Sottsass squeezes home to take Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

It was a clean sweep for French-trained horses as Enable finished well back in sixth

In such fraught times the odds were against any fairytale outcome and sure enough Enable’s attempt at a unique Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hat-trick ended in anti-climax on Sunday.

The remarkable mare sank to sixth in the Longchamp mud as local star Sottsass gave trainer Jean-Claude Rouget a first success in France's greatest race.

That it occurred in front of just a thousand spectators due to coronavirus restrictions wasn’t the only reason for the victory to be greeted with a certain detached bewilderment.

The Arc’s reputation for being Europe’s greatest all-aged race was hardly helped by ground conditions owing more to a winter point-to-point than any ideas of Parisian chic.


However, news the previous night of Aidan O’Brien being forced into withdrawing all his runners – including four from the Arc itself – underlined an atmosphere which seemed more about grimly getting through the great race’s 100th birthday rather than anything joyful.

Enable travelled through much of the race with aplomb only for one of the all-time great race-mares to flounder once in the straight.

Frankie Dettori wasn’t helped by a little interference but it mattered little in comparison to a combination of ground and time, a factor that could herald her retirement although no decision was made on that in the immediate aftermath.

Instead it was Sottsass, third to Waldgeist and Enable a year previously, who found most in the conditions to hold off In Swoop by half a length under jockey Cristian Demuro. Persian King was third after cutting out the running.

One target

Only fourth to Magical in last month’s Irish Champion Stakes, last year’s French Derby winner delivered when it counted.

“We thought he was made for this race. We had only one target – this race,” Rouget reported. “If you watch the video (of Irish Champion Stakes) just after the post he comes right there with the others which was a good sign for the future.”

He added: "The fact the O'Brien horses were not there was easier to understand how the pace will be.

“I was not surprised to see Persian King in front, because for him it was the best way because he did not pull – he ran a magnificent race at this distance because it was not his trip or his ground.

“We had a good draw to stay behind him and our horse stays the distance better than him.”

Even with all four Ballydoyle runners absent, it was still a good Arc outcome for Coolmore Stud who previously bought into Sottsass.

The withdrawal of all 11 runners on the card by Aidan, Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien left just a handful of Irish-trained runners on one of the most prestigious programmes of the year.

They made their presence felt with a vengeance however in the Prix de l'Opera as Dermot Weld's Tarnawa edged out Jessica Harrington's Alpine Star in an exciting finish.

Christophe Soumillon repeated the waiting tactics with which he’d won last month’s Vermeille on the Weld filly and Tarnawa pounced late to narrowly beat the 6-4 favourite.

Tarnawa could be on her travels again next month and perhaps try to break Weld’s duck at the Breeders Cup.

“That was a very special performance. It’s very hard to win here in France. She won the Vermeille and to come back just three weeks later, she’s a really tough, courageous mare,” said Weld’s son, Mark.

“This is always one of the best races, sometimes the best race of Arc weekend. We knew it was going to be tough and we knew the Niarchos filly (Alpine Star) had plenty of Group 1 form. She was always going to be the one to beat.

“She gets a free entry into the Breeders Cup I believe which is definitely a possibility. Whether she comes back next year will be up to His Highness (the Aga Khan) and all the team,” he added.

Outside draw

The proven mud-lark Make A Challenge flew the Irish flag in the Prix de l’Abbaye but failed to land a blow from an outside draw.

Instead it was Wooded who supplied a rare French success in the country's top sprint, providing some consolation for In Swoop's trainer Francis Graffard.

Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices was an honourable third to Sealiway in the Prix Jean Luc Lagadere but his stable companion Thunder Beauty was out of the money in the Prix Marcel Boussac after a rough passage in the straight.

That race fell to Tiger Tanaka and her jockey Jessica Marcialis who became the first female rider to win a Group 1 flat race in France.

The Italian is a former amateur rider and enjoyed a landmark victory on a €24,000 purchase who is trained by Marcialis’ husband, Charley Rossi.

Ultimately the six-year-old mare who did provide a fairytale result was One Master who completed three-in-a-row in the Prix de la Foret.

All three were under French champion jockey Pierre Charles Boudot, who was doubling up after Wooded’s earlier Abbaye success.