Brilliant Sinndar joins the Arc angels

France's hot favourite Montjeu fails to sparkle behind Irish-trained colt achieving historic treble

One giant was slain, another created here in the Bois de Boulogne yesterday. When the dust settled after the 79th Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, it was Montjeu, perhaps the best horse in the world for the last two years, who was on the floor. The hoof on his chest belonged to the new champion, Sinndar, the first horse to win the Derby, Irish Derby and Europe's seasonal climax in Paris.

One giant was slain, another created here in the Bois de Boulogne yesterday. When the dust settled after the 79th Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, it was Montjeu, perhaps the best horse in the world for the last two years, who was on the floor. The hoof on his chest belonged to the new champion, Sinndar, the first horse to win the Derby, Irish Derby and Europe's seasonal climax in Paris.

It was a second Arc victory in the great race for the Aga Khan, Sinndar's owner, a debut success for the coming men of the new millennium, the Curragh trainer John Oxx and his countryman and stable jockey, Johnny Murtagh. Most of all though it was the vindication of Sinndar himself as one of the great horses.

It has been said that the bay colt was little more than a high-class trundler, with none of the powers of acceleration of the heroes of the past. This theory, however, was hammered into the turf of the Longchamp straight with every step that Sinndar forged clear of his field.

The winning gap at the line was a length and a half from the gallant French filly, Egyptband, but it was a distance which was never going to be breached. The turfistes loved Sinndar's courage. They appreciate the notion of "ils ne passeront pas" in this land.

"When I asked him just inside the final three furlongs he went to the front and then he waited," Murtagh reported. "When the filly came he sensed her coming and he went again. No horse can get by him.

"After the Curragh [the Irish Derby] people called him a grinder, but he's a lot more than that. He's got speed, he's got staying ability and a great heart. He's the best horse. A true champion. He's unbeatable."

While he was demonstrably the best horse on the track, Sinndar lost out in the pageant of the parade ring. Here, beneath the plane trees, he looked sleek enough, his tongue flapping angrily around its strap. But the one who commanded the eye was Montjeu. Le Seigneur's hide was buffed to perfection and he looked dangerous, like a bulging oven with smoke coming from the door frame. In the end, though, the threatened explosion never came.

Sinndar shot out of the stalls and had to wait some time before his stablemate and pacemaker, Raypour, scrambled to the front. The pace was generous, but Sinndar did not appear to be stretching himself unduly in behind the lead. As soon as the straight was reached, Murtagh made his move.

France's Volvoreta, the "little butterfly", was the first to challenge, but she was soon crushed by the effort. Egyptband came late and last, but Sinndar was not a horse for passing. Murtagh screamed in the second favourite's ears and Sinndar screamed forward.

"I was pretty calm in the last two furlongs because his final furlong is always his best," the professorial Oxx said. "We reckoned he would be hard to pass and even when I saw the filly coming to him I was relaxed.

"He's a great horse and a worthy winner of the Arc in the year 2000. He's set a standard there that will be hard enough for others to match and I'm sure that when we get to the year 2099 they will still write about this horse. He's been a great horse."

The trainer may have been talking in the past tense, but Sinndar's racing future has yet to be decided. He will not run again this season and he will eventually retire to the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in Co Kildare, but what happens in between remains unclear.

Montjeu's future is also open to discussion, but it could be that this was a swansong, proof that the great waves of Group One races can eventually crack the greatest rock. "It's difficult for them to stay at the top for two years running," John Hammond, the Englishman who trains Montjeu in Chantilly, said. "You always think there's going to come a day when they don't quite fire and that happened today.

"When they are on the boil at this level for two years you never know what is going to happen. These races take a lot out of them. It's disappointing, but the horse has had a great career and you can't expect it to go on for ever."

For Murtagh, Sinndar's win was, incredibly, one of three victories at the highest Group One level during the afternoon. He rode the Oxx-trained Namid to success in the Prix de l'Abbaye and brought Petrushka home for Sir Michael Stoute's Newmarket stable in the Prix de l'Opera.

Sinndar's victory was Ireland's first in an Arc since Alleged posted his second win in 1978. It was also the fourth success for an Epsom Derby winner, and he now joins the glorious company of Sea-Bird II, Mill Reef and Lammtarra.

The horse named after a small mountain range in Iraq will, like them, be remembered for as long as horses are raced against each other. The Bois de Boulogne may not have been the obvious location, but yesterday's was a truly Olympian effort.

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