Nicholas Godfrey on the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

With Enable and Love dominating the betting for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Nicholas Godfrey looks back on ten fillies who have made European racing’s biggest stage their own.

  • Monday 28 September
  • Blog
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FEMALES to the front. Look at the betting for Sunday’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, live on Sky Sports Racing, and there seems to be every chance that recent domination by fillies and mares is set to continue in Sunday’s edition of the Paris showpiece.

The magnificent ENABLE and dual Classic winner LOVE – hugely dangerous as a three-year-old filly getting all the allowances – set a formidable standard indeed for their rivals in Europe’s richest race. And then there's RAABIHAH not far behind.

In fact, the boys have got used to playing second fiddle to their female counterparts, who have won seven of the last nine runnings dating back to Danedream’s victory for Germany in 2011. But for Waldgeist in 2019, it would have been eight out of nine.

Overall, fillies and mares have reigned triumphant on 24 occasions in the Arc’s 100-year history, with Pearl Cap the first to break through the glass ceiling in 1931, 11 years after the race was introduced in 1920. Enable fans might consider that only one of them was old enough to be labelled a mare – dual winner Corrida on her second win in 1937.

Watch every race from Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

Bare numbers, though, do not tell anything like the full story, especially in the Arc’s modern era, when it’s been a tomato ketchup case far as the fillies are concerned: you can’t get any, and then there’s a splurge.

Look back to the late 1970s and time was when you couldn’t keep the fillies out of the top spot in the Bois de Boulogne: witness a five-year stretch between 1979 and 1983 when five different fillies (Three Troikas, Detroit, Gold River, Akiyda, All Along) claimed the Longchamp’s signature event (in the days before it became the ParisLongchamp’s signature event).

French-trained females  seemed unstoppable – yet there wasn’t another one until Urban Sea’s shock victory in 1993 and after that it was another 15 years until Zarkava in 2008. Admittedly a few were placed in the interim, the likes of Leggera (1998), Egyptband (2001), Aquarelliste (2001) and Pride (2006) all coming second.

Close but no cigar, as they say. Here, then, are ten fillies who did make European racing’s biggest stage their own in the last 50 years. And while they’re not all great, they’re certainly memorable in one way or another.


Angel Penna/Yves Saint-Martin

Pre-eminent in France with a dazzling turn of foot for four seasons and second to Rheingold as a three-year-old, Daniel Wildenstein’s filly went one better as odds-on favourite in 1974. Only just, mind you, after legendary rider Yves Saint-Martin admitted he moved too soon on his nosebanded partner as she eased to the lead turning for home. The darling of the turfistes held on by a head over Comtesse Du Loir.


Criquette Head/Freddy Head

A triumph for the Head family, notably trainer Criquette, who remains the only female ever to train an Arc winner. Three Troikas was a crack filly, who would have gone to the Arc unbeaten but for a narrow reverse in the Prix de Diane when she was found to have had a bruised foot. She was outstanding in the Arc, crossing over from a wide draw and then travelling comfortably into the straight; she won going away by three lengths from Le Marmot with hot favourite Troy, the Derby winner, staying on for third.

ALL ALONG (1983)

Patrick Biancone/Walter Swinburn

Another Arc winner for owner Daniel Wildenstein, the punchy Paris art dealer. Flourished in the autumn of her four-year-old campaign, held up before overcoming Oaks/St Leger heroine Sun Princess in the last 50 metres to claim the Arc by a length. What followed was even more remarkable: a G1 hat-trick in North America taking in the Rothmans International at Woodbine, Aqueduct’s Turf Classic and the Washington DC International. In the pre-Breeders’ Cup era, this was enough for Horse of the Year honours – and the Hall of Fame beckoned.

URBAN SEA (1993)

Jean Lesbordes/Eric Saint-Martin

Upset 37-1 winner on heavy ground as a four-year-old, all out to hold on from high-class British-trained pair White Muzzle and Opera House. Although she never won another Group 1 event, she left her mark on the Arc in another way, being the dam of the great Sea The Stars, whose career ended with a memorable success under Mick Kinane in 2009. Also the dam of the great Galileo.

ZARKAVA (2008)

Alain de Royer-Dupre/Christophe Soumillon

Testing conditions meant there were doubts until the last minute about her participation but the Aga Khan’s brilliant filly capped an unbeaten seven-race career with her fifth G1 triumph, slaying her rivals with her trademark turn of foot as she burst through a gap after being behind a wall of horses early in the straight. No wonder people were saying she was the best French filly since Allez France; a Timeform rating of 133 made her the organisation’s joint-best filly or mare for 20 years.


Peter Schiergen/Andrasch Starke

Hardly well fancied at Longchamp, the German filly was a 20-1 chance in an international 16-runner field. She smashed them in course-record time, moving strongly into the lead a furlong out and pulling five lengths clear of Shareta and Snow Fairy in a 1-2-3 for fillies. An unexpected result, perhaps, but no sort of fluke, as a King George victory in 2012 demonstrated – though she could not defend her Arc title in bizarre circumstances when her Cologne training centre was placed in quarantine owing to an outbreak of swamp fever.

SOLEMIA (2012)

Carlos Laffon-Parias/Olivier Peslier

This was the race Orfevre lost, the Japanese colt throwing away certain victory as he veered across the track in the closing stages. Sent off a 41-1 chance and never successful before or after above G2 company (and only once there), Solemia snatched success by a neck, though it should be stated that the third-placed horse was another seven lengths away. Even Solemia’s trainer admitted a place had been the best he’d been hoping for.

TREVE (2013, 2014)

Criquette Head/Thierry Jarnet

Extending her unbeaten record to five, Sheikh Joaan’s filly put up one of the most impressive Arc-winning displays in recent years as a three-year-old when accelerating five lengths clear of favoured Orfevre in 2013 – despite sweating up pre-race and getting stuck out wide with no cover. Beaten in her first three starts of 2014 when she suffered from recurrent pulled muscles in her back, she utilised her turn of foot on the inner for a remarkably straightforward repeat success after a fine training effort from Criquette Head. Hat-trick bid failed as she just failed to snatch third after coming from well off the pace behind Golden Horn as a five-year-old on ground faster than ideal. Goes down in the annals as the seventh dual winner of the race, and the first since Alleged in 1977-78.

FOUND (2016)

Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore

A tough-as-teak daughter of Galileo, Found was a hardy regular at the top level. Having won the Prix Marcel Boussac at two and beating Golden Horn in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at three, she was second in five consecutive G1 races at four before running on strongly at Chantilly to lead home a 1-2-3 from her stablemates Highland Reel and Order Of St George. Her next outing was the Champion Stakes 13 days later. She finished second. Again.

ENABLE (2017, 2018)

John Gosden/Frankie Dettori

Saving the best ’til last with a horse who will go down as one of the greatest fillies in history, regardless of what transpires at the weekend. Never looked in any danger as she became the first British-trained filly to win the Arc at Chantilly in 2017, her 2018 defence back at Longchamp was to be rather less straightforward. After an interrupted preparation, she moved smoothly into the lead 300 metres out but required strong pressure from Dettori to hold fast-finishing Sea Of Class by a short neck. While the hat-trick bid failed last year as she was running on empty close home and succumbed to Waldgeist, every cloud has a silver lining: if she’d won, chances are we would never have seen her again.

Watch every race from Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

Nicholas Godfrey on the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
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