There may be no Love in Paris this weekend but four Irish horses will bid to raid the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and make it an eighth match made in heaven between France’s most famous race and the Emerald Isle, writes Will Jennings.
Seven Irish-trained horses have reigned supreme in Europe’s sternest middle-distance test at Longchamp, with Ballymoss the first over 60 years ago and Aidan O’Brien’s Found the most recent after triumphing in 2016.
And it’s the master of Ballydoyle who carries the hopes of the nation once more this year, as he enters Mogul, Japan, Serpentine and Sovereign to the 1m4f contest that looks likely to take place on soft Paris ground.
It is those conditions that convinced O’Brien to withdraw 1000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks winner Love from the race as Ireland’s hopes of an eighth Arc winner took a blow.
The raiding Ballydoyle quartet still have a chance of making history, however, bidding to follow in the footsteps of seven Irish immortals who conquered the Arc and left Paris with the greatest Flat racing prize of all…
A trailblazer. The maiden Irish-trained winner of the race, Vincent O’Brien’s mount won the Irish Derby and St. Leger Stakes in 1957 before adding both the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Coronation Cup to his roll call the following year.
But Ballymoss’ dizzy zenith was still yet to come, as he and jockey Scobie Breasley toppled Fric by two lengths to make history for Ireland and hand O’Brien the first of three victories in the race.
Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon just three months before but it was Levmoss who sent Irish racing into orbit in October 1969, lowering the colours of Park Top, Blakeney, Prince Regent and Crepellana to outline his staying credentials.
Ridden by Australian jockey Bill Williamson, the Seamus McGrath-trained Levmoss hit the front to become the second successful Irish Arc raider having previously won both the Ascot Gold Cup and Prix du Cadran.
Alleged (1977, 1978)
Ireland’s only two-time Arc winner and an unequivocal giant in the Longchamp almanack, Alleged gave the O’Brien and Lester Piggott axis a pair of crowning glories in 1977 and 1978.
Only five horses had previously won the race twice but O’Brien and Piggott changed that in style, as Alleged toppled Trillion and Dancing Maid to hand the trainer a scintillating hat-trick.
22 years of hurt followed Alleged’s second Arc crown but John Oxx joined the Paris party on the turn of the millennium thanks to European Champion Three-Year-Old Colt Sinndar.
And what a season he had. Sinndar won the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, Prix Niel and then at Longchamp as Johnny Murtagh rode home into the sunset to cement his reputation as an Irish racing great.
Dylan Thomas (2007)
The first of Ballydoyle’s two Arc winners, Kieren Fallon piloted Dylan Thomas to a memorable victory on soft Longchamp ground.
The jockey had declared the four-year-old the finest horse he’d ever ridden and Dylan Thomas corroborated those sentiments in France, surviving a half-an-hour stewards enquiry after the race to reign supreme.
Can Mogul, Japan, Serpentine or Sovereign emulate that performance in similar conditions on Sunday?
Sea the Stars (2009)
What a horse. Sea the Stars’ influence on the racing world will never be forgotten after Oxx’s colt won virtually all there was to win in 2009.
Partnered by Michael Kinane, the three-year-old scooped the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes, International Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and then the Arc to undeniably capture the hearts of a nation.
The 2016 running of the race was held at Chantilly - Longchamp was closed for redevelopment - but that did little to diminish Aidan O’Brien’s joy at claiming a second Arc triumph nine years on from his first.
Found won the Breeders’ Cup in 2015 and followed that up the next year with a searing run to become the cream of Chantilly, delivering a performance fit for kings in view of the town’s famous Château.
Just four years on from O’Brien’s previous race triumph, the country waits with bated breath to see if a new Ballydoyle mount can topple Enable and become Ireland’s latest successful Arc raider in Paris.