Al Mourtajez looked unstoppable in claiming the Qatar Arabian World Cup, winning by an imperious four-and-a-half lengths to not only repeat his 2015 feat, but also stay in line for the Doha triple-crown bonus. The Al Shaqab Racing champion colt started slowly but had too much speed for his 14 rivals in the 2000m Group 1 race, sponsored by Al Emadi Enterprises. Mehdaaf Athbah finished a distant second, edging HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani-owned Tayf to third in a photo finish at the Chantilly racecourse here on Sunday.
The son of Dahess has already won the Qatar International Stakes which was run as part of the Qatar Goodwood Festival in July. He now has to win the HH Emir's Sword, to be run in Doha in February 2017, to win the $1,000,000 bonus, and the kind of form he is in at the moment, it would be a surprise if he can't manage to achieve the feat. .The Arabian runner has looked unstoppable wherever he has run this season, with as many as seven Group 1 wins coming into the Arc weekend. Most of his wins have been by big length margins. The Qatar Arabian World Cup, established in 2008, is considered as the equivalent to the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for purebred Arabian horses with a prize money of 1,000,000 euros.
Under long-time jockey Julien Auge, Al Mourtajez had a rather slow start after his gate number 10 start but was soon into his groove at the halfway mark, blitzing past his rivals and never letting his guard down till the finish.
“He's very different for other horses,” Auge was quoted as saying in media reports before the race. “His big action, the big stride just takes him along and it is possible that he can change gear and sprint at the end of the race. He is the best purebred Arabian horse that you will see in the world. Some Arabians can change speed, but this Arabian is exceptional because he runs like a thoroughbred. I am sure he will win the Qatar World Cup, same as last year.” Al Mourtajez made his jockey's prediction come true on Sunday, and in imperious style.
Barring the HH Emir's Sword earlier this year, where he was beaten by Gazwan, Al Mourtajez has been unstoppable this season. Yesterday's win just extended the streak.
Wuheida won the opening race of the Arc day, the 300,000 euros Total Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium Des Pouliches, with a stirring finishing run in the final stretch at the Chantilly racecourse here yesterday. It was her maiden Group 1 victory in only her second career start.
The two-year-old filly, under Norwegian William Buick, was trailing favourite Dabyah till the final 200 metres of the 1600m race before her late burst ended the flowing run of the tiring Dabyah, who was then edged out by Promise To Be True on the line to end a close third.
The daughter of Dubawi's trainer Charlie Appleby said he was expecting a good performance from her. “I am delighted with how she came from behind to win. We had been preparing her hard for the Arc and I am so happy she has delivered. The further she goes, the better she will become,” Appleby said.
It was a start-to-finish sprint for the imperious National Defense in the 350,000 euros Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Grand Criterium), the second race of the Arc afternoon. The British raider, under local jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, won the 1600m Group 1 race by four-and-a-half lengths ahead of Salouen and Whitecliffsofdover in that order.
“We have had a terrible year as the horses were sick for a long time. But they are coming back to themselves now and we knew this one had a good chance,” said his delighted trainer Christiane Criquette Head-Maarek, the celebrated female horse trainer from France. The 68-year-old Head-Maarek, who twice saddled Treve to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, trains and lives in Chantilly.
It was a photo finish in the 400,000 euros Qatar Prix de l'Opera Longines, with Speedy Boarding managing to chin past Pleascach in the 2000m Group 1 race. So Mi Dar finished third in a race which was led for the better part by Al Shaqab Racing's Jemayel before her challenge fizzled out in the final 400 metres. It was the second successive Group 1 success for the British filly after Darley Prix in Deauville in August.
In the 350,000 euros Qatar Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp, a Group 1 1000m sprint, it was the fast-finishing Marsha, under Luke Morris, who took the honours ahead of Washington DC and Mecca's Angel.
Al Shaqab Racing's Karar finished second in the Qatar Prix de la Foret, a Group I race run over 1400m. The colt, under experienced jockey Gregory Benoist, started from stall 12 but made good ground to finish behind the pacy Limato. Suedois finished third. Stunning Arc triumph for Found.
An upset of upsets marked the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the blue riband race of the Arc weekend, at the Chantilly racecourse on Sunday.
Neither the pre-Arc favourite, nor any of the closest contenders, came anywhere near. Rather it was three Irish outsiders' turn to shine to glory in the 5,000,000 euros 16-horse race, run over 2400 metres on the historic course, and all from the same stable!
Found, a four-year-old bay filly by Galileo out of Red Evie, was the surprise winner of the 2016 Arc, leading stablemates Highland Reel and Order of St George for a remarkable one-two-three finish for trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Ridden by Ryan Moore, she trailed early but was always well positioned to mount her challenge. And she did it in the long straight, getting past the pace-setting Vedevani from the Aga Khan stable at the 400m mark and never looked back thereafter.
Arc favourite Postponed, on an unbeaten streak dating back to July 2015, could only finish fifth, while Japan's Arc jinx continues when their big hope Makahiki hardly threatened in a poor 14th-place finish. Dual Derby hero Harzand, one of the Arc contenders behind Postponed, ended a distant ninth.
“It's unbelievable… First, second and third in the Arc, it's just incredible. Words can't describe it. It's just amazing,” said Michael Tabor, one of the three owners of the filly. “This is the time of year for her. We knew we had a chance, but this is the Arc… it feels so unreal.”
Found's trainer O'Brien was over the moon. “I'm so delighted for everyone. I couldn't have imagined anything higher in my career than this. After all, this is the Arc… I still feel it's a dream. She has run over a mile-and-a-half only four times before and she has been unlucky this season, with so many close second-place finishes. We came here very hopeful and had our eye on this for a long time,” the 46-year-old Irish trainer said.
“It's a great feeling to saddle the first three home in an Arc, there's not much to beat it, but it's all down to a fantastic team effort. And what makes it amazing is that they are all by Galileo...it's indeed a privilege to be here,” he added.
Fifth-placed Postponed's trainer Roger Varian said he was surprised to see him not being able to quicken up at the right time. “(Jockey) Andrea (Atzeni) said he felt great going to the post, but after breaking well he was trapped three wide early on and couldn't get in. It meant he met the big bend on the wrong lead and then he didn't quicken up like he can. It' a big disappointment as we went in hoping we would win, but the main thing is we still have a horse to go to war with and we can take him home and see how he comes out of this.”
Runner-up in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Coronation Cup, Prince of Wales's Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Irish Champion Stakes on her last five starts, Found finally got her head in front when it mattered most to end her bridesmaid's tag in Europe's richest race.
She had proved her quality at the age of two, winning her maiden race on her very first start in August 2014, and then ran directly into the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes in September. She finished well in third place, despite her lack of experience. She then went to Longchamp for the Total Prix Marcel Boussac (Group 1), winning by over two lengths in a race that brings together all the best two-year-old French and European fillies. Since May this year, she has been successively place second.
It was time to end the jinx and she couldn't have asked for a better occasion to do that.