Italian rider Cristian Demuro on French horse Sottsass wins the 100th Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe race Saturday at the Paris Longchamps track in Paris. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE/
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Last year's French Derby winner, Sottsass, rallied through the final 100 meters to win Sunday's Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, putting an end to a devastating string of setbacks for Europe's premier race.
Two-time winner Enable, bidding for the second straight year to land an historic third victory, could do no better than sixth as age and very soft turf took their toll.
The Arc suffered blow after blow this year, starting with the badly scrambled summer schedule due to a COVID-19 racing shutdown which forced cancellation of some key prep races.
Then, as race day neared, heavy rains beset Paris, saturating the turf at Longchamp and forcing Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien to withdraw the favorite, 3-year-old filly Love.
And then, things went totally south with the announcement mid-week that some batches of feed supplied to many British and Irish trainers inadvertently had been contaminated with a prohibited substance.
French labs found Saturday that urine samples taken from O'Brien's horses showed traces of the substance and three more, including Investec Derby winner Serpentine, were ruled out of the race. O'Brien's sons Donnacha and Joseph Patrick also withdrew entries from the Arc program.
Even Sottsass's victory actually didn't quite end the string of misfortune and uncertainty that plagued the Arc in the star-crossed year of 2020.
After he crossed the line first, a neck in front of In Swoop with the early leader, Persian King, holding third, the stewards hoisted the inquiry sign. They then indicated the finish position of four runners, including Sottsass, was under review as a result of a traffic jam about 300 meters from the finish.
Among other issues, a slow-motion replay appeared to show early contender Chachnak attempting to bite Enable as she made a mild move.
Eventually, the result was allowed to stand and trainer Jean-Claude Rouget was able to celebrate his first victory in the Arc.
"It has been difficult managing the races," Rouget said of Sottsass' schedule. The colt won the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Chantilly in June but then was second in a Group 3 event at Deauville and fourth in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown before the Arc run.
"He took the lead in the last furlong and had no problem to finish," the trainer said.
It was a bitter end for Enable's rider Frankie Dettori, who has made no secret of his love for the mare.
"She hated the ground," Dettori said of the saturated turf. "I knew my fate at the 400 [meters]. She's the queen of my heart, anyway."
The Arc generally was presumed to be Enable's last race and her owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, was given full marks for keeping her in training at age 6. Before the race, racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe called out that assumption, saying, "Whether it's her last race, that's up to Prince Khalid to decide. We don't know."
In 2018, Enable went from her second Arc victory to the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs, where she won a classic confrontation with the O'Brien-trained filly Magical. Sunday's renewal was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland Nov. 7.
Sunday's race also could have been the swan song for Stradivarius, Europe's pre-eminent stayer over three seasons.
The 6-year-old son of Sea the Stars was shortened up from marathon distances this year specifically to tackle the Arc and had every chance in the stretch, racing alongside Enable. But he could not find the needed turn of foot and finished seventh.
Japan's faint hope to win an Arc, Deirdre, was away slowly and finished eighth.
Also on the Arc program:
Tarnawa rallied steadily outside the leaders through the final 100 meters of the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera Longines for fillies and mares and was just along to win by a short neck from the favorite, Alpine Star.
Audarya was another 3/4 length back in third. The non-runners in this due to the feed debacle included Fancy Blue, a 3-year-old filly by the late Japanese sire Deep Impact.
Fancy Blue, trained by Donnacha O'Brien, earlier landed the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly and the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
The late changes benefitted Tarnawa, an Aga Khan homebred daughter of Shamardal. The 4-year-old filly improved to 3-for-3 on the season, backing up her win in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermille a month earlier. She earned a "Win and You're In" entry to the Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf.
Wooded won a spirited stretch battle with the favorite Glass Slippers in the 5-furlongs Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines, prevailing by a neck with Liberty Beach along for third.
Wooded, a 3-year-old filly by Wootton Bassett, came to the race on the back of a second-place finish in the Group 3 Qatar Prix Petit Couvert and won for just the third time in nine starts.
Battaash was ruled out of the race early in the week because of the heavy ground. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
One Master got by the favorite, Earthlight, well within the final 100 meters of the 7-furlongs Group 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret, winning by a neck over that rival. Safe Voyage was third.
It was the third straight Foret win for One Master, a 6-year-old mare by Fastnet Rock. She went on from the 2018 win to finish fifth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs and followed the 2019 win with a second in the Group 1 Qipco British Champion Sprint.
Lope y Fernandez and Speak in Colours were late withdrawals from the Foret.
Sealiway dashed away late in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for 2-year-olds, winning by 8 lengths over the favorite, Nando Parrado. Laws of Indices was third in the race, which missed intended Irish starter St Mark's Basilica.
Sealiway, a Galiway colt trained by Frederick Rossi, produced his fourth win from six starts. He reported second in a Group 3 prep for Sunday's race. The victory earned a "Win and You're In" spot for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 6 at Keeneland.
In the Group 1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac for 2-year-old fillies, Jessica Marcialis became the first female jockey to ride a Group 1 winner in France as she guided Tiger Tanaka to a 3/4-lengths win over Tasmania.
Tiger Tanaka, a Clodovil filly, broke well and raced patiently behind the leading quartet. Marcialis produced her down the center of the course through the final 200 meters and she finished strongly enough to show promise at distances longer than this 1 mile.
Now a Group 1 winner with six wins from seven starts and a "Win and You're In" ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she started her career in the claiming ranks. Tiger Tanaka was the fictional head of the Japanese Secret Service in the James Bond novel You Only Live Twice.