It’s fair to say there was plenty for horse racing fans to sink their teeth into at the recent Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris. On a dramatic day, it was Sottsass who emerged the victorious horse in an entertaining showdown, which required a steward’s inquiry to confirm the victory for jockey Cristian Demuro and his horse.
But this was a race that was greater defined by who didn’t win as opposed to who did. Enable, ridden by Frankie Dettori, struggled to a sixth-place finish, and thus failed to regain the title she won two years running in 2017 and 2018. It felt like a disappointing decline for such a successful horse, although given the fact that the nature of this year’s race was so much altered, perhaps it’s fitting that a somewhat surprising result should occur.
Indeed, this may prove the final exeunt for six-year-old Enable, who has enjoyed plenty of success, and although it didn’t go the way many wanted, manager Teddy Grimthorpe was still immensely proud of the horse, and made clear that there were no “excuses” needed for the performance.
“I hate using that word when we’re talking about Enable,” he said, “she’s got nothing to excuse, it’s the other way around. Really and truly, she’s been such a joy for everyone involved with her and the whole sport of racing, we’ve all shared in her wonder. It’s just a question of doing nothing precipitous and thinking about it properly.”
The headlines before the race were dominated by the news that Aidan O’Brien’s four stabled contenders for the event were withdrawn after it emerged that they had eaten feed contaminated with a banned substance. It was a bizarre occurrence, which sent Betdaq punters into a frenzy, but paved the way for a horse such as Sottsass to stake a claim for victory.
The absence of O’Brien’s horses, combined with the poor conditions and slow going, led to a slow race, with the overall time being among the slowest times since the 1970s.
And in the end, Demuro and Sottsass could not be begrudged their win. It was a close-fought thing, with In Swoop pushing him all the way, but it was a seminal moment for the four-year-old to win a race of such stature.
Of course, all this played out in circumstances entirely different to a usual Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe, but that should take not away from the magnitude of Sottsass and Demuro’s success. Indeed, the nature of winning the race post-Covid almost warrants greater praise, due to the strangeness of the new ways in which major horse races are taking place.
Indeed, such was the scale of the achievement, Sottsass has now been retired to begin a breeding career. So in many ways, this victory will go down as the crowning moment of a solid career.
“It is great to win the Arc of course because it is like no other race,” said trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. “By the time the Arc comes the horses are tired and the ground is unpredictable. We won because we prepared the horse for this race. We lost races this year in order to win this one.”