Enable repeats Arc feat for Dettori to deny unlucky Doyle
If the French racing authorities wanted to kick-start the new era for their revamped Longchamp with a Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe par excellence then they got it when Enable and Sea Of Class fought out an epic finish to the great race on its homecoming.
In the end, it was Frankie Dettori, winning his sixth Arc, who prevailed by a short-neck on the evens-favourite Enable, which became only the eighth horse to win the race twice and the first to win on the back of just one run that season.
Enable's owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah was there to see his sixth Arc winner, a record he now shares with Marcel Boussac.
But John Gosden's filly was on the ropes in the last 50 yards and saved by the bell as William Haggas's Sea Of Class and James Doyle, last turning for home with two-and-a-half furlongs to run, wove their way through the field and thundered down the outside in the final furlong.
They twice had to switch right for a clear run, having started from their impossible draw in stall 15. Two more strides and they would have passed Enable.
"I can't believe I've won a sixth (two more than any other jockey)," said Dettori. "It was my 30th Arc and I was probably my most nervous.
"Everything went to plan - I expected O'Brien's (horses) to make it an end-to-end gallop for their stayers and I found myself in a fantastic spot.
"She was not carting me as she can early on, but she came alive in the false straight and I thought there's life in the old girl.
"I waited as long as I could and at the 300-metre pole I said, 'Come on girl, let's win the Arc.'
"I had a little glance, saw she was three lengths clear and thought, 'I've won this.' But the petrol ran out and I could feel James coming.
"She's only had a canter round Kempton (this season) - she was not the Enable of last year, but she got the job done because of her class.
"John's a genius to win an Arc with a horse that did not run for 11 months. It's two wins on the same horse at different tracks (Chantilly last year)."
Gosden, winning his third Arc in four years, revealed that Enable, off for four months with a knee problem in May, also had a temperature issue after her comeback at Kempton.
"It's been a nightmare year and I make no bones about that," he said. "You might recall I had hair at the start of the season. After floating around Kempton and missing a gallop, it just told fitness-wise in the last 100 metres."
From his wide draw, Doyle took Sea Of Class straight to the rail to save ground and then sat last until they turned into the home straight.
Had his challenge come off it would have been ride of the century, let alone the year.
Doyle, riding 2lb lighter than he has in 18 months, said: "We had to take our medicine from where we were drawn. Two more strides and she'd have won. She deserved to win. Next year."
Haggas reflected: "We'd have got her in another stride,. It was a great effort and a close one to lose. She's run a great race from the draw. It was a very brave decision of James's to do what he did and it was a whisker away from coming off. I'm thrilled with him and I'm thrilled with the filly.
"I don't want to be ungrateful or unsporting - John's filly is brilliant - but let's hope he retires her now and that we can come back next year!"
Unfortunately, Haggas will be in a minority there - everyone would love to see the rematch and Enable to, at least, attempt an unprecedented third Arc.
Haggas gained some compensation when One Master won the Group One Qatar Prix de la Foret under Pierre-Charles Boudot.
"It's now a good day. She's a good filly, very brave and likes soft ground. It was rough enough for her today. I'm thrilled to bit," he said.
Boudot had earlier sprung a surprise on Lily's Candle for trainer Fabrice Vermeulen in the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac.
Godolphin enjoyed a Group One double with Royal Marine and Wild Illusion, foiling the Ballydoyle team and Ryan Moore on both occasions.
Royal Marine took the hike from maiden company to the top level in his stride as he landed the Qatar Prix Jean Luc-Lagardere to give Oisin Murphy a 10th Group One success of the year.
Wild Illusion, which won the Boussac 12 months ago, again showed her class as she backed up her Nassau success in the Prix de l'Opera under William Buick.
Mabs Cross gained a well-deserved Group One triumph in the Prix de l'Abbaye, after an agonising defeat in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. (© Daily Telegraph, London)