Peintre Celebre makes his name


Peintre Celebre shattered the course record in winning yesterday's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. However it was the impression as much as the statistics that confirmed the crowning of an exceptional talent at Longchamp.

The brilliant French three-year-old overcame the sort of adversity in running that would have overwhelmed anything but a true champion to turn what had looked an ultra-competitive 76th L'Arc into a mesmerising victory parade.

France's leading trainer, Andre Fabre, winning his third L'Arc, immediately called Peintre Celebre the best he has ever trained. Olivier Peslier, who rode Helissio to win the great race last year, rapturously declared Peintre Celebre "a true champion" as the throngs surrounding the winners enclosure chanted "Olivier, Olivier".

In truth the notoriously mercurial French racing public could have been chanting something a little more colourful at the rider had he not had such a talented performer underneath to get him out of trouble. Houdini might have done so, but certainly not as quickly. Trapped on the rail towards the rear of the 18-strong field just before the straight, Peintre Celebre gave an astonishing display of acceleration once Peslier managed to secure a little daylight for him and he swept past Helissio, Swain, et al, to win by five lengths in a time almost two seconds faster than the old record. Pilsudski, under Michael Kinane, battled gamely to finish runner-up for the second year running while Borgia just held off Ireland's Oscar Schindler for third, Ollie Lehane's courageous horse overcoming a less-than-trouble-free run to again finish well in Europe's most prestigious all-aged race.

Yesterday, however, was all about Peintre Celebre. Even the disappointed who finished behind him could only praise what they had witnessed. "Pilsudski has run a very good race but he was beaten by a very very good horse," shrugged Kinane while Cash Asmussen declared: "Oscar Schindler gave me his guts and would have liked a little more juice on the ground but I would hate to take anything away from that winner. He looked exceptional."

Characteristically thought it was Frankie Dettori's exuberance at Peintre Celebre's performance that matched the crowds. Peslier's great friend was prominent on Swain until early in the straight when Peintre Celebre swept by. "I knew I was beat and I shouted `go on Olivier' as he went by. The only problem was he was six lengths clear by the time I had finished shouting it! When he changed gear, my God, was his acceleration impressive. It looked like he would win two lengths and then, boom, it was six," Dettori gasped. Oscar Schindler, third last season, again had to put up with trouble down the back straight in the early stages but the Kevin Prendergast trained five-year-old showed guts aplenty in the straight. "He has run a great race but without the argy bargy he could have been even closer. The ground was just too fast to be ideal for him," Prendergast said. Ireland's other representative, Ebadiyla never got in a blow, but on this evidence there may not be a horse currently racing in the world that can finish in front of the new undisputed European champion.