The following post was first published at Paulick Report last week.
“Well, who wants to win the Arc?” was the comment of a local participant whose apparent goal is to win sprints on dirt.
That is, quite literally, the root opinion of a large portion of the participants in horse racing in North America, including a certain majority of the selectors at the ongoing Keeneland September sale.
This very sizable contingent of breeders, buyers and their advisers wants horses of great power and speed, who show it early. Quick, early, and fast are engaging traits in the racehorse, but those qualities come with a price.
For instance, few horses of this type carry their speed past a mile. Even fewer become classic horses. And therein lies the disjunct between those looking for the premium American sales yearling and those trying to breed or buy the best horses of a generation going a distance of ground.
The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, on the other hand, is about classic excellence. The race over the turning and undulating mile and a half at Longchamp racecourse tries to bring together the classic winners and best performers of the current 3-year-old class, as well as the cream of the preceding year’s stock in training.
This year’s edition of the Arc may be even better than usual.
In the preps for the Arc at Longchamp on Saturday, the winner of the English Derby, Ruler of the World (by English Derby winner Galileo), met the winner of the Japan Derby, Kizuna, in the Prix Niel. The latter is by Japan’s beloved champion Deep Impact, who suffered one of his two defeats in the 2006 Arc de Triomphe. The best French classic filly, undefeated Treve (by English Derby winner Motivator), met her elders in a challenge for supremacy in the Prix Vermeille, and last year’s Arc second and the previous year’s Japan Triple Crown winner Orfevre (Stay Gold) went in the Prix Foy as his prep.
Orfevre trotted up against moderate opposition compared to the field of the Arc, and Treve showed plenty of stamina and a powerful finish to defeat the 5-year-old German mare Wild Coco (Shirocco) by a length and three-quarters in the Prix Vermeille.
The most exciting horse race was the Prix Niel.
Ruler of the World was racing to redeem his reputation after losing the Irish Derby and was well covered up along the rail behind a solid early pace. Meanwhile, Kizuna was nearly last in the field while making his first start since winning the Japan Derby (Tokyo Yushun) on May 26.
The son of Deep Impact moved to the outside and began his challenge three furlongs from the wire, made good progress, and appeared for a moment ready to overwhelm his opponents. Ruler of the World was likewise gathering his momentum but with less room to maneuver. He split horses close home, got to the leader, and appeared to edge out Kizuna right at the wire.
However, the photo showed that the champion from afar had claimed the prize, and the son of Deep Impact will be well regarded as a contender to excel his famous sire and win the Arc de Triomphe.
Success there, in the greatest of Longchamp’s great races, means more than a big purse. Victory in the Arc is historic, and especially for the challengers from Japan, the great classic challenge over the great classic distance is a statement of prestige, accomplishment on the world stage, and recognition by horsemen everywhere.
The Japanese breeders and racehorse owners want to be the best in the world, and they want everyone to know it. Sunday Silence, Northern Taste, and hundreds of élite broodmares and stallions have put the breeders and owners from Japan in the hottest part of the battle for proving their star racehorses are exactly that.
Kizuna is another example of how they accomplished the feat: by purchasing generation after generation of the best bloodstock that came available to them. The dark bay is by their great homebred racer Deep Impact, a son of Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Sunday Silence, and Kizuna is out of the Storm Cat mare Catequil, who was 20 when she produced the Prix Niel winner.
Already a star broodmare, Catequil had previously produced Japanese champion and classic winner Phalaenopsis (Brian’s Time) and Sunday Break (Forty Niner), who came to race in the States, where he won the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes and ran third in the Belmont Stakes.
Acquired by breeders in Japan as a non-winner out of training, Catequil is out of the American-bred and -raced Pacific Princess, a G1 winner by Horse of the Year Damascus. Another exported daughter of Pacific Princess has been an even more famous broodmare in Japan than Catequil. The mare’s Northern Dancer daughter Pacificus produced Biwa Hayahide (Sharrood) and Narita Brian (Brian’s Time), both of whom were classic winners, champions, and Horses of the Year in Japan.
In three weeks, Kizuna will get his chance in the Arc de Triomphe, and a victory there would tip the scales in favor of Catequil.