Paul Hanagan or a Japanese trained horse have never won the Arc but it’s about 2/1 that that statistic is broken in the biggest Flat race in Europe at Longchamp on Sunday. Hanagan rides the favourite Taghrooda while three animals from Japan are prominent in the betting for the most prestigious race in Europe, despite the claims of the English Derby.
To give the race its full name the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe takes place on the first Sunday in October at Longchamp near Paris. The race is run over one mile four furlongs and is currently the world’s richest turf horse race and only the Dubai World Cup has more prize money. Locally it is known as “Ce n’est pas une course, c’est un monument” which means its more than a race, it is a monument.
The appeal of the race is that it is open to three-year-olds and older horses which means it invariably brings together the Classic generation and more mature horses that have been kept in training as four-year-olds and beyond. The Epsom Derby is the true test of a thoroughbred but only horses aged three are eligible. Some horses of that age are not fully developed by early June when the race is run.
The Arc was first run in 1920 and was framed to identify the leading thoroughbred horse in France and elsewhere in Europe. It’s origins lay in a race for three year olds but after World War 1 the new event named after the famous monument was open to the leading horses of different ages. Up to 1982 the race was funded through a lottery but since then has had several commercial sponsors and the current backers are the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club.
Six horses have won the race twice so if successful again Treve would be joining an elite group. Five jockeys have ridden the winners of four Arcs most recently Pat Eddery and Oliver Peslier. Marcel Boussac is the leading trainer with seven wins and Danedream won the fastest Arc in 2011. Three horses won the race by a record six lengths, including Sakhee in 2001 when ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Paul Hanagan won the jockey’s championship in 2010 and 2011 which was a fine achievement as he was based in the north where there are fewer opportunities than in the areas of the south near the main training centres such as Newmarket. Only two other northern based jockeys have won the title in the 20th century. Riding mainly for Richard Fahey Hanagan won 191 races from 1,100 rides in 2010. A year later 165 winners was enough for Hanagan to win the title again, this time just four clear of Silvestre de Sousa.
Hanagan is now the retained jockey for owner Hamdan Al Maktoum for whom he rode Taghrooda when winning the Oaks, his first Classic win. He decided to focus his career on quality rather than quantity and he has also won the Group 1 Eclipse on Mukhadram this year for the same owner. Taghrooda gets sex and age allowances as a three year old fillie and on her best form would go close to winning the Arc.
Japan’s racing community wants to win the Arc more than any other race in the world. Horses from that country have finished second on three occasions and another has finished third. The interest in the Arc is such that there will be Japanese language tote facilities at Longchamp on Sunday. While the British race goers will merrily eat and drink to excess race fans from Japan will act impeccably, even if in long queues to be paid out if one of their horses wins the Arc.
Just a Way is the world’s highest-rated turf horse after winning the Dubai Duty Free in March in extraordinary fashion. The horse is seen by the bookmaker as Japan’s leading chance and his trainer is confident of a big run from the five year old. Going is not a major concern as Just A Way is flexible and has no preference for fast or soft going. Despite a dry week the course at Longchamp will not be watered so the ground will be on the firm side of good.
Such conditions might not suit Gold Ship who wouldn’t want it too heavy but soft would play to the horse’s strengths. Gold Ship has won Japan’s midsummer all-age championship for the last two years but his temperament makes the choice of a jockey an important factor in his level of performance. Nori Yokoyama has done well on the horse and has the strong passion of his compatriots to win the Arc.
Harp Star relishes fast ground so it will be to her advantage if the dry and sunny weather continues up until the race on Sunday. The horse won two fillies’ Classics in Japan last year and was only beaten in the Japanese Oaks due to bad luck in running. The jockey will adopt waiting tactics which could make for a difficult passage to the front especially as Hanagan and Taghrooda could be several lengths in front inside the final furlong and approaching the winning post.