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Cornelius Lysaght column

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
Venue: Longchamp, Paris Date: Sunday, 5 October at 1540 BST
Live coverage: BBC Two/Sport website 1300-1600 BST.
Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live

Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

In European Flat racing, there aren't any of the jokes you hear elsewhere about a lack of famous Belgians.

Not since 7 November 1997, in fact, when a first ever winner for 16-year-old Brussels-born apprentice jockey Christophe Soumillon caught many an eye.

From a base in his adopted France, the teenager was on a rapid ascent to the top.

The apprentices' title soon came along, followed by a string of big race successes and - so far - three French jockeys' championships, rewarded with the coveted Cravache d'Or, the 'golden whip'.

Jockey Christophe Soumillon and French horse Zarkava
Soumillon won the 159th Prix de Diane in Chantilly on Zarkava in June

Self-assured and articulate, but apt to court controversy, Soumillon is now number one rider to owner the Aga Khan; you don't need the aid of the great fictional Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot to work out that he enjoys global racing recognition.

And, if the pundits are correct, that profile is set to be raised even further after Flat racing's great autumn showdown, the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris.

In the world's richest race staged on turf, Soumillon will be on board the Aga's brilliant, unbeaten (in six starts) filly Zarkava, trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre.

She's red-hot favourite after a spectacular run which has seen success in the French 1000 Guineas and Oaks, though the race that really impressed was her most recent one in the Prix Vermeille, a prestigious Arc trial at Longchamp.

Despite a particularly tardy exit from the stalls, she positively strolled to victory against good rivals, in a style described by the Racing Post newspaper simply as "astonishing".

So comprehensive was it that Soumillon, ever the showman, was able to stop riding and ease up, a la Usain Bolt in the Olympic 100m, strides before the finishing line.

A serious lapse at the start would appear to be the only potential chink in the make-up of Zarkava, who will be rated a female magnifique if becoming the first filly to gallop to Arc glory since Urban Sea (in 1993).

And, as we are talking stats, Soumillon - currently lying second in the quest for this season's Cravache d'Or, behind Ioritz Mendizabal - and De Royer-Dupre are both looking for second successes in the 4m Euro race, while for the Aga, it would be win number four.

606: DEBATE
antoinog

Fifty thousand people will pack into Longchamp for the 87th running of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, with, it is estimated, nearly half of them from Britain.

Last year's runner-up Youmzain heads the cross-channel raid, with supporters hoping for an emotional win for his trainer Mick Channon, who is recovering from a serious car accident.

Ireland's challenge will naturally be dominated by the Aidan O'Brien stable - winners last year with Dylan Thomas - which provides horse of the year Duke Of Marmalade and the highly talented Soldier Of Fortune, last year's fifth.

And the Arc wouldn't quite be the Arc without a serious challenger from the home-grown, seven-time successful Andre Fabre yard which has Getaway, the fourth-placed horse 12 months ago, ridden by Olivier Peslier.

All are serious contenders, but they may struggle to stop an increasingly famous Belgian adding to his fame.




see also
Filly Zarkava heads Arc line-up
03 Oct 08 |  Horse Racing
Oaks winner Look Here to miss Arc
02 Oct 08 |  Horse Racing
Duke swerves Great Leighs meeting
25 Sep 08 |  Horse Racing
O'Brien seeks more Group One wins
15 Sep 08 |  Horse Racing
Zarkava storms to Guineas victory
11 May 08 |  Horse Racing
Dylan Thomas named horse of year
14 Nov 07 |  Horse Racing
Dylan Thomas claims Arc triumph
07 Oct 07 |  Horse Racing
Dutch Art takes Deauville honours
20 Aug 06 |  Horse Racing


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