From Allez France to Ivanjica, Three Troikas, Detroit, Gold River, the Aga Khan's Akiyda and All Along, fillies seemed to have the edge. All the colts appeared to wither at the painted hooves of the femmes fatales.
Yet trends have changed. In the last 21 years only Urban Sea, in 1993, has won for the fairer sex. It must soon be time for another sister and, this season, another spellbinding female has turned up. She is the equine equivalent of the woman with a hat over one eye, a cigarette holder and revolver in her stocking top. Shawanda is dangerous. The boys better look out.
The Aga Khan's filly won the glorious distaff trial of old, the Prix Vermeille, in Paris on Sunday, a performance so persuasive that she has now overtaken Motivator in the ante-post lists as the legitimate Arc alternative to Hurricane Run.
For her owner, success on 2 October would represent a third Arc victory in six seasons, following the successes of Sinndar in 2000 and Dalakhani two years ago.
Even more beautifully, Shawanda is a daughter of Sinndar and one which has inherited his traits, both in high class and aptitude. Like her father, Shawanda does not dispose of rivals with a single killer blow of acceleration.
Her damaging tendency is to gradually apply a galloping tourniquet, until the life has been squeezed out of opponents. It was like this at Longchamp on Sunday. It was like this in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh.
That second race represented a return home for Shawanda. It was at the Gilltown Stud, Kilcullen, Co Kildare that she was foaled, from the start a prepossessing if unfulfilled filly. "She was a most attractive yearling and as much as we could tell about her as a young horse, she was very athletic," Pat Downes, the Aga Khan's racing manager, said yesterday, "one of those ones you would hope would be equally as athletic when she was going a little faster. So it has proved to be. That's always nice with a horse you recall from an early stage."
Connections, including her trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupré, are taken by Shawanda. Others, bookmakers included, are not about to underrate her. That mistake was made with her sire. Even now the name of Sinndar does not get due recognition for a beast of his accomplishments. He did not possess a stunning turn of foot, but he did possess stunning form. Sinndar beat Sakhee, himself a subsequent flamboyant Arc winner, in the Derby, he won the Irish equivalent and then swept home in the race his daughter now seeks, leaving Montjeu back in fourth.
That is the recent connection Shawanda must rely on. The old one involving the Prix Vermeille and the Arc seems to have expired. A different contest has come to be known as the ideal springboard for the European championship.
"It's the Prix Niel these days which seems to produce the Arc winner, so maybe the stats are favouring Hurricane Run at the moment," Downes added.
"Sunday was similar to the way Shawanda won the Irish Oaks, but she was far from wound up, despite the fact that it was a Group One, and we'd expect her to improve quite a bit come the first Sunday in October.
"Within her own age and sex she certainly seems to be a really high-class filly, but the Arc is obviously a different ball game. What I can say is that we haven't seen the best of her yet."
PRIX DE L'ARC DE TRIOMPHE (Longchamp, 2 October) Ladbrokes: 5-2 Hurricane Run, 3-1 Shawanda, 7-2 Motivator, 7-1 Bago, 10-1 Scorpion, 14-1 Alkaased, 20-1 Grey Swallow, Pride, Warrsan, 25-1 Westerner, 33-1 Fracassant, Fraloga, Policy Maker, Yeats, 40-1 Gamut, Walk In The Park, 50-1 Shirocco.
Out After Dark popular for sprint
Out After Dark has been cut to favouritism for Saturday's Ayr Gold Cup after his trainer, Clive Cox, confirmed him firmly on course for the Scottish dash.
With David Nicholls waiting to see how the ground rides before committing his well-fancied pair Ice Planet and Continent, punters have latched on to Cox's charge.
The four-year-old, who will be aiming to follow up his win in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster last week, has been cut from 10-1 to 8-1 clear favourite with Ladbrokes after solid support. Coral and William Hill make Out After Dark co-favourite of three along with Ice Planet and Hughie Morrison's Intrepid Jack.
NB: Great Plains