When Peintre Celebre won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris one smoggy October afternoon, he entranced more than those who had scribbled him down for betting purposes. Racing historians also started jotting his name alongside those such as Sea-Bird II, Mill Reef and Dancing Brave as animals who had proved their greatness in Paris. And the beauty is that this pageant will continue.
Daniel Wildenstein, at 80, may have become bored with the piles of Cezannes, Renoirs and Van Goghs he has accumulated down the years, but the masterpiece with a pulse has revitalised him. It would have been easy for the art dealer and bloodstock owner to then retire Peintre Celebre to stud, but Wildenstein has deemed the curtain should be pulled on the culmination of his years of breeding for another season.
Peintre Celebre is by the outstanding sire Nureyev, who was disqualified after passing the post first in the 1980 2,000 Guineas. His mother is the Alydar mare Peinture Bleue, thus ensuring there is much stamina on the distaff side as there is speed offered by the sire. The outcome of this genetic equation is usually a horse which performs ponderously over eight furlongs but Peintre Celebre is unique: a thoroughbred with a sprinter's kick who can hold on to his most potent weapon at the end of a middle- distance race - a fusion of Seb Coe and Linford Christie.
These chromosomes allowed the colt to both dominate his contemporaries in the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) and then the older horses in the Arc. After that they called him a monster, which may be true in one sense but is hardly relevant physically as the little horse, if his name can be used as a guide, is more reminiscent of another excellent practitioner who painted scenes at nearby Montmartre.
As Peintre Celebre scythed five lengths clear to beat the course record by 1.7sec he made the rest look ordinary, which we knew at the time, and were subsequently reminded, could simply not be true. Pilsudski, the runner- up, went on to win the Champion Stakes at Newmarket and the Japan Cup, while the third, Borgia, came within a length of collecting the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Peintre Celebre himself went for a relatively early lie-down in preparation for 1998, in which even greater things are expected of him. We will soon know. In about two months' time, on the Chantilly gallops, the monster will be reawakened.Reuse content