July 13, 2024

Alpinista achieves Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe mission

Alpinista wins the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Alpinista extended her winning streak to eight in Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), driving through the very soft going to defeat Vadeni and defending champion Torquator Tasso at ParisLongchamp.

Backed into 3-1 favoritism by post time, Alpinista fulfilled her personal long-term plan – and crowned the decades-long partnership of two of the greatest names in racing. The Kirsten Rausing homebred is the culmination of generations raised at her Lanwades Stud, and a legacy-enhancing champion for her trainer, Sir Mark Prescott.

Prescott also developed Alpinista’s granddam, Albanova, who won a trio of German Group 1s in 2004. Alpinista turned effectively the same triple during a flawless four-year-old season in 2021. Her defeat of Torquator Tasso in the Grosser Preis von Berlin (G1) took on greater importance after he went on to stun the Arc, but Alpinista didn’t have Paris on her agenda at that time. Instead, she was content to keep raiding Germany for the Preis von Europa (G1) and Grosser Preis von Bayern (G1).

The Arc became the raison d’etre for Alpinista’s 2022 campaign. Having inherited Albanova’s gray coat, she also took after her by peaking as a five-year-old. Alpinista retained her winning habit in the July 3 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1), and made it seven in a row in the Aug. 18 Yorkshire Oaks (G1).

Although Luxembourg took on the mantle of Arc favoritism after his score in the Irish Champion (G1), Alpinista was well-backed in the market herself. Her price contracted further on raceday, eclipsing Luxembourg, who ended up going off as the 9-2 second choice. The Aidan O’Brien colt never landed a blow.

As expected, Japan’s Titleholder strode to the early lead, and Balldoyle veteran Broome kept close tabs on him. Al Hakeem and Japan’s Deep Bond tracked in the next flight, while Alpinista was well placed in their slipstream by regular rider Luke Morris.

Traveling supremely well, Alpinista began to improve in the false straight, on her own volition. The daughter of Frankel was still on the bridle as she cruised between Titleholder and Broome at the top of the lane.

Morris sat quietly as long as he could, until nearing the final furlong. Vadeni was then bursting from the pack, and wider out, Al Hakeem was threatening. Now set down in earnest, Alpinista found plenty to kick on and persevere to the wire. A valiant Vadeni got to within a half-length, and Torquator Tasso came with his trademark late swoop, but Alpinista was too tough.

“She traveled so well all the way through the race,” Morris said, “and I just wanted to get her out so we could get rolling. She is a very special mare, and I can really explain how I am feeling; it’s incredible.”

Vadeni answered every stamina question, taking runner-up honors by a neck. Third-placer Torquator Tasso yet again validated his 2021 Arc, in an excellent effort from post 18.

“I thought for a moment that he was going to win,” trainer Marcel Weiss said of Torquator Tasso, “but Alpinista was just too good. She beat us in Berlin last year, and I knew that she merited the utmost respect. Torquator Tasso finished off the race very strongly and he means so much to us; he is the horse of a lifetime.”

Al Hakeem, Vadeni’s stablemate from the Jean-Claude Rouget yard, tired late in a commendable fourth. Like Vadeni, Al Hakeem had yet to race at this about 1 1/2-mile trip.

“I am not too used to running horses on ground like that,” Rouget commented. “Al Hakeem had a great run round and he will get harder, he’s a star! He is a big stamp and he struggled a bit on the ground. As for Vadeni, we have to ask ourselves if he would have won over further. We have been rewarded for our hard work over the months. I have a wonderful team, and to have two horses finish in the top four is a brilliant result.”

Grand Glory closed from far back to garner fifth, setting herself up for another crack at the Japan Cup (G1). Next came Westover; Luxembourg, who pulled muscles in his left hip, as O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing; Broome; Alenquer; Onesto; Titleholder; Mendocino; Mishriff; Stay Foolish; Mare Australis; Sealiway; Bubble Gift; Deep Bond; Do Deuce; and Mostahdaf.

Kirsten Rausing with trainer Sir Mark Prescott after Alpinista’s victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

The first five-year-old mare to win the Arc since the legendary Corrida (1937), Alpinista clocked 2:35.71 in her career-defining performance. She picked up a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), but the Japan Cup is another option for the magnificent mare, whose record stands at 15-10-2-0. Alpinista hasn’t lost since 2020, when runner-up to Love in the Yorkshire Oaks and also second in the Princess Royal (G3).

“To win the Arc she needed to produce an even bigger effort than before,” Prescott said. “She has done that and some! Over the last two years all she has done is progress, it is incredible.

“When I was 15 I won my first race, and I remember while I was walking around after the race that somebody asked me who won the first and I just replied ‘It was me!’ Those were the 10 best minutes of my life, but today is the best day I have ever had in racing!

“I think my assistant William (Butler) is going to hate me; he has been waiting to take over for 20 years, but thanks to Alpinista I will probably keep going and he will have to wait! He was with me when Alborada won the Champion S. (G1).”

Alborada, the 1998 Champion heroine, is a full sister to Albanova and therefore an “aunt” of Alpinista. Albanova produced Group 3 winner Algometer as well as stakes scorers Alignak; All at Sea, herself the dam of recent St Leger (G1) star Eldar Eldarov; and Alwilda (by Hernando), the dam of Alpinista.

“I trained both the mother and grandmother of Alpinista, it’s incredible,” Prescott added. “I have been working for 36 years with Mrs. Rausing and 11 with Luke Morris.”

“We are obviously delighted,” Rausing enthused. “It is incredible to have bred such a mare, especially as she is a sixth generation. The mare has progressed over the last two years, just like her owner and trainer!

“For the minute, we will just make sure that she gets home safe and sound. We will go and have a think to see if she runs again this year. We have considered the Japan Cup, as well as the Breeders Cup. She will go to stud next year.”