Should this season’s Epsom Derby victor Golden Horn flourish by securing Europe’s richest prize at Longchamp today, even the normally exuberant Frankie Dettori may opt for some diplomatic restraint.
Victory for the John Gosden-trained colt in this afternoon’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe would mean the defeat of Criquette Head-Maarek’s Treve, the remarkable mare who is favourite to rack up a unique treble of Arc victories. She is owned by Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, who coincidentally retains Dettori’s services, and patron and jockey will be in opposition today, as Treve will be partnered by Thierry Jarnet.
Such are the nuances that make this a promoter’s dream. Barry Hearn himself could not have set up a more compelling clash of nationalities, generations and sexes, with Gosden’s three-year-old, defeated just once in seven races, opposing the French-trained mare, two years his senior.
True, other contenders are contesting the event worth £2,214,279 to the winner – not least New Bay, trained by André Fabre, chasing his eighth Arc success – but a duel within a race is what often electrifies the imagination, and this time it is the face-off between Dettori, 44, and Jarnet, 48, both of whose fortunes have surged late in their careers.
Fate intervened unkindly for Dettori in 2013 when Jarnet replaced him on Treve before her first Arc win after the Italian broke an ankle in a fall. The French jockey kept the winning ride last year.
“My owner, Sheikh Joaan, is very sporting,” said Dettori. “He wanted me to ride Treve [last year], but Criquette took me off the mare. Treve is amazing. She’s a worthy favourite. I only rode her for a year, but from what I’ve seen she’s probably better than last year. She’ll be very hard to beat.”
The Indian summer has dried out the Longchamp course, ensuring the participation of Golden Horn, and the going is likely to be good, which will suit the Gosden horse.
Golden Horn’s owner-breeder, Anthony Oppenheimer, has declared that his horse would “easily” beat the mare given good to firm ground (which it won’t be). But Jarnet hit back, saying that it could be “a race too many” for Gosden’s colt.
Jarnet could have a point. This will be Golden Horn’s seventh race of an exacting season that began in mid-April. “With horses you never know,” Dettori reflected. “Yes, he’s had a long year, but I think he’s a horse who enjoys his racing.”
The three-time winner of the race added of his mount: “He’s in good shape. His preparation’s gone well. He’ll have to run at his very best on Sunday to feature in the finish, but we’re going to give it a good go.”
Should Treve prevail, it would establish her in Head-Maarek’s eyes as the greatest race mare or filly ever. A Golden Horn triumph would confirm his place among the finest middle-distance horses of his age in history. The stakes are high, the potential spectacle absorbingReuse content