October 26, 2020

Sottsass prevails, Enable sixth in French sweep of Arc

Sottsass
Sottsass with Cristian Demuro up wins the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) (GALOPPFOTO/Racingfotos.com)

As Enable’s worldwide fan club watched her chances of a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) sink beneath the ParisLongchamp mire, Sottsass rose to the occasion to fulfill the Arc dreams of his connections. The first Arc winner for American owner Peter Brant, trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, and jockey Cristian Demuro, Sottsass spearheaded a French sweep of the top five placings.

That Gallic dominance was arguably made possible not only by proficiency on the heavy going, but the absence of the Aidan O’Brien runners. O’Brien scratched all of his Arc Day entrants after their feed from GAIN was contaminated, reportedly with Zilpaterol, that caused positive tests in their preliminary samples. Ballydoyle issued a statement Saturday night that although the horses might have been free of the banned substance by raceday, they were being withdrawn “to protect the integrity of racing.”

Thus the Arc went on without Mogul, Japan, Serpentine, and Sovereign, which totally altered the complexion of the race. Instead of Serpentine and Sovereign making for a solid gallop, the Arc changed into a paceless affair. Sottsass, third to Waldgeist and Enable in last year’s much more strenuous Arc as a sophomore, was happier to find this race shape.

Persian King, the miler trying about 1 1/2 miles for the first time, strode ahead sedately in hopes of turning it into a sprint for home that would suit him best. Chachnak attended, with Sottsass perfectly placed by Demuro in the stalking spot on the rail. Enable was also poised just off the leaders, flanked by John Gosden stablemate Stradivarius on the outside and In Swoop to the inner.

Into the stretch, Persian King wasn’t stopping, and Enable wasn’t lifting. Demuro switched Sottsass around to challenge, cutting across the path of a weakening Chachnak who then reacted and scrimmaged with Enable. Rallying wider out came Gold Trip to join the fray briefly, while fellow 3-year-old In Swoop stuck to the inside path to launch a bolder bid for glory.

Sottsass proved strongest in the finish, putting away Persian King and parrying the thrust of In Swoop by a neck. The final time, 2:39.30, signified the conditions and the lack of pace.

Before Rouget, Demuro, and Brant could celebrate, however, they had to endure a nerve-wracking stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run. At last the order of finish was allowed to stand.

Persian King crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths back, heading Gold Trip for third. Rouget’s other runner, the filly Raabihah, closed to take fifth.

Enable was not given a hard time by Frankie Dettori in sixth, the only unplaced effort of her historic career. The Juddmonte star still beat Stradivarius for barn bragging rights, and Gosden left open the possibility of one more run for Enable.

Deirdre, Way to Paris, Royal Julius, and Chachnak rounded out the finishing order. Although it’s unknowable where the Ballydoyle quartet would have ended up, in a very differently run race, In Swoop and Gold Trip flattered Mogul who’d beaten them in the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) last out.

Yet Coolmore didn’t walk away empty-handed. The Irish-based empire had acquired a half-interest in Sottsass last winter.

The result was a triumph for Rouget, who had this as his target for the entire season, and conjured up the very best from Sottsass on the day it counted. The Siyouni colt first attracted international attention when upsetting Persian King in the 2019 French Derby (G1) in record time. Sottsass added the Prix Niel (G2) as his Arc prep last fall, but his 2020 campaign had been marked more by losses.

A not-cranked fourth in the May 11 Prix d’Harcourt (G2), Sottsass was workmanlike when landing the June 14 Prix Ganay (G1). The chestnut had a summer holiday before just failing to give six pounds to Skalleti in the Aug. 15 Prix Gontaut-Biron (G3), a formline boosted Saturday as Skalleti successfully defended his title in the Prix Dollar (G2). Rouget’s clutch move was sending Sottsass to Leopardstown for the Sept. 12 Irish Champion (G1), where he was only fourth to Magical and Ghaiyyath, but got just what his trainer wanted from the venture.

Rouget commented on his program:

“Just after the race last year we thought he was a horse made for this race. Between the Ganay (in June) it was a long time. When we ran in Deauville he was a bit fat and 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 for the Juddmonte International (G1).

“The choice to go to Leopardstown was tough, too, and not the (Prix) Foy ([G2] here). 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 percent today. The result is there!”

With the Arc being a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), now another decision looms about whether Sottsass will use his free ticket. If he does ship, Sottsass would join his older half-sister at Keeneland – champion Sistercharlie, also owned by Brant, and expected to try to regain her title in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

Brant, who acquired Sistercharlie as she was developing into a French classic prospect in the spring of 2017, bought Sottsass that August for €340,000 as an Arqana yearling. He also has their 5-year-old half-sister, My Sister Nat, like Sistercharlie based with Chad Brown. They were all bred by Ecurie des Monceaux from the prolific Starlet’s Sister, by Coolmore’s supersire Galileo.

More coverage of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races on Arc Day