December 11, 2023

Ace Impact enters pantheon as unbeaten Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero

Undefeated Ace Impact aced his distance test in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Photo by ScoopDyga)

Deploying the same lethal acceleration that carried him to a record-breaking victory in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1), Ace Impact overwhelmed the field in Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) at ParisLongchamp. The 19-10 favorite delivered a performance of historic magnitude on two counts: the first since Saumarez (1990) to win without prior experience at the about 1 1/2-mile distance, he also joined the exclusive club of unbeaten Arc winners.

Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget and piloted by Cristian Demuro, who combined to take the 2020 Arc with Sottsass, Ace Impact was switched off as usual near the back of the 15-horse field. The early pace took a while to materialize, with an eager Bay Bridge prominent, and Hukum going forward from post 14, before German colt Mr Hollywood opted for the front-running role.

Westover, a bit tardy from the rail, recovered to bag a fine position just a couple of lengths behind the leaders. Traveling ominously well in fifth, he angled out to attack in the stretch and soon drew alongside Hukum. For a brief instant, Westover and Hukum appeared poised to renew their epic King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) duel. But just as Westover was beginning to gain revenge on Hukum for Ascot, they were all about to be swamped.

Ace Impact created a sense of déjà vu from Chantilly in June, with a whirlwind closing rush on the outside. The son of Cracksman blitzed his penultimate “furlong” in :10.67, the fastest 200-meter split in the field, to propel himself to the lead. Clocking his final 600 meters in :33.06, Ace Impact crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths clear of Westover in 2:25.50. The going was officially labeled “good to soft,” but riding firmer.

“The horse was very relaxed,” Demuro said, “and I know that, when he’s like that, and as soon as you press the button, that he takes off!”

Onesto, who had been last at one point, matched Ace Impact’s :33.06 to close furiously for third and just missed second. Westover remained a short head in front, and the placegetters are expected to renew rivalry in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Both are sons of Frankel, sire of last year’s Arc victress Alpinista, and paternal grandsire of Ace Impact.

Ace Impact’s team – the Cheboub family’s Gousserie Racing and Ecuries Serge Stempniak – did not sound inclined to capitalize on their “Win and You’re In” ticket to Santa Anita. If retirement in a blaze of glory with a perfect 6-for-6 record is one option, another race under consideration is a trip further afield for the Nov. 26 Japan Cup (G1).

That would set up a tantalizing clash with the world’s currently top-rated horse, Equinox. The Arc result gives Ace Impact form ties with Equinox, courtesy of Westover in Dubai and more recently the Japanese mare Through Seven Seas. Beaten a neck by Equinox in the June 25 Takarazuka Kinen (G1), Through Seven Seas rallied from far back to snatch fourth in the Arc, 1 1/4 lengths adrift of Onesto.

Continuous, Aidan O’Brien’s St Leger (G1) winner who was supplemented to the Arc, likewise finished well to get up for fifth. Had he taken up a handier spot early like Westover, Continuous might well have been in the frame. The Japan Cup is a potential objective for the Japanese-bred by the late champion Heart’s Cry, although O’Brien mentioned that Hong Kong and Dubai are also on the radar down the road. The Breeders’ Cup could come into the equation, but between stablemate Auguste Rodin’s booking for the Turf, and the fact that Continuous wheeled back here on two weeks’ rest, the Far East prizes later in the fall may be preferable.

Bay Bridge, in the hunt for a long way, wound up sixth on ground that’s lively enough for him, especially at this distance. A title defense in the Oct. 21 Champion (G1), back at 1 1/4 miles on easier going at Ascot, is next.

Sisfahan went last-to-seventh. Feed the Flame, who raced nearer the pace than customary, checked in eighth, followed by Hukum and fellow early stalker Simca Mille; the supplemented Fantastic Moon; Place du Carrousel; Free Wind, the last Arc mount for Frankie Dettori; and soft-ground specialists Haya Zark and Mr Hollywood.

Ace Impact ranks as the fifth horse since the immortal *Ribot (1955-56) to go undefeated through the Arc. The only other males in our era to achieve the feat are Lammtarra (1995) and Sagamix (1998), and the ensuing two are queens Zarkava (2008) and Treve (2013).

Bred by Mrs. Waltrout Spanner in Ireland but raised in France, the approximately $88,380 Arqana August yearling purchase was unraced at two. Ace Impact started out in low-key fashion over the Cagnes-sur-Mer Polytrack in January, and sluiced up in a Bordeaux le Bouscat conditions race, before passing his listed stakes test in the May 4 Prix de Suresnes at Chantilly. That set him up for his breakout French Derby, where he eclipsed Sottsass’s record by finishing the about 1 5/16-mile classic in 2:02.63. Ace Impact prepped for the Arc with a more perfunctory win in the Aug. 15 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (G2) at Deauville, and proved electric on the stretch-out at ParisLongchamp.

“He won as he does usually, with the same tactics,” Rouget said. “He’s an extraordinary horse, a crack. He left us speechless. He had a very clean race, and his stride-devouring action did the rest. He’s simply extraordinary, although he’s a very sensitive type.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Pauline Chehboub said. “We were under a lot of pressure today. We’re very proud to be able to offer this crack horse to French breeders at our stud, the Haras de Baumount, when the time comes (to retire him). In the wake of his race we’ll let him recuperate before deciding his future program.”

Out of the multiple stakes-placed Anabaa Blue mare Absolutly Me, Ace Impact is a half-brother to stakes-placed Apollo Flight and Alessandro. This is the further family of transatlantic champion Ouija Board, tracing to a 19th-century American line.