British racing got something of a fairytale outcome in Sunday’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when Alpinista overcame monsoon-like conditions in Europe’s most valuable race.
The well-backed 7-2 favourite supplied Britain’s longest serving trainer, Sir Mark Prescott, with the greatest success of his 53-year career.
Prescott’s stable jockey, Luke Morris, rose to the occasion in style by guiding Alpinista to a half-length victory over Vadeni with last year’s winner Torquator Tasso in third.
Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg, displaced as favourite by Alpinista, never landed a blow after struggling in ground made even more testing by driving rain at Longchamp.
Alpinista may be owned by Kirsten Rausing, reportedly worth a cool €14 billion due to her connection to the Tetra Laval packaging group, but nevertheless, and while everything is relative, there still was a popular little guy vibe to this latest Arc success story.
Prescott inherited his title from an uncle and was able to start training in 1970.
But his determination to do things his own way, usually with much smaller numbers than more powerful rivals, while also resolutely remaining his own man, has made him a distinctive figure.
Among his most famous utterances is an oft-repeated line about the dangers of listening to jockeys, yet he is famed for his loyalty to riders.
Morris is no one’s idea of a stylist and with over 1,000 rides per year his career has been notable for more quantity than quality up to now.
However, Alpinista catapulted both to the summit of the sport and in the process saved French racing’s authorities from an embarrassing result.
Having picked up a 60-day suspension for dangerous riding on Friday, Christophe Soumillon came within an ace of Arc redemption.
The controversial Belgian jockey, who France Galop admitted they would have preferred not to be in action on French racing’s biggest day of the year, showed his brilliance by smuggling Vadeni’s suspect stamina through the mud.
Vadeni momentarily looked like overhauling Alpinista who’d got the perfect tow into the race behind the big Japanese hope Titleholder.
Morris might have been forgiven for kicking for home immediately in the straight but even with Soumillon and Frankie Dettori chasing him down, the English rider’s nerve held as he waited to outside the furlong pole before committing.
“I couldn’t believe how well she was going coming into the straight. I was taking her back two furlongs out just trying to conserve her energy as long as I could. When I needed her, she dug in very deep for me,” Morris said.
“It’s the pinnacle of my career and it’s an unbelievably special day. I was having to hold back the tears. Sir Mark’s had an unbelievable effect on my career. He’s an unbelievable trainer and person,” he added.
Having racked up Group One wins in Germany last year, including defeating Torquator Tasso, Prescott had been forced into dismissing suggestions about how missing the 2021 Arc may have been a blunder.
A year later came glorious vindication for his patience as Alpinista rewarded the ‘long-game’ with a sixth Group One in a row.
“It’s absolutely marvellous but the last 100 yards absolutely killed me; such a relief she held on,” Prescott said.” Luke has ridden for us for 11 years and Miss Rausing has had horses with us for 36 so I’m very lucky.”
He added: “The race went like a dream. If it hadn’t been my horse, I would have thought it was going to win every inch of the way but when it’s your own of course it’s a nightmare. I didn’t think all that rain would help but she’s never travelled better.”
Alpinista is only the second five year old mare to win the Arc and the first since Corrida in 1937. Rausing said the mare will retire to stud next year but didn’t rule out a final run this season in either the Japan Cup or at the Breeders Cup.
Luxembourg passed the post in seventh, a place ahead of his stable companion, Broome. O’Brien reported that Luxembourg pulled muscles in a hip and was “quite sore” afterwards. He also indicated the colt will remain in training as a four-year-old.
The most successful Arc trainer of all Andre Fabre was out of luck in the big race but ended a 12 month period without a Group One in style through a top-flight double.
Belbek sprang a surprise in the Lagadere but it was nothing to the shock of Place Du Carrousel overhauling the favourite Nashwa in the Prix de l’Opera at 41-1.
Joseph O’Brien’s Above The Curve was third in the Opera but Irish runners were out of luck generally on Arc day including when Jim Bolger’s outsider Gan Teorainn finished runner up to Blue Rose Cen in the Prix Marcel Boussac.