Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Female Winners and Their Families

If it had been not for the 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, this year’s edition of the most important race for 3yo plus over a mile and a half would have looked quite differently. When twenty-three years ago Miswaki’s daughter Urban Sea ran through the finish first, beating White Muzzle and Opera House, only few could have imagined that the glory won by this triumph will be only a fraction of her glory at stud.

Pearl Cup, the first female winner of Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

It is not necessary to emphasise how an exceptional dam Urban Sea was. The very fact that she was able to produce two Epsom Derby winners would be enough, but both these winners are very successful sires, and in the case of the elder one the phase “successful sire” does not quite capture his exceptional influence on current and future racings. Galileo, about whom we speak, is the sire of the first three finishers in this year’s Arc – Found, Highland Reel and Order of St. George.

This year’s winner Found is the fifth Arc female winner in the last six years. In 2011 it was Danedream, a year later Solemia and the years 2013 and 2014 were won by the excellent Treve. In the Arc history we will find one more such period when mares were successful. In 1972 to 1983 mares won eight times in a row. So far, mares have won twenty-two editions of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, two of them (besides the above mentioned Treve the winner of 1936 and 1937 Corrida) twice. Is among the nineteen female winners one that could equal Urban Sea as far as the influence on the current racing is concerned?

The first female winner of the Arc came in 1931 when a legend of the French racing, three-year-old Pearl Cap, took the race. The winner of Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix de Diane or Prix Morny was first disappointment at stud but she compensated for this when, at sixteen, she gave birth to Pearl Diver who won the Epsom Derby. Her two daughters, Cora Pearl by Coronach and Seed Pearl by Tourment (inbred 2x4 to Pearl Cap’s dam Pearl Maiden) did not excel on the racecourse but each of them established a family that exists still today and regularly produces stakes winners. The proof that Cora Pearl’s family produces successful broodmares even today can be, among others, Tobougg’s daughter Biz Bar, the dam of four black-type winners, including the winner of the Gr.1 2013 Gran Premio di Milano Biz The Nurse, or this year’s two-year-old Biz Power, the first black-type winner by Power. The family also gave birth to the last year’s winner of the Gr.1 Chipping Norton Stakes Contributer. A very successful branch was founded in Venezuela by the U.S. stakes winner Miss Concielo, the granddam of Gr.1 winners such as Blue Secret (herself the dam of the G1 winner Quick Mani) or Catira Parts.
From the family of seventeen-year younger Seed Pearl, still active too, it was namely the winner of the Airlington Million (Gr.1) from 2010, Debussy and the Japanese winner of the 2009 Shuka Sho (Gr.1), a year later successful in the Gr.2 Al Maktoum Challenge (R3) Red Desire who were successful in recent years, but the influence of this family spread also to India, where the gelding Tintinnabulation won the Goldonca Derby (IND-Gr.1) three years ago. If we go further in history, we will get to the King George winner Belmez.

In 1935 the Arc was taken by Bruleur daughter Samos, later a champion three-year-old filly. At stud she produced two stakes placed horses and the stakes winner Marveil. One of her stakes-placed daughters Sakountala made herself famous at stud by producing Djebel’s son Hugh Lupus, but the family, although it has survived to this day through three daughters of Samos, is not as rich as the family of Pearl Cap and its achievements are scarce in the last year. Most recently the family has commanded attention this Sunday at Gulfstream Park where the two-year-old Legacy Azteca finished third in the Florida Sire Affirmed Stakes /R/.

The winner of 1936, 1937 and third in 1935, Corrida, had a dramatic fate. The mare born out of the connection of a pearl of Boussac’s mares, Zariba, and the Epsom Derby winner Coronach, died prematurely during WWII of which she was the victim. She did not establish a family but her son, the winner of the Prix du Jockey Club, Coaraze, was first at stud in France, then in Brazil, where his influence was very important.

In 1945 Arc was won by Nikellora, the winner of the French 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and the Prix Vermeille. At stud she produced two daughters but neither of them was much successful and the family no longer exists. She can be found in pedigrees of stakes winners only through the influence of her son Chief, the winner of the Prix d’ Ispahan and Prix Ganay.

The winner of 1946 Coronation, also quoted as Coronation V, is often quoted by breeders as an example of a very close inbreeding, as her dam Esmeralda, same as the sire Djebel, are by Tourbillon, to whom Coronation is 2x2 inbred. The close inbreeding was seen then as the cause of the mare’s inability to have a single progeny.

La Sorellina, whose triumph in 1953 brough her sire Sayani, sold to Brazil in the very same year, the title of champion sire in France, had no fertility problems like Coronation but even though her two daughter were placed at stud and the families still exist, in the last fifteen years the family produced a single stakes winner – Goetot who won twice a listed race in France ten years ago.

The next female winner of the Arc took nineteen years to arrive. The waiting ended in 1972 when San San, the U.S. born Nasrullah’s granddaughter by Bald Eagle, took the race. After her racing career she was exported to Japan where she produced nine horses, of whom the double Gr.3 winner Windsor Knot was the most sccessful. Each of her five daughters went to stud, but only horses from the branch established by her daughter Potomac Cherry, the dam of Gr.3 winner Native Heart, are successful in stakes races.

Two years later the Arc was the peak of an exceptionally successful career of the four-year-old Sea Bird’s daughter Allez France, who already as a three-year-old finished second in the Arc behind Rheingold. The mare, with whom Daniel Wildenstein entered racing, and whose competition with Dahlia were one of the peaks of French racing in the 1970s, was not as successful at stud as she was on the racecourse. The dam of the Gr.3 Prix Sandrinham winner Action Francaise or a decent sire Air de France founded a family that still works and produces black-type horses such as the Gr.3 winner and the runner-up in the Gr.1 2009 Prix Saint-Alary Article Rare or Argentina who placed five times in Gr.1 races.

Another exceptional Arc winner came in 1976 when the four-year-old Ivanjica won the race, the champion three-year-old filly a year before, who won not only the Arc but also the best older horse award. At stud she produced six progeny and her family continues thanks to two daughters but in Europe it scored a stakes race achievement (victory or place) as long as twelve years ago through the listed winner and the third in the Gr. 1 Gran Criterium Excelsius. Her great grand-daughter Fanjica, a Gr.3 winner in England and the U.S., was exported to Japan, where, thanks to her, her family scores biggest achievements today.

Another giant of the French racing, Three Troikas, who won, besides the Arc, the French 1,000 Guineas, Prix Vermeille or the Prix-Saint Alary and won the Horse of the Year award, did not, at stud, lag behind her achievements on the racecourse. Her best progeny was the winner of the Gr.3 Prix de Reservois and Gr.1 placed Three Angels, but the family today continues through another of her daughters, a winner of one race from two starts, Three Terns, the granddam of the third from this year’s Legacy Cup Stakes (Gr.3) Tashaar.

The 1980 winner Detroit is - besides Urban Sea – the only winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to give birth to another Arc winner, Sadler’s Wells’s son Carnegie. Her family – despite her relative youth – is quite rich thanks to seven daughters at stud, and although it has not produced a horse that could compare to Carnegie, her great granddaughter Banimpire, the two-time Gr.2 winner and the runner up in the Irish Oaks, is another promise of achievements for the young family.

A year after Detroit, Arc was won by another Riverman’s daughter Gold River, who belongs among the Arc winners to most successful dams. She has produced only four progeny, but three of them won a black-type race. The best of them was the winner of the Gr.1 Prix Saint-Alary, Riviere d’Or, later also a successful dam, whose daughter Born Gold gave birth to one of the most prominent personalities of French racing, the fourteen-time Gr. 1 winner Goldikova. The Gold River family produced a number of other stakes winners, such as the Gr.1 winner in Brazil, Daniel Boone, or the winner of the Prix Vermeille (Gr.1) Galikova, half-sister to Goldikova.  

A single progeny considerably decreased chances to establish a successful family for the 1982 winner, Aga Khan’s Akiyda. Her daughter, the unraced Akishka, went to stud and produced, among others, the winner of the Henry II Stakes (Gr.2) Akbar. In later generations, however, the family was not much successful.

The series of five wins by mares was closed by All Along, champion in France and the U.S. and the mare who entered the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 1990. She was fertile enough but none of her progeny scored a bigger success and in the last fifteen years, the family has produced just three listed winners.

It was another ten years for a mare to win the Arc but it was worth waiting. Urban Sea is easily the most influential female winner of all. Her sons Galileo and Sea The Stars were mentioned already, and Born To Sea has promising two-year-olds, but Urban Sea also produced daughters that could transfer her genes to other generations. It is still too early to judge how her family fares in the future, but the start was astonishing. Her daughter Cherry Hinton has already produced three black-type horses including the winner of the Gr.1 Irish Oaks Bracelet, another daughter Melikah is the granddam of the winner of the UAE Derby Khawlah and Gr.1 placed Vancouverite and All Too Beautiful, herself second in the Oaks, produced, among others, Wonder of Wonders, the runner-up in the Oaks.

Urban Sea is the last winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, whose ability to found a successful family can be assessed. The 2008 winner Zarkava did not start on a lucky wave, as none of her three first progeny raced, but this year’s three-year-old Zarak, the runner-up in the French Derby, may signal a turn for the better. The first product of the 2011 winner Danedream, Frankel’s daughter Nothing But Dreams, is waiting for her racing debut, Solemia had her first foal last year and Treve was covered for the first time this year. We are to wait even longer for Found. As she has in her veins the blood of the most influential Arc female winners, she could rank among those who are as successful at stud as they were on the racecourse.

Miloslav Vlček

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