was disqualified from third place due to the presence in his urine of a prohibited substance, ipratropium, a bronchodilator administered to him by inhalation. His trainer revealed that the Japanese champion had indeed been treated for the onset of bronchitus and that his failure to appreciate the medication’s persistence was behind this infringement. He was fined 15,000 euros. In 1903, French racing’s administrators were the first to ban the use of any kind of stimulant ahead of an event. In 2006, the French administrators applied the regulations set by the European racing authorities, which are much more stringent than those governing other sports. This courageous policy excludes any form of medication in the build-up to a race.
The record number of victories belongs to Marcel Boussac, with six: Corrida (1936, 1937), Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944), Caracalla (1946) and Coronation (1949).
4 Daniel Wildenstein: Allez France (1974), All Along (1983), Sagace (1984) and Peintre Célèbre (1997).
4 Prince Karim Aga Khan: Akiyda (1982), Sinndar (2001), Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (2008).
4 Khalid Abdullah: Rainbow Quest (1985), Dancing Brave (1986), Rail Link (2006) and Workforce (2010).
3 Robert Sangster: Alleged (1977, 1978) and Detroit (1980).
3 Michael Tabor: Montjeu (1999), Hurricane Run (2005) and Dylan Thomas* (2007).
2 Evremond de Saint-Alary: Comrade (1920) and Samos (1935).
2 Mme Edmond-Blanc: Ksar (1921, 1922).
2 Viscount Max de Rivaud: Motrico (1930, 1932).
2 Baron Edouard de Rothschild: Brantôme (1934) and Eclair au Chocolat (1938).
2 the Aga Khan III: Migoli (1948) and Nuccio (1952).
2 François Dupré: Tantième (1950, 1951).
2 Marquis Incisa della Rochetta: Ribot (1955, 1956).
2 Jacques Wertheimer**: Ivanjica (1976) and Gold River (1991).
2 Godolphin: Sakhee (2001) and Marienbard (2002).
*In association with Ms. John Magnier.
** Wertheimer & Brother’s victory with Solemia (2012) could also be attributed to him.
The record belongs to Andre Fabre with seven victories: Trempolino (1987), Subotica (1992), Carnegie (1994), Peintre Célèbre (1997), Sagamix (1998), Hurricane Run (2005) and Rail Link (2006).
4 Charles Semblat: Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944), Caracalla (1946) and Coronation (1949).
4 François Mathet: Tantième (1950, 1951), Sassafras (1970) and Akiyda (1982).
4 Alec Head: Nuccio (1952), Saint Crespin (1959), Ivanjica (1976) and Gold River (1991).
3 Frank Carter: Mon Talisman (1927), Pearl Cap (1931) and Samos (1935).
3 Etienne Pollet: La Sorellina (1953), Sea Bird (1965) and Vaguely Noble (1968).
3 Vincent O'Brien: Ballymoss (1958) and Alleged (1977, 1978).
3 Saeed Bin Suroor: Lammtarra (1995), Sakhee (2001) and Marienbard (2002). 2 Walter-Robert Walton: Ksar (1921, 1922).
2 Maurice d'Okhuysen: Motrico (1930, 1932).
2 Lucien Robert: Brantôme (1934) and Eclair au Chocolat (1938).
2 John Watts: Corrida (1936, 1937).
2 René Pelat: Nikellora (1945) and Soltikoff (1962).
2 William Head: Le Paillon (1948) and Bon Mot (1966).
2 Ugo Penco: Ribot (1955, 1956).
2 Charles-William Bartholomew: Puissant Chef (1960) and Topyo (1967).
2 Angel Penna: San San (1972) and Allez France (1974).
2 Patrick Biancone: All Along (1983) and Sagace (1984).
2 John Hammond: Suave Dancer (1991) and Montjeu (1999).
2 John Oxx: Sinndar (2000) and Sea The Stars (2009).
2 Alain de Royer-Dupré: Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (2008).
Only one woman has trained an Arc winner, Mme Christiane Head-Maarek: Three Troikas (1979).
The record of four victories belongs jointly to Jacques Doyasbère: Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944) and Tantième (1950, 1951); Freddy Head: Bon Mot (1966), San San (1972), Ivanjica (1976) and Three Troikas (1979); Yves Saint-Martin: Sassafras (1970), Allez France (1974), Akiyda (1982) and Sagace (1984); Pat Eddery: Detroit (1980), Rainbow Quest (1985), Dancing Brave (1986) and Trempolino (1987); and Olivier Peslier: Helissio (1996), Peintre Célèbre (1997), Sagamix (1998) and Solemia (2012).
3 Charles Semblat: Mon Talisman (1927), Pearl Cap (1931) and Motrico (1932).
3 Charles Elliott: Corrida (1936, 1937) and Caracalla (1946).
3 Roger Poincelet: Coronation (1949), Nuccio (1952) and Prince Royal II (1964). 3 Enrico Camici: Ribot (1955, 1956) and Molvedo (1961).
3 Lester Piggott: Rheingold (1973) and Alleged (1977, 1978).
3 Michael Kinane: Carroll House (1989), Montjeu (1999) and Sea The Stars (2009).
3 Olivier Peslier: Helissio (1996), Peintre Célèbre (1997) and Sagamix (1998).
3 Lanfranco Dettori: Lammtarra (1995), Sakhee (2001) and Marienbard (2002). 2 Frank Bullock: Comrade (1920) and Ksar (1922).
2 Charles Bouillon: Brantôme (1934) and Eclair au Chocolat (1938).
2 William Johnstone: Nikellora (1945) and Sica Boy (1954).
2 William Williamson: Vaguely Noble (1968) and Levmoss (1969).
2 Thierry Jarnet: Subotica (1992) and Carnegie (1994).
2 Christophe Soumillon: Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (2008).
2 Kieren-Francis Fallon: Hurricane Run (2005) and Dylan Thomas (2007).