Not for a decade had an unbeaten horse landed the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but the French favourite Ace Impact managed to pull off the feat in style at Longchamp on Sunday.
Having begun his career in January on the all-weather at lowly Cagnes-Sur-Mer, in six races the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained colt has catapulted himself to the top of the racing tree in Europe’s richest contest.
With a spectacular French Derby victory in June already under his belt, the 5-2 favourite made light of his first try at a mile and a half to sweep from the rear of the field under jockey Christian Demuro.
At the line Ace Impact had almost two lengths in hand of the English older horse Westover who had just a short head to spare over outsider Onesto. The Japanese raider, Through Seven Seas, was fourth, a place ahead of Aidan O’Brien St Leger winner Continuous.
Defying trends such as no French Derby winner also winning the Arc in the same season for two decades, or doubts about his stamina for the trip, confidence in Ace Impact got a tangible boost from unseasonably quick ground for Paris on the first Sunday in October.
A hugely impressive victory for O’Brien’s juvenile filly Opera Singer in the earlier Prix Marcel Boussac indicated conditions favoured speed and that was underlined with aplomb in the big race.
It was a second Arc for both Rouget and Demuro, who won with Sottsass in 2020 and even Ace Impact’s pre-race antics in the parade, similar to before the French Derby, couldn’t shake their confidence.
“He is just a champion and he has a wonderful turn of foot,” said Italian jockey Demuro, while Rouget commented: “We always say they are the best when they win, I think it is his strong acceleration. It is something I have never seen.”
The last unbeaten Arc winner was Treve in 2013 and she proceeded to back it up with another success a year later. Whether Ace Impact gets a chance to emulate that feat remains to be seen, although Rouget sounded definitive about ruling out any other race this year.
Westover could be on his travels, though, and a clash with O’Brien’s dual-Derby winner Auguste Rodin is on the cards in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in Santa Anita.
Continuous may also have international targets after staying on in the closing states.
“We made the decision to take our time and let him relax. They sprinted the last two furlongs, but he wasn’t finished and ran all the way to the line,” said O’Brien.
“He looks like he wants a strongly run mile-and-a-half so obviously we can look at Japan, Hong King, America and Dubai.
“He’s a very legitimate horse and a ready-made four-year-old. He loves travelling, and the best is yet to come.”
The Ballydoyle team had to settle for the runner-up spot with both Unquestionable, second to the English-trained Rosallion, and Jackie Oh, who chased home Blue Rose Cen in the ‘Opera’, but they struck decisively with Opera Singer.
The Justify filly made most and kicked five lengths clear of Rose Bloom to have Ryan Moore immediately dreaming of Arc glory in 2024.
“We’ve been excited with her the whole time, she’s a beautiful filly and we’ve always loved her from the first day she ran,” said O’Brien
“She’s obviously a filly that would have no problem starting off at a mile in a Classic and you would imagine she would have no problem going up to a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half.
“Ryan was raving about her there coming in – he said I look forward to this day next year [in the Arc].”
The Irishman didn’t rule out a trip to next month’s Breeders’ Cup for Opera Singer.
Unquestionable briefly looked a winner in the Lagardere but ultimately couldn’t repel Rosallion’s late thrust under Sean Levey.
The winner got 12-1 quotes for next year’s 2,000 Guineas after bouncing back from a poor effort on very different ground in Doncaster’s Champage Stakes.
“Today was a recovery mission and you don’t generally come to the Lagardere on a recovery mission as it takes an extremely good horse to win it. But he showed today that he’s the horse we thought he was,” trainer Richard Hannon said.
The Ballydoyle outsider Aesop’s Fables belied his 66-1 odds to run third to the English star Highfield Princess in the Prix de l’Abbaye.