All eyes of the horse racing world will look to Longchamp Racecourse Sunday as the brilliant Sea The Stars, winner of five Group One races this season, attempts to add his name to the honor roll of great Classic Champion Thoroughbreds that have won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Undefeated in 11 starts, the great English Triple Crown Champion Nijinsky also amassed five Group One races prior to the running of the 1970 Arc and, yet, even he came up short barely losing to a fresh Sassafras. Afterwards, trainer Vincent O’Brien speculated that the Arc had been too quick a turn around off Nijinsky’s St. Leger triumph.
Trainer John Oxx won the coveted Arc in 2000 with Sinndar for the HH Aga Khan IV and he is enthusiastic about the chance of his charge, Sea The Stars, to cross the finish line triumphant.
“He seems to be in very good form and is in no way down in himself or showing any effects of his campaign,” said Oxx in a Racing Post news story. “He is giving us the normal good signals that he has been giving all season.”
So, only time will tell if the campaign of Sea The Stars eventually proves to be too much for the brilliant Cape Cross colt.
Win or lose, Sea The Stars has already proven that he is one for the ages.After his Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1) victory Sea the Stars was awarded a 140 Timeform rating putting him in the same league of the Group One Champion Dubai Millenium and the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Dancing Brave, Shergar and Vaguely Noble.
Riding legend Lester Piggott, who rode Nijinsky in the 1970 Arc and has three Arc victories to his credit, thinks that Sea The Stars is deserving of the accolades.
“You have to compare Sea The Stars with the best we have seen, because the way he has run this year has been fantastic,” said Piggott in a Racing Post article. “He is a stand-out this year. He is such an easy-going horse, he has a wonderful temperament, and that is what has helped him along the way.”
A victory in the Arc would insure Sea The Stars a spot in the hallowed halls of turf racing. A lot of history has already preceeded him.
French Hall of Fame Thoroughbred Sea Bird II is considered by many to be the greatest Arc Champion. He cruised to an easy victory in the 1965 Arc defeating the undefeated French Derby winner Reliance by six lengths. Also in that field were the Preakness winner Tom Rofle, Irish Derby winner Meadow Court and Russian Derby winner Anilin. During his career, Sea Bird II was awarded a 145 Timeform rating which still stands today as the highest rating ever earned by a thoroughbred in flat racing.
My personal favorite, though, is the undefeated dual Arc winner Ribot who, having previously won the Arc in 1955, capped off a brilliant 16-race career with a six-length triumph in the 1956 Arc.
Ribot was bred and owned by the great Italian breeder and trainer Federico Tesio – one of my all-time favorite breeders. Known as the “Wizard of Dormello,” Tesio bred and trained an incredible 21 Derby Italiano winners as well as the outstanding Donatello and Nearco. Without a doubt, Ribot was Tesio’s greatest racehorse. But, Tesio died of old age in 1954 and he did not live to see Ribot achieve fame and glory.
Ribot is a descendent of the St. Simon sire line which produced 17 Arc winners. St. Simon was one of Tesio’s favorite lines that he liked to breed to and, in fact, Ribot has seven strains of St. Simon in his pedigree.
Not only was Ribot an outstanding champion thoroughbred, but he also was an exceptional stallion and he sired the Arc winners Molvedo (1961) and Prince Royal (1964). His grandson Hoist The Flag sired the dual Arc winner Alleged who won the Arc in 1977 and 1978. Descendents of Ribot still continue to influence the breed to this day.
Bruleur was a leading sire in France for three seasons and another influential stallion in the history of the Arc. Bruleur is a descendent of the Byerley Turk sire line and he holds the record of having sired the most Arc winners: Ksar who won the Arc in 1921 and 1922, Priori (1925) and Samos (1935).
Ksar also became an influential stallion in the history of the Arc and instrumental in the success of the great breeder Marcel Boussac who won the Arc a record six times. In 1928 a mating by Ksar with Boussac’s broodmare Durban produced Tourbillon who later would become a leading sire in France that sired several Classic Champion Thoroughbreds for Boussac.
Tourbillon sired the 1942 Arc winner Djebel and Caracalla who won the Arc in 1946. Djebel sired the 1949 Arc winner Coronation.
The bloodstock operation of the Aga Khan also had an impact on the Arc. He won the won the Arc in 1948 with Migoli and Nuccio won it in 1952. Both horses were descendents of the St. Simon sire line.
The Aga Khan’s grandson, HH Aga Khan IV, has also had a lot of Arc success with four victories to his credit. His most recent win came Last year when his outstanding filly Zarkava crossed the finish line triumphant.
Of the previous Arc winners, most of them are descendents of the Darley Arabian sire line of Whalebone and his descendents Stockwell, Phalaris and Nearco. The sire line of Stockwell has produced 45 (52%) Arc winners. Of those 45 Arc winners, 35 (78%) of them are from the line of Phalaris and 28 are from the line of Nearco.
The sire line of Nearco’s son Nasrullah has produced 12 Arc winners and the line of his son Royal Charger produced two Arc winners. The sire line of Nearco’s grandson, Northern Dancer, has produced 14 Arc winners and in the past 15 years, 11 of those Arc winners are descendents of the Northern Dancer line.
Sea The Stars is a descendent of the Danzig line of Northern Dancer and the Danzig line has produced three Arc winners: Dylan Thomas (2007), Rail Link (2006) and Sinndar (2000). His dam, Urban Sea, won the 1993 Arc.
Sea The Stars comes from a family of Arc winners. But, it remains to be seen if Sea The Stars can carry on the family tradition.
Only time will tell.