PARIS—Nothing better than a plan that falls through. And even better when it’s been so long in the pipeline.
It was 21 years of waiting, after a fateful experience in Paris, that led Sir Mark Prescott to swear never to visit France again, between that date and his visit for his hoodoo of that day to be defeated.
All he needed was a stable, durable horse and a willing partner to lift him back to the top of French racing and to drink from his most revered well for the first time. This experience finally came as his charge Mountaineer (GB) and his jockey Luke Morris charged through the mud at Longchamp, where many imaginary rivals waded through, to take the 101storganization of the most prestigious European Flat Racing event, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe.
After beating last year’s winner Torquator Tasso two months before tasting victory in the Blue Riband event, in the Longines 131st Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten in August 2021, the plan had always been to come to Longchamp for this renewal, so the mare should stay fit, sound and healthy.
She had to be, and indeed in her best shape today, as the ground was already very soft before the sky opened up. As the crowd at Longchamp raised umbrellas and took shelter, one or two wondered if the weather gods had backed last year’s winner to repeat the feat, a tried-and-tested mudlark that sticks around for the rest of the year. day, by opening the taps.
Alpinista, however, had none of that. Installed at the forefront no further than fifth place in the grind through the sodden turf of Longchamp, she made eye-catching progress to aim for the title holder leader, the best hope of Japan. Their hunt for a first Arc continues as their main challenger has walked away, his early efforts taking their toll.
In contrast, Luke Morris sat in a comfortable position, bringing his mount effortlessly to the fore, while all the other jockeys asked their mount serious questions, and other mounts trailed behind as the mud took its prisoners. Sliding past the weakening defending champion and anchoring themselves to the inside rail, the pair looked above anything that dared to chase them, even daring to go past the 300m post without breaking into tears.
With just over a stadium to go, Luke finally pressed the button and asked for his mount, chasing her 8e consecutive victory and sixth Group 1 success in a row, to win his race. Vadeni and last year’s winner Torquator Tasso were among the only horses to go after the leader, but despite their game efforts they couldn’t chase the daughter of frankeland it was Luke’s voice that was loudest of all as the field crossed the line.
The jubilant scenes were plentiful with connections, with groom Annabel clearly moved by the victory she had just witnessed. She then remarked to the assembled reporters that her idol was “the sweetest horse” and was in tears.
“I am so proud of this horse,” she later added to the media, who all wanted to hear from the dedicated groom who has accompanied the mare on almost every step of the journey since they both started at Heath House. Stables.
Even Luke looked shocked, the weight and achievement of the feat finally seeming to sink in after crossing the line and rounding the furthest bend. Alpinista had become the first 5-year-old mare since 1937 to clinch the highlight of the French season, with the Corrida victory since providing a monumental challenge to all other challengers.
Arc’s two great fillies of recent years, Treve and Enable, couldn’t turn the tide when they tried each other, the latter being dangerously close to doing so if a certain Waldgeist didn’t appear as a steam train to derail his chances at the last station. Already winners in 2013/14 and 2017/18 respectively, they could not break the curse of being a five-year-old mare in the Arc.
However, this extraordinary mare is no ordinary mare. Luke reflected on that after the race saying: “I was worried about the rain but she’s a remarkable filly. It is so versatile and so durable.
“When I needed her, she dug very deep for me,” he noted, a sense of amazed elation still evident in his voice.
“I must have watched 25 Arcs (this week), and I haven’t seen one sitting at the furlong post,” highlighting his dedication and how seriously he took the occasion, but also a sense of disbelief at how easily he mowed down the past and through his rivals, took the race by the scruff of the neck and didn’t let go.
“It’s the pinnacle of my career and it’s an incredibly special day. He’s an incredible coach.
“I’m so lucky to ride for him.”
Sir Mark Prescott was generally a philosopher when he spoke afterwards, the media scrum clearly focused on the mastermind of a plan that spanned more than a year. And while he had mocked other European targets in the past, it seemed like the pinnacle of a career with victory in the first event of the European flat calendar.
“The best day of my life as a driver. It’s been the best 10 minutes of my life in racing.”
“I trained for Mrs. Rausing for thirty-five years, and I trained Alpinista’s grandmother and mother, and Luke has been with me for eleven years.”
The winner’s meteoric rise to first place in the race is even more impressive when you consider her journey to the throne, having clinched the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud and the Yorkshire Oaks this year, before taking up the challenge facing it today.
Indeed, her trainer feels like she has a “wonderful” mare in his hands, and even he was resolutely platonic in his admiration for her.
“I think she’s improved every run over the last two years,” he noted.
We will have to see if Alpinista will get back on track, especially since by winning this race, she obtained automatic qualification for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Group 1) next month. There are still various European targets that she could loot and loot, but that will only depend on connections.
Ultimately, that decision may rest with her owner and long-time stud owner and racing supporter in Kirsten Rausing. She remarked to the assembled media that she wanted to bring the horse back to stud after the end of the season, but would consider races such as the Breeders’ Cup if the mare came out of the race in good condition.
She was, however, keen to focus on the present moment and radiated not only her admiration for Sir Mark and Luke, but also for his team at St Simon & Staffordstown and Lanwades Stud.
“This is my sixth generation strain, and it wouldn’t have been possible without my wonderful team.”
“I am thrilled, delighted and grateful to Sir Mark for producing this wonderful mare, and to Luke (Morris)”. “He produced a fantastic driving performance today.”
For a jockey rarely seen at the top level of racing in the UK, he handled the big moment with supreme professionalism and control, which many jockeys with years more experience than him would be envious of. . May he continue to strike on the big occasions for a long time, because he showed why he deserved the victory today.
All of this would be nothing without teamwork. An effort that even a pre-race shower couldn’t dull, and certainly nothing without a mare who is straightforward, handles any terrain and always strives to improve.
Alpinista, the silver jewel in the crown of British Racing.
By Tom Williams
All photos by JWTEquineImages