Any sense of unreality provoked by the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe being run at Chantilly for the first time was nothing compared to the impact of Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien saddling a remarkable 1-2-3 in Europe’s greatest all-aged race in Paris on Sunday.
Found and Ryan Moore ultimately won the €5 million spectacular in style to become just the seventh Irish trained horse to win the race and giving O'Brien a second Arc. But in the 2016 Arc story Found will always be inseparable from stable companions Highland Reel and Order Of St George who chased her home.
O’Brien has filled the placings in other Group One races during the course of his remarkable career. He has saddled the first, second and third on five occasions in the Irish Derby. But there was no such home turf advantage in Paris, not even the familiarity of an Arc run at its usual home in Longchamp which is being redeveloped.
In 2007 Dylan Thomas was only confirmed the winner after an agonisingly lengthy and uncertain stewards enquiry. This time there was no doubt about O’Brien coming out on top, just in which order.
In that sense perhaps the most apt comparison is with Michael Dickinson’s legendary achievement in training the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup, a unique feat, but one which didn’t have to factor in the Arc’s international dimensions.
On Sunday the Japanese Derby winner Makahiki became just the latest star from Japan to fail to secure a victory in the race that an entire industry on the other side of the world is obsessed with winning, with fortunes spent in the trying.
Michael Tabor, part of John Magnier’s Coolmore syndicate, and in whose colours Found races, seemed barely able to take in the magnitude of the achievement, exclaiming: “It’s the race the whole of America watches, and obviously Europe too; the whole world is watching. This is a special race, and a 1-2-3 in the Arc is incredible.”
Coolmore’s investment in providing O’Brien with the raw material to dominate the world’s great races is famously stratospheric but rarely if ever has it paid off to such spectacular effect.
Even if Found being a filly means there will be no comparable commercial dividend in the breeding shed from her victory compared to if she was a colt, this is still a singular display of Coolmore power, particularly since the first three are all by their greatest sire, Galileo.
From a high draw, Moore navigated his way to the rail and quickly had the favourite Postponed in his sights. He ultimately faded to fifth and Found sliced her way through the field to bring to a spectacular end a run of five successive runner-up places in Group One races this season.
With four seconds at the top level in 2015 also under her belt, this victory decimated any notion of Found as ‘bridesmaid’ and she is now as low as evens favourite to successfully defend her Breeders Cup Turf crown in Santa Anita next month.
Moore was winning the Arc for the second time after Workforce scored in 2010, although surely the ultimate achievement was O’Brien’s, preparing three horses to peak on European racing’s biggest stage, and at a track where he has experienced notable frustration in repeated attempts over almost 20 years to win the French Derby.
O’Brien said. “How can you see anything higher than this? I couldn’t dream that this would happen. You know how hard it is to win the Arc?
“We came here very hopeful after a good run (by Found) last time. We’ve had our eye on this for a long time. For that to happen is incredible. Ryan gave her a brilliant ride. When Ryan rode her as a two-year-old he said she could win an Arc – and he was obviously right!
Dermot Weld’s dual-Derby hero Harzand never seemed comfortable at any stage and finished out of the money but this Arc was dominated by O’Brien whose clean sweep paid over 1,600-1 on Tricast betting. His first three also picked up €3.8 million in prizemoney.