Steven Dowler looks at five fantastic horses who fell just short of winning the biggest race in France, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Youmzain was a tremendous servant for trainer Mick Channon. He won six times in a 32-race career, including two at Group 1 level and one at Group 2 level. He amassed over £3.3 million in prize money, remarkable for a horse who could have easily won more.
His victory in the 2008 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud was a fair achievement, having won the Preis von Europa back in 2006. He even managed to defeat a future Breeders Cup winner later that year. Youmzain would be remembered for defeating 90% of his opponents on the biggest occasions without quite being able to score.
That resulted in him becoming a three-time runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe between 2007 and 2009 where he finished behind top-class horses Dylan Thomas, Zarkava and Sea The Stars.
Not only did Youmzain suffer those agonising near-misses in the greatest race in France, he took the silver medal in the King George and in the Coronation Cup twice. In total, Youmzain finished second in seven Group 1 races and third in another six Group 1 races.
Youmzain’s best performances were often in defeat and his near-miss from all his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runs was back in 2007 where he lost out by a head. Youmzain was unfortunate to bump into two of the best horses of the generation in Zarkava and Sea The Stars in the next two years and it’s hard to disagree that it was a brilliant training performance by Mick Channon every time.
Finishing second in three runnings of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe remains an outstanding achievement and what made Youmzain so special was that he was a proper character. When up against moderate opposition he seemingly didn’t bother trying but, when up against the best around, he raised his game every time. Youmzain will down as one of the best horses never to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Orfevre was undoubtedly one of the greatest Japanese horses of all time and was crowned 2011 Japanese horse of the year having completed the triple crown that season. His 19-race career saw him claim 11 victories with six of those coming at Group 1 level. The Japanese superstar only finished outside the top three twice in his career.
However, despite Orfevre’s great success, the 2012 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe still haunts jockey Christophe Soumillon eight years later. Orfevre was sent off 5-1 and the whole of Japan finally thought they were going to see a Japanese-trained horse win the richest race in France.
Orfevre was held-up in last place throughout the contest and, when the great horse made a sweeping move around the whole field two furlongs from the finish, you would never have thought he would be beaten. Christophe Soumillion hit the accelerator button and Orfevre powered into a commanding three length lead at the furlong pole passing Solemia with considerable ease, looking full in full control of the race to the roar of the crowd.
Surprisingly, Orfevre began to idle badly when bagging the inside rail and his stride began to decrease rapidly with every stride. As he struggled towards the finishing line, Solemia was galvanised by Olivier Peslier to break the hearts of Orfevre and Japan. Twelve months later and the Japanese superstar finished second in the race for the second consecutive year behind dual winner Treve when sent off as 2/1 favourite.
Orfevre was a very temperamental horse but also extremely talented. He was unfortunate to have been narrowly been denied in a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as well as a Japan Cup when beaten a nose. There is no question that Orfrevre will be remembered as one of the greatest Japanese-trained horses never to win the Arc.
Sea of Class (2018)
Described as “one in a million” by James Doyle. Sea Of Class was a very high-class filly who, despite being beaten on her debut, made great progress afterwards. She won four races on the bounce and took the step up in class to Group 1 company in her stride, defeating top-class fields in both the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks.
She was a filly who travelled beautifully in her races and was produced late on the scene, showing a tremendous turn of foot. The dual Group 1 winner demonstrated that when coming from last to first to win the Irish Oaks. James Doyle oozed confidence on her the whole way round as well as when the pair won the Yorkshire Oaks at York, easily accounting for Group 1 winners Coronet and Laurens.
Unfortunately, Sea Of Class was then beaten by a short neck in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe behind defending champion Enable. The star four-year-old filly was held-up at the rear of the field, having been given a terrible draw in stall 15. From an unpromising position, she cruised into the race under James Doyle but disaster struck as she hit a wall of traffic just after the two furlong pole and had to sit and suffer whilst waiting for a gap to appear.
When the gap finally opened up for her, Sea Of Class picked up strongly but, with Enable already kicking clear, it looked an impossible task for Sea Of Class to catch her. Amazingly, she flew home like a rocket down the outside and just missed out on top honours by a whisker. However, it was a tremendous run in defeat and her final race saw her finish fifth in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot.
Sadly, Sea Of Class suffered a bout of colic not long after and had to be put down. She was a top-class filly who was trained by William Haggas and was one of the unluckiest Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe losers in the history of the contest, without taking anything away from Enable who went into the history books.
El Condor Pasa (1999)
El Condor Pasa was an American bred horse who was trained in Japan and was arguably the second greatest horse in the country behind Deep Impact. He was horse of the year in 1999 and went into the hall of fame in 2004.
He made 11 career starts, winning eight of them and finishing second in the other three, even winning the Japan Cup as a three-year-old by two lengths. El Condor Pasa was defeated just once on home soil with his other two defeats coming at Longchamp by narrow margins.
In 1999, El Condor Pasa was sent off second favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe behind Montjeur, the winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and Irish Derby. His built up for the Arc went according to plan, having won the trial race at the track back in September, seeing off some very good opposition.
El Condor Pasa led from the start of the Arc and broke clear of the field in the home straight to establish a three length advantage. Everything else in the race looked beaten but Montjeu emerged as his only real danger, and when the Irish Derby winner drew alongside him and eventually got past him, El Condor Pasa rallied in determination but Montjeu held on to win by half a length.
It was a brilliant race as the pair drew six lengths clear of the rest of the field. Unfortunately, El Condor Pasa never raced again but has long been described as the best racehorse trained in Japan in the 20th century and came so close to winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Trained by the master Saeed Bin Suroor for the majority of his career, Sulamani was a top-class middle-distance horse and won six group 1’s in total. He won group 1 races in France, America England and Canada defeating many brilliant horses along the way.
However, Sulamani will most likely be remembered for his very unlucky second in the 2002 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sent off as 7/2 second favourite behind High Chaparral, Sulamani was held-up at the rear of the field and had plenty to do turning into the home straight, having been handed a bad draw in stall 13.
Sulamani was left with at least ten lengths to make up at the two furlong pole but, when hitting full stride, he made up so much ground down the outside of the field. Unfortunately, Marienbird got first run on him under Frankie Dettori and he ended up being beaten by less than a length at the line with High Chaparral back in third.
Despite suffering that agonising defeat, Sulamani changed connections to Godolphin and Saeed Bin Suroor and went on to win three Group 1 races in 2003, including the Arlington Million, Dubai Sheema Classic and the Invitational in Belmont, before finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
In his final season of racing, Sulamani won his final two starts. One of those came in the Juddmonte International at York before retiring after capturing the Canadian International. He won 9 of his 17 starts in total and was one of the best racehorses Godolphin have ever had due to him winning Group 1 races all around the world.
Despite most of the world’s sport currently on hold, we’ve still got football, darts, eSports and trotting pools available. To find all our available pools, visit our site.