Luxembourg on target to join elite group of Irish-trained Arc winners

Good to soft ground is the aim for Longchamp’s €5 million feature this Sunday

It is perhaps the most exclusive club in Irish racing and Luxembourg is favourite to join it in Sunday’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Over the decades just seven Irish trained horses have won Europe’s most coveted all-aged prize.

Beginning with Ballymoss in 1958, up to Found leading home a unique Aidan O’Brien 1-2-3 in 2016, the Arc has proved to be a supreme challenge.

The stellar list of star names to have faltered at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October includes legends of the sport such as Nijinsky and Sir Ivor who both finished runners-up.


Sea The Stars in 2009 remains a benchmark Arc performance while Dylan Thomas was Aidan O’Brien’s first Arc winner with a controversial success two years previously.

Sinndar (2000) and Levmoss (1969) also feature on European racing’s finest roll-of-honour while Alleged holds the notable status of being a back to back winner in 1977-78.

The somewhat timid decision by Baaeed’s connections to skip Paris and wait for Ascot’s Champion Stakes is inevitably a blow to the Arc’s prestige this year.

However, bookmakers reckon Luxembourg is most likely to step up to the plate in Sunday’s €5 million feature and allow Aidan O’Brien emulate his Ballydoyle predecessor, Vincent O’Brien, as a triple-Arc winner.

Winner of the Irish Champion Stakes on his last start, Luxembourg is a general 4-1 market leader after Monday’s acceptance stage saw the list of Arc contenders cut to 27.

They include a number of top international runners including four from Japan. The Australian star Verry Elleegant is also expected to be supplemented into the race later this week.

There are three other Irish hopefuls among the 27 including Ger Lyons’s mare Thunder Kiss, Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney and Luxembourg’s stable companion Broome.

With some rain forecast in Paris this week, the English mare Alpinista was popular in some ante-post betting on Monday but Luxembourg still tops the markets.

“Luxembourg is in good form. Everything has went well since Leopardstown and it’s a case of so far, so good,” O’Brien reported. “Broome would also be a possible.”

Another Ballydoyle star, Kyprios, is set to try and get the Arc weekend off to a good start in Saturday’s €300,000 Prix Du Cadran.

Many will be keeping an anxious eye on weather conditions in Paris this week with varying forecasts complicating the picture. The going at Longchamp on Monday was good to soft and a course spokesman said a similar verdict is the weekend aim.

“The target is to have good to soft or soft ground. No watering is planned as it stands.

“If there is no rain until Wednesday then we would consider watering the track but not a lot because the main target is to have the ground good to soft,” he said.

In the absence of last year’s winner Trueshan, and the retirement on Monday of Stradivarius, Kyprios is odds-on with some firms to extend his unbeaten season to six races in the Cadran.

Kyprios is the new King of the stayers but his predecessor, Stradivarius, is off to a new life at stud after the plug was pulled on his racing career.

A winner of 20 of his 35 career races, including seven Group Ones, the eight-year-old son of Sea The Stars has been retired to the English National Stud by owner Bjorn Nielsen.

Forced to miss York’s Lonsdale Cup last month with a bruised foot, the problem has taken longer to sort out than anticipated.

“It would be hard to get him back now for Champions Day and John [Gosden] just thought it would be unfair really to put him through it again as a nine-year-old next year.

“He’s been the soundest horse. He’s never been medicated. He’d never missed an engagement in his career [through injury] and now to start training him with something that’s kind of there that wasn’t there before, it’s time to draw stumps,” Nielsen reported.

Stradivarius concluded his career, which included three wins in the Ascot Gold Cup, with an admirable runner-up placing to Kyprios in the Goodwood Cup during the summer.

“He’s had a fabulous career. He’s never – pardon the pun – put a foot wrong. He went out there beaten a neck at Goodwood. He ran a great race and he’s gone out at the top.

“I never wanted to see this horse finish running in fifth or sixth somewhere in a race next year. I’d much prefer to see him go out on a high.

“Of course I’d love to see him go on for another eight years but I think it’s time for him to see if he can produce anything near himself in the new few years which I certainly hope he can.

“He will go to the National Stud and we’re very much looking forward to that,” Nielsen added.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column