By Liz Price
When Frankie Dettori asked Christophe Soumillon if Zarkava would have beaten Enable had they met in the Arc, the Belgium’s answer was a clear ‘yes’. However, there is no three-year-old filly like the fabulous Zarkava, or any other three-year-old filly for that matter, at the start in this year’s Arc and Soumillon will instead be taking on Enable with the five-year-old Japanese raider KISEKI.
“I am going to ride the Japanese raider Kiseki,” Soumillon confirms. “He was a good horse in Japan, and he has adapted well since arriving in France. He never shows a lot in the morning. He is a horse who hasn’t got a great acceleration, so he needs a lot of pace in the race. In my opinion, he is a big galloping type who needs a race with a good pace like they do in Japan.”
Watch the 2019 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 6th October.
Soumillon, who is the go-to jockey when it comes to Japanese raiders and who already partnered the great Orfevre to finish second to Solemia in the 2012 Arc and again to Treve in the 2013 edition of the Arc, discovered the son of Rulership and Bliz Finale in the Prix Foy, a classic trial that is run three weeks before the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.
Kiseki finished third behind Waldgeist in the Prix Foy and the jockey explains: “In the Prix Foy he was on his own in front and he didn’t really accelerate like we hoped for in the final straight. At Longchamp on good ground, when Waldgeist joined me, he found it hard to accelerate. Without doubt, he needed that run though and will come on from that. So it was a good reappearance, seeing that he had not run for a while.
“In fact, I don’t think that we have seen the real Kiseki yet. It could very well be that he will improve quite a bit. The advantage is that he is quick out of the stalls and we should get a good position towards the front of the field, which means he won’t have any traffic problems later.”
Soumillon, who won the Arc for the first time in 2003 with the HH Aga Khan owned three-year-old Dalakhani and then again in 2008 with the three-year-old filly Zarkava, has already analysed this year’s race in great detail and believes that it is not a clear-cut case as everyone makes it out to be.
He obviously has the greatest respect for the dual Arc winner Enable and doesn’t hide his admiration for her trainer and jockey when he says: “This year, Frankie and Gosden are walking on water. I think this is the biggest year they will ever do, the two of them. That is so important. When you are riding the wave of success, it is worth a lot. When you have a great champion like Enable and you are going for the Arc, you are going to do everything so that she is 200% ready for the race.”
And he continues: “To win the Arc, you need an extraordinary horse, one of the best horses in the world. There is Enable, who looks the best of the lot, but behind her it’s quite open. It’s not like there are three or four horses that have won a lot of big races. A lot of good horses have been injured this year.”
He certainly mourns the loss of Sea of Class, who gave Enable a run for her money in last year’s Arc and explains: “There are no three-year-old fillies in there this year. The three-year-old generation is represented by Sottsass, who confirmed the Jockey Club form the other day in the Prix Niel. It was not a true run race and he still won, which is good, but in the Arc, it will be a different scenario. Then again, he might be the only one who can scare Enable. We also have Japan whose form is good. But it is an open race and I can’t say definitively that Enable is certain to win, because she has had some hard races this season. And last year, she nearly lost it in the final strides.”
Soumillon is still as ambitious as he has always been and instead of envying the season Frankie Dettori is currently experiencing, he is extremely motivated by it. “We all dream of having a year like Frankie Dettori is currently having,” Soumillon laughs. “This is what motivates me. We know it can happen, in fact only a few years ago it happened to Thierry Jarnet. Everybody was wondering when he was going to retire and then he had Treve. Sometimes in the career of a jockey you have to wait and things do happen.”
He ponders the 16 Group 1 victories Frankie has celebrated this season and continues: “Why is it happening right now? Because that’s just like it is. He has talent and he has always known to work with the best. It shows that everyone can dream of something like this happening.”
The 10-times French champion jockey too started his season with a bang when he won the Dubai World Cup for a consecutive second time with the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow.
It then looked like he was going to enjoy some classic success thanks to the Alain de Royer Dupré-trained Siyarafina, but injury put an end to that dream following her victory in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Allary.
“I started the year really well with Thunder Snow when he won the Dubai World Cup for a second time. I then thought I was going to win a lot of nice races for the Prince (Aga Khan), especially with Siyarafina, who showed us a lot on her first start and then also on her second. We thought she would win the Poule, but unfortunately, she had a hiccup and then we were forced to go for the Prix Saint-Allary so that she would be fit for the Diane.
“She won but we sensed that there was something that wasn’t right. And unfortunately, she showed in the Diane that she couldn’t do it anymore, which was a real shame as I think she was one of the best fillies I have ridden in some years. Things change quickly with horses. So when you have a champion that wins several Group 1 races, you have to make the most of it.”
Soumillon might not be sitting on a multiple Group 1 winner in this year’s Arc, but over the course of the weekend he has some other rides on horses that could see him finish on the podium and one of them could well be the Group 1 PA Arabian World Cup. So far, he has never won this race for Purebred Arabians that was inaugurated in 2008, but this year he will be partnering the Didier Guillemin-trained DERYAN, a very progressive four-year-old.
“Deryan was second in the Group 1 PA Qatar Derby for four-year-old Arabians,” Soumillon confirms. “He then finished fourth in Deauville and should be spot on for this race. I am looking forward to riding him. He is improving and this is an exciting race.”
Soumillon has won most major races on Arc day, but the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp is still missing on his impressive record. “I would love to win that race,” he adds.
“I have SPINNING MEMORIES in the Abbaye. He won well last time out at Deauville and I think he will be in great form for this race. And then I will also ride CITY LIGHT in the Forêt. He ran well last time too, and will be spot on for that race. And then there will be some rides for HH Aga Khan, but Alain de Royer Dupre has not said yet who will go where. In any case, I am looking forward to Kiseki and all the other rides I have this weekend.”