Qatar accomplished at one stroke what Japan has attempted in vain for years in winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with the imperious Treve at Longchamp on Sunday. However, to be rewarded so instantly required new money to be grafted on to the finest of old Arc family traditions.
Criquette Head-Maarek, whose unbeaten filly swept past her rivals with insolent ease to finish five lengths clear of Orfevre, was winning her second Arc; her father, Alec Head, who bred Treve, took the prize four times; her grandfather, William Head, trained the winner twice, the first as far back as 1947; her brother, Freddy Head, rode the winner four times, lastly aboard Three Troikas, trained by Head-Maarek, in 1979.
Treve, now unbeaten in five starts, was subject to what is believed to have been a high seven-figure transfer to Qatari owner Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani after she won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) in June. The instructions were simple. “When he bought her, he said: ‘I want you to win an Arc’,” Head-Maarek explained. “I said: ‘I can’t promise but I’ll do my best’.”
Drawn wide yesterday, Treve was kept wide by Al Kazeem, who beat her to cover in the pack and jostled her as they race towards the rear. The filly failed to settle fully as a consequence, but still travelled with such purpose that she looked the winner as she began to pass the field some half a mile from the finish. Accelerating into the lead turning into the home straight, Treve settled the result in a matter of strides. The Japanese-trained favourite Orfevre, who threw away victory in last year’s race, gave unavailing chase, but ran true enough this time to hold off the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner Intello by a neck, with Orfevre’s compatriot Kizuna two lengths away in fourth.
“The way she won was incredible,” Head-Maarek said. “She was wide the whole way and was travelling so easily the jockey just said he just let her go. I’m surprised how well she won, as we’ve never pushed her. I thought she had six gears, but today she put the seventh one on.” Her father added: “I won the Arc with two fillies, but I think she is ahead of them all.”
Head-Maarek hopes to extend the family franchise for at least another year. Outlining plans, she said: “I’d like to ask the sheikh if I can give her a rest. If there’s one race for her it would be Hong Kong. I am going to speak with the sheikh with the objective of keeping her in training next season and preparing her to win the Arc again.”
Thierry Jarnet, the winning rider who benefited from the abject luck of Frankie Dettori, Sheikh Joaan’s retained jockey who rode Treve when she won her trial last month, only to miss the Arc after breaking an ankle last week, followed up even more stylishly in the Prix de la Forêt on Moonlight Cloud – trained by Freddy Head. Jarnet sat motionless, many lengths off the pace set by Gordon Lord Byron, until the final furlong when the mare quickened past the whole field to win by three lengths. “I thought Thierry had left her a long way [back] and Gordon Lord Byron had taken an easy lead,” Head said. “I wondered if we would catch him but when the speed comes, she can really quicken.”
British runners endured a blank weekend – Al Kazeem came sixth in the Arc – but the Prix de l’Abbaye, in which there was the usual strong overseas contingent, went to an Irish sprinter. His name? Maarek, of course.
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