Fine-tuning prior to the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

10 September 2021

Ambiance Arc


The Qatar Arc Trials take place on Sunday 12 September at ParisLongchamp and they constitute the final dress rehearsals before the main event. The main event, and make a note of it in your diaries, takes place on Sunday 3 October, when the historic 100th edition of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will take pride of place at the same ParisLongchamp stage. We say historic because the World Championship of horse racing is in its centenary year.

With three weeks to go, those equine athletes involved must seal their passage for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe by proving their quality, form and their ability to act at the course - for those racing there for the first time - while, at the same time, keeping something back for October 3.

The three prep races for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday are: the Qatar Prix Vermeille for fillies and mares, the Qatar Prix Niel which is restricted to 3-year-old colts and fillies, plus the Qatar Prix Foy which is the province of the four-year-olds’ plus brigade. All are run over the same course and distance (2,400m) (12f) as the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.


The Indian summer continues in the Parisian region

The ParisLongchamp track has been the object of considerable attention during the summer break. The far rail will be moved 12 metres in-field from its usual place on Sunday to protect this part of the track until Sunday 3 October. Furthermore, the use of the open-stretch will only come into play for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting. The rain has so far given ParisLongchamp a miss, and Charles de Cordon, who oversees the running of the site, explained on Thursday afternoon:  « We are going to give the grass a final trim (to 10 cms) on Friday. We have had very little rain during the week: namely 0.5 mm during the course of Wednesday night in the lead up to Thursday. We sprinkled the track (surface watering) with the water at the beginning of the week to compensate for evapotranspiration, which isn’t very significant at this time of year. There may be thunderstorms between now and Sunday, but we can expect a penetrometer reading of 3.2 (good ground) for Sunday come the start of the meeting. »



The Purebred Arabian: the forerunner of the English thoroughbred

The best PA horses will hook up in the Qatar Cup - Prix Dragon, a prep race for the Qatar Arabian World Cup, which is run on the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe card. The €1 million race was inaugurated in 2008, when France Galop and the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club forged a partnership agreement which revolved around the Arc de Triomphe weekend. The terms of the contract included the development of Purebred Arabian (PA) racing in France: a logical step given that France has for decades developed a breeding programme for PA horses that is the envy of all countries involved with the breed! Around 1,500 PA horses are born in France each year. The nursery of the breed is located in the South-West of France, where Arabian horses have been raced since the 19th century almost without interruption. There are circa 100 races for the breed in France, mainly in the South-West.

However, PA horses know no frontiers: as they follow a race programme that takes them to Europe from spring to autumn, before transferring to the Gulf States during the winter. PA racing is staged all over the world. In some countries, it is a tradition that dates back more than a century (France, Russia, Poland, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Turkey etc...). Elsewhere, the PA programme was instigated several decades ago (Britain, the US, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Italy, etc.).

The PA horse is smaller than the English thoroughbred. It also has a characteristic head, which tends to be very expressive, complete with a concave muzzle and a broad forehead. From a sporting perspective, they are more notable for their endurance rather than speed. These horses are used for endurance events which are marathon type events spanning many kilometres. Others are specialised in "show" competitions, where they are judged on their conformation. The PA horses which are destined for racing are selected on the basis of their origins, and the best are often bred in France.

Several hundred Arabian horses – of both sexes - were the forerunners of the English thoroughbred. They form the basis of the Stud Book. All English thoroughbreds are descended directly from three founding stallions imported to England from the Middle East in the late 17th century. The trio was the Byerley Turk, The Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian. They were crossed with English mares, and now the pedigree of every English thoroughbred can be traced back to these founding fathers.

The horse to follow on Sunday is Ebraz. He is owned by Her Excellency Sheikha Reem bint Mohammed bint Khalifa Al Thani, one of the daughters of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani, and among the world's leading owners of PA horses. Ebraz is trained in Qatar by Julian Smart, but, since the spring, he has been gearing up for the Qatar Arabian World Cup at Chantilly. The eight-year-old is a prior winner of this prestigious race in which he has also twice been second.



Baby Rider carries the colours of an owner whose horses sprout wings

When an owner is considered lucky, we say that his horses sprout wings! Jean-Louis Bouchard's colours – dark green, pink epaulettes and pink cap – can make a splash, even a big splash, in the top races! The owner (a successful entrepreneur and founder of the digital services company Econocom) has already won the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club, France's premier three-year-old prize, four times. Although success in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has so far eluded him. Gold Trip carried his colours into fourth last year, and the owner will rely on the 3-y-old Baby Rider this time round. The latter is easily recognisable as he sports three very distinct white socks. Baby Rider is trained at Chantilly by Pascal Bary, among France’s most successful French trainers, but yet to savour his first Arc win.

The colt disappointed in the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club, but his below-par effort warrants an explanation: as he pulled too hard for his own good and ran out of steam. Tackling the 2,400 metres trip for the first time in the Grand Prix de Paris, he was a creditable fifth. Baby Rider is not a leading Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe candidate, so he will have to show his mettle on Sunday if he is to warrant a place in the line-up! Jean-Louis Bouchard explained: « If he wants to book his passage for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Baby Rider will have to win... and win well! In the Grand Prix de Paris, he was a bit far back during the race, but did best of the French-trained horse and turned the tables on those colts who had preceded him in the Jockey-Club – a race in which he didn’t get the rub of the green. Baby Rider is in very good form: Pascal Bary is a very capable trainer and especially when it comes to 3-year-olds. We'll see on Sunday... Gold Trip ran fourth in the Arc last year when I thought he would finish sixth! »




Snowfall, the new Enable?

She will probably start favourite for the 100th edition of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. This is the Irish filly Snowfall and the Parisian racing public will get a first glimpse of her in the Qatar Prix Vermeille on Sunday. She is head and shoulders above the rest of her generation. She won the Oaks (the British equivalent of our Prix de Diane Longines) by 16 lengths (!), prior to dominating in the Irish Oaks by eight and a half lengths, before beating her elders in the Yorkshire Oaks by four lengths. No filly or mare has been able to hold a candle to her all year, but she has yet to face to tackle the boys: that showdown will take place in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, as her trainer Aidan O'Brien has chosen to keep her racing against her own sex in the Qatar Prix Vermeille for her preparation. Furthermore, he has booked a living legend, Lanfranco Dettori, 50, the most successful jockey in the world, for the ride. He has won the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe six times, including twice on the unforgettable Enable, who was retired to stud last year.

Enable won the first of her two Arcs as a 3-year-old, and her profile is similar to that of Snowfall: as she had achieved the same Oaks treble (Epsom - Curragh - York), like her younger counterpart, although she had previously tackled and beaten the colts/older male horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. On the other hand, she bypassed the Qatar Prix Vermeille in order to be as fresh as possible for her big assignment. Lanfranco Dettori knows both like the back of his hand. He explained: « Snowfall is a champion. We can say that that the ground was testing and that the opposition was average in the Oaks, but she won by 16 lengths: a record. She reminds me of Enable at the same age. I have ridden Snowfall just once and the impression was amazing. At the Curragh she didn’t have to force her talent and, in the Yorkshire Oaks, she trotted up. It’s difficult to pinpoint her limits as she has won so easily each time. She had no problem in adapting to Epsom’s contours so I think that ParisLongchamp won’t be a problem for her either. »

Snowfall has an unusual pedigree: despite being trained in Ireland and bred by one of the world's racing superpowers, Coolmore, whose centre of operations is similarly based in the Emerald Isle, she was born in Japan and is a daughter of that country’s much-heralded sire, the late Deep Impact. The latter contested the 2006 edition of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He finished third but was eventually disqualified after testing positive test to a banned bronchodilator (ipratropium), the horse having coughed a few days before the race.


16 h 30 • QATAR PRIX FOY

A journey of discovery regarding Japan’s Deep Bond

The Japanese people are passionate about horse racing. The entire nation shares a dream: to win the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. To achieve this in the race’s centenary year would become something of a national celebration! The Japanese challenge comprises Deep Bond and Chrono Genesis this year. The former has been bedding in at Chantilly since August 19. He has had time to recover from his long-haul journey (31 hours), and been able to acclimatise to a completely new environment! Deep Bond appreciates the tranquillity of the Chantilly forests: which is a very different setting from where he is usually trained!

Kazuhito Sumii, an assistant to Deep Bond's handler Ryuji Okubo, said: «  At  Chantilly, he is quite relaxed but, in Japan, he isn’t the same horse in the mornings! He is more wound up and he always seems to be on his toes. At Chantilly, the environment is more relaxed, but, once stepped up in his work, he shows a willing attitude. He really seems to enjoy the training here! »

This stamina-laden horse (he has already won over 3,000 metres) may be surprised by the slower pace of French racing compared to what he is used to in Japan. Kazuhito Sumii added: «On Sunday, he will become acquainted with the track and will need to adapt to ParisLongchamp. Compared to the way Japanese races are run, the pace is likely to be slow. Deep Bond is quite laid back and takes time to hit top gear. I think it will suit the horse to sit behind the leaders. »

Deep Bond will be ridden on Sunday, and again in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe by Italian jockey Cristian Demuro. The latter has been based in France for many years and won last year's Arc.