By Nicholas Godfrey
So you know Sottsass won the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as Enable could finish only sixth in heavy ground at ParisLongchamp on Sunday. You might have seen the race – but here’s some other stuff you might like to know.
What’s going on?
Enable: ground and pace to blame
After Enable finished a lacklustre sixth, Frankie Dettori said: “She couldn’t pick her legs up in the ground.”
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdulla, agreed. “She just wasn’t able to go on the ground, really and truly,” he said. “She’s had a good position, Frankie’s been happy with her but she just couldn’t pick up like we’d normally expect her to.”
Trainer John Gosden also felt the lack of a proper pace didn’t help matters. “From our point of view she is a mile-and-a-half filly, the other horse [Stradivarius] is a Gold Cup winner, so they would have appreciated a solid pace,” he said. “The ground was the other thing. Frankie felt it was holding ground. She was not happy with that.”
No immediate decision on Enable future
Though it has been widely assumed the Arc would mark the end of Enable’s career, her connections left the door open to another run before she is retired to the paddocks.
Grimthorpe said: “We’ll see how she is when she gets back and talk to John [Gosden] and Prince Khalid and make a plan. There will be no decisions at this stage.”
Gosden agreed, saying: “We will see what plans are. Whether she is retired immediately is entirely Prince Khalid’s decision. It wasn’t a taxing race.”
Arc first for Rouget and Demuro
Third 12 months previously, Sottsass was a first Arc winner for France’s winningmost trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, who has more than 6,500 career successes to his name.
Mainly based at Pau in south-west France, he is one of only two trainers (the other is Alain de Royer-Dupre) to wrest the French trainers’ title from Andre Fabre in the last 30 years.
Also winning his first Arc was jockey Cristian Demuro, 28, a former teenage prodigy in his native Italy and younger brother of Japanese-based five-time Italian champion Mirco Demuro.
A champion jockey at home aged only 18, he won three titles in all, establishing a national record with 264 victories in 2011. He has often been likened to Frankie Dettori.
Sold as a €340,000 yearling at the Deauville sales, Sottsass is a son of Siyouni bred in Normandy by the Ecurie des Monceaux directed by Henri Bozo. Also winner of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at three, he carries the colours of US-Francophile industrialist Peter Brant (White Birch Farm).
Sottsass: no decisions but Breeders’ Cup is mentioned
The Arc is a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, for which Sottsass is a 4-1 chance with Ladbrokes. “The owner and trainer will decide if we run in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Michel Zerolo, representing owner Peter Brant.
As an Arc-winning half-brother to US champion turf filly Sistercharlie, Sottsass’s stud potential is immense – and Coolmore purchased a 50% share in January.
“Sottsass is owned in association with Coolmore,” commented Jean-Claude Rouget. “I do not know if he will run again, but it is not the question for today. Whether the horse retires is not my decision. The owners will discuss between them. I would like to see him make a good stallion as he’s such a good-looking horse.”
Breeders’ Cup Turf (Ladbrokes): 6-4 Love, 4 Ghaiyyath, Sottsass, 8 Enable, Magical, 9 Mogul, 14 Channel Maker, United, 16 Logician, Mishriff, Serpentine, 20 bar.
The first five horses home in the 99th edition of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe represented the French home team, namely Sottsass, In Swoop, Persian King, Gold Trip and Raabihah. The three overseas runners left in the €3m contest after the departure of the Ballydoyle squad were Enable (sixth), Stradivarius (seventh) and Deirdre (eighth).
Stewards’ inquiry after messy race
In a tactical race, eventual third Persian King was able to set a pedestrian gallop as he stepped up in trip, resulting in a sprint for home and several bits of minor interference when it became congested in the straight.
Although few can have believed there would be any serious change to the result, the stewards had a look at all sorts, with the first [Sottsass], third [Persian King], fifth [Raabihah] and sixth [Enable] among those involved. Jockeys were interviewed and it took about 15 minutes before the result was made official.
Saturday night O’Brien bombshell
The Arc field was depleted to 11 on the eve of the race when Aidan O’Brien was forced to withdraw all four of his horses – Mogul, Japan and Sovereign, plus Derby winner Serpentine, who had been supplemented for €72,000.
The trainer was left with little choice when it emerged a batch of feed [from the Gain food company] had been contaminated by the prohibited substance Zilpaterol. The dramatic news, which followed the withdrawal of dual Classic winner Love owing to the testing conditions, was broken on Saturday night on the official Ballydoyle Twitter account.
Last-minute tests of urine samples taken from the quartet returned positive results, after which all horses declared at ParisLongchamp on Sunday to represent O’Brien and his sons Joseph and Donnacha were declared non-runners.
“There is a chance we could have been okay to run, but we couldn’t be sure,” O’Brien told the Racing Post. “To protect the integrity of the whole thing, we had to take them out.”
Mogul: what might have been
Arc runner-up In Swoop was beaten a neck by Sottsass. On his previous outing three weeks ago, the German Derby winner was beaten 2½ lengths by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mogul in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris over the same course and distance. A different day in different conditions but still …
Shall we talk about it?
Jean-Claude Rouget (Sottsass’s trainer): “We’ve worked all year for this. Our entire aim for 2020 was this and it’s not been easy with the changes to the calendar. We’ve never been able to do quite what we wanted with the horse but these last few days I’ve really felt he was in top form.
“Just after the race last year we thought he was a horse made for this race. When we ran in Deauville (in August) he was a bit fat and Skalleti is a very good horse. He is a Group 1 horse on soft ground, but we had to run in that race instead of going to York. The choice to go to Leopardstown was tough, too, and not the Foy.
We chose to run him over a shorter distance to give him speed. I think that was a good choice. All was made to have the horse 100 per cent today. The result is there.
“The fact the O’Brien horses were not there made it 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.”
Cristian Demuro (Sottsass’s jockey): “He means a lot because he’s the best I’ve ever ridden; Le Cressonniere was very good but didn’t do it in the Arc. He was a very good horse as a three-year-old but this year he wasn’t like that but after the irish Champion Stakes the horse improved a lot. He really is a champion.”
Francis Graffard (In Swoop’s trainer): “We never remember the second, unfortunately, but he has run a very good race. I am both very happy to be second in the Arc and disappointed to be narrowly beaten.
“The pace was not very strong and it didn’t suit him. Usually he’s off the bridle, but this time he was travelling really nicely which means the pace wasn’t very strong but he has finished very strongly in the last 100 metres.
“He’s an improving horse, he’s proven to be one of the best three-year-olds in Europe now. He’s a lovely physical specimen and he will improve. We’ve had a good season and we can look forward to next year – we always thought he would be a nice four-year-old.”
John Gosden (Enable’s trainer): “Once the Ballydoyle horses were non-runners, the whole race changed – namely Serpentine and Sovereign who were key to the running of the race. We knew they would set an even gallop for Mogul and Japan and ourselves.
“Once they were non-runners, it was a concern that there would be no pace, so I think from that point of view Pierre-Charles went on. He set a modest pace and Persian King ran a very good race.
“So that’s life – the slowly run race and deep testing ground was the same ground for everyone. Full marks to the winner but that’s the first time she’s ever finished outside the first and second in top races in her life. It was the pace and the ground, simple as that.
“I made it clear that Enable doesn’t like that type of ground. I would have preferred if it had rained and it was looser. That’s life, full marks to everybody else.
“It was always sporting of Prince Khalid to come back and try again. I would love to have seen it run on good to soft ground and a solid pace but it wasn’t.
“She has won three King Georges. No one has done that before so if she hadn’t stayed in training she would never have won a third King George. That is horse racing. If you can’t take the punches in this game, don’t be in it.”
Bjorn Nielsen (Stradivarius’s owner): “He looked like he had a good shot turning in, but he just didn’t go quick enough like we thought he would, perhaps because of the ground. We thought he’d run a really big race and he’s run well enough. He wasn’t blowing much afterwards – that’s just the way it goes.
“It was still a privilege to have a horse in the race. It’s hard to get here, let alone win it. He’s a great horse and he’s won a lot of big races. He owes us nothing really and seems to be so popular.” (Racing Post)
John Gosden (Stradivarius’s trainer): “Stradivarius loves targets to run at. He had nothing to run at, he was three wide, he didn’t like the ground either. A slowly run race like that is not going to suit him.”