Peslier engineers Japanese heartbreak in Arc

Olivier Peslier ended a 14-year wait for a fourth Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in very unlikely fashion as the unfancied filly Solemia induced more Japanese heartbreak at Longchamp yesterday.

Peslier engineers Japanese heartbreak in Arc

The French jockey dominated the European finale for three consecutive occasions in the late 90s and his enduring prowess around the famous Parisian course means he joins only Jacques Doyasbère, Freddy Head, Yves Saint-Martin and Pat Eddery as a quadruple winner.

Christophe Soumillon must have felt the Arc would be his for a third time when launching Orfevre into a commanding lead approaching the final furlong, only to find Peslier galvanising the Carlos Laffon-Parias-trained 33-1 shot Solemia on his outside and snatching victory away on the line.

A mass of Orfevre’s supporters had made the trip from the Far East to see if there would finally be a Japanese success story, following close shaves for Deep Impact, Nakayama Festa and El Condor Pasa but they were a neck away again with a yawning margin of seven lengths back to Masterstroke in third.

Particularly hazardous conditions certainly helped a soft-ground specialist like Solemia, while Camelot and Frankie Dettori appeared to hold every chance on the colt’s return from his failed English Triple Crown bid but he weakened to finish seventh.

“I’m very honoured, and as I’m still riding maybe I will break that record,” Peslier said.

“I was pushing her along with the pace but when I saw Orfevre go past I thought I would ride for second or third. Then I saw Orfevre slowing a bit, so I fought with her and I knew she could catch him.

“I respected Orfevre the most in the race, and I have ridden in Japan a lot so it’s sad for the Japanese, but these things happen in racing.”

Solemia had finished third in the Prix Vermeille three weeks earlier and was providing by far the biggest moment in the career of Spanish-born Laffon-Parias, who trains in Chantilly.

He deflected all the praise to Peslier as he said: “It’s a big day for me to have all my family with me. It’s my third runner in the Arc, but the first that I’ve had with a chance. Sometimes the jockey can make the difference and Olivier Peslier is the one who won the race.

“She had a hard first part of the season and had a little problem so we gave her a break and started to prepare her for the Arc. Soft ground is very important to her and I hoped she might get a place. Obviously this is much better.”

Asked if his runner had been under the radar compared with Orfevre and Camelot, he said: “To be honest I think the fillies are better than the colts and the older horses are better than the three-year-olds.

“People were saying Camelot was unlucky in the St Leger and maybe it was the jockey’s fault, but the winner of the St Leger is not really a Group One horse and maybe Camelot is not that good.”

Solemia is owned, like the marvellous Goldikova, by the Wertheimer brothers and Alain Wertheimer said “She will run again this season, in Los Angeles at the Breeders’ Cup.”

Soumillon summarised the Japanese disappointment when he said: “It’s sad because he’s got huge potential, but I’ve got no regrets. Once I had the lead, no-one could have imagined that we’d be beaten. The overconfidence in him defeated us and 50 metres from the line, I saw I’d have difficulty getting him going again.

“He has what it takes to win the Arc, he’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden. I hope he’ll run against Frankel in the Champion Stakes, or else in the Japan Cup.”

Of Camelot, trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “It was very sporting of the lads to let him run, but he wants fast ground. Joseph (O’Brien) has always said he is a better horse on quicker ground and it’s been a long, hard season.

“He’s also come back minus two or three shoes. He’s something for us to look forward to next season, as he will remain in training. He could be something unbelievable next year.

“We’ve stretched him in every way, pulled him him left, pulled him right and an elastic band can only stretch so long at any time. Hopefully it will all go back together now and he’s going to be something really special next year.”

O’Brien expects stablemate St Nicholas Abbey to head back to the Breeders’ Cup, while Dettori said: “It was just a long season took its toll. He took me beautifully into the straight on the bridle, but just as soon I knew we were in trouble and in fairness to the horse he’s been going for some time since the Guineas.”

The supplemented Great Heavens ran a creditable race in sixth, delighting connections, while Sea Moon was two places behind her.

Andre Fabre’s Masterstroke was carrying the French colours of Godolphin, whose racing manager Simon Crisford said: “He was beaten by better horses on the day but ran really well and is going to be a really nice mile-and-a-half horse next year.”

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