Sunday 21 January 2018

Hand of history lies on Treve's shoulders

In bidding for history, Treve undoubtedly faces her weakest field of rivals so far
In bidding for history, Treve undoubtedly faces her weakest field of rivals so far

Ian McClean

Mare seeking her third Arc 50 years on from Sea-Bird masterclass

Notable by its absence this weekend in Paris for the first time I can remember is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe blizzard promotional poster campaign scattered ubiquitously around street corners, bus shelters and Metro stations. Perhaps it is the overblown shadow of Fashion Week or Les Nuit Blanches but no . . . both major events typically coincide annually with Europe's richest and most prestigious horse race, first run in 1920 and titled after the monument that witnessed the victory parade of the Allies after the end of the First World War.

The symbol of the Arc was captured by France Galop in the slogan first used back in 2003 to promote the great race: "Ce n'est pas une course, c'est un monument." And perhaps the reason for dropping all slogans and advertising this year is because Treve is doing it all for them already in bidding to become the first horse to win three Arcs. That indeed would be monumental. In doubling up last year, the French mare became only the seventh horse to win two Arcs. But a third win? None of the other sextet of dual winners even attempted a third. Ksar retired at four; Motrico at five after his second win; the filly Corrida did the same; Tantieme retired at four, as did both Ribot and Alleged.

The historical edge to this year's affair is heightened by the fact that the race takes place on the 50th anniversary of the greatest victory ever in the race by Sea-Bird which, in doing so, set the modern day on-track performance standard for the thoroughbred. Recollections of the event are probably as grainy now as the tired old footage, but it is worth commemorating the feat with a few reminders of just what catapulted Sea-Bird to greatness a half century ago today.

Sea-Bird's Arc win came in the eighth and final race of a career that spanned just 13 months. Timeform began publishing ratings in 1947. Rating Sea-Bird's Arc victory at 145, it had to wait another 47 years before a comparable mark was achieved on the race track (Frankel's 11-length Royal Ascot Queen Anne romp in 2012).

As much as being a freak on the racecourse, Sea-Bird was also a freak on pedigree. By an unproven sire, Dan Cupid, you could go back five generations without finding a winner on the female side. A gangly, rather backward youngster, Sea-Bird wasn't even rated the best two-year-old in France at the end of his juvenile year in 1964. That accolade went, in true Arkle/Flyingbolt style, to stablemate Grey Dawn, which beat Sea-Bird in the Grand Criterium. Grey Dawn was officially rated 3lbs ahead of Sea-Bird in 1964. However, by the end of the 1965 season, Sea-Bird was published as 24lbs superior. Having won the Epsom Derby hard-held in a field of 22 runners, Sea-Bird then won the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud at a canter before running his final race in the Arc.

The assembled field for the Arc that year is generally considered as the strongest ever, with five Derby winners from five countries including Tom Rolfe, head of his generation from America, and a host of older group winners. Sea-Bird famously swooped down the wide outside to win by six lengths from Reliance, which in turn was five lengths ahead of the next horse. Put in another context, Reliance suffered his one and only career defeat in the 1965 Arc and was rated 137 at the end of his career - a mark better than the majority of Arc winners and equal to that of Rheingold, Peintre Celebre and Montjeu.

In bidding for history, Treve undoubtedly faces her weakest field of rivals so far and is odds-on with most layers. Confidence is high, to the extent that jockey Thierry Jarnet is more fearful of dodging dead-wood opposition than anything else as he prepares for the race. However, bookmakers can take comfort from the fact that in the past 25 years, three of the four horses to go off odds-on in the Arc suffered defeat.

Salsabil was drawn 21 back in 1990, yet still went off 3/5 favourite before eventually finishing 10th after a nightmare journey through the race. Generous similarly failed to overcome the wide 14 berth and finished only eighth at 9/10 the following year, while Montjeu was obviously feeling the effects in 2000 of a scintillating summer campaign when managing only fourth behind Epsom Derby winner Sinndar.

Sinndar's trainer John Oxx did provide the sole odds-on winner when Sea The Stars overcame every possible impediment to run out a clear-cut winner of the Arc back in 2009.

Finally, four out of the last five renewals have gone to a filly. Here in Paris, for the race that no longer needs promotion, there is only one slogan on the lips of the Bois de Boulogne faithful this afternoon: "Vive la Trevelution!"

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