IN Racing
Arc dream over for Verry Elleegant
The Gr.1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) dream with Verry Elleegant is officially over.
NZ Racing Desk | September 29, 2022
Verry Elleegant. Photo: John Gilmore

The Gr.1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) dream with Verry Elleegant is officially over.

The 11-time Group One winner’s participation in Europe’s pin-up event came under threat when she was ranked among the lowest-rated of the 24 entries made for the Longchamp feature. 

France Galop subsequently confirmed it would stick to a maximum field size of 20. Given no horses had been withdrawn from the race by their deadline on Wednesday, the connections of the New Zealand-bred star elected not to make the supplementary payment for the mare. 

Under French rules, horses cannot be declared for two races at the same time. In order to guarantee a run on French racing's biggest weekend, connections declared Verry Elleegant for Saturday's Gr.1 Prix de Royallieu (2800m), in which Mark Zahra is set to ride. 

Following Verry Elleegant’s two runs in France, the French handicapper reassessed her rating of 120, dropping her seven points to 113 on the back of her close-up third placing in the Gr.2 Prix Foy (2400m), a race viewed very much as a lead-up. 

Trainer Francis-Henri Graffard was furious about France Galop’s decision and said his mare needed time to adjust in France.

“Any horse changing hemispheres has an adjustment to make, and she was in winter mode when she arrived during the middle of a very hot and dry European summer,” Graffard said.

“She has adapted well and progressed. The challenge has been to allow her to hold her southern hemisphere spring form, while we headed into the European autumn.” 

Graffard said the Arc was the primary target for the daughter of Zed, and with her omission from Sunday’s race, it could be detrimental to attracting international contenders for the Arc.

“The owners shipped the mare to Europe with the intention of running in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe,” Graffard said. 

“She was not entered at the first entry stage, so they had no choice but to supplement. The mare had a good last race prep and has been in top form ever since on the gallops, so there didn’t seem any reason not to enter.”

Graffard said Verry Elleegant looked to be peaking for the race and would have appreciated the track conditions on the weekend.

“Verry Elleegant appears to have plenty of stamina and enjoys cut in the ground conditions, so we would have appreciated the rain maybe more than others,” he said.

“I am very upset about the French authorities and the French Handicapper and my racing country in general. 

“We try really hard the young trainers to promote our sport and try to make it competitive and open. We play the game and France Galop try to make it difficult at every single stage. 

“This filly has been a good example as to how un-open the French are. Every step of the way has been difficult for her and the owners and they have made our life very difficult right up until the end.”

Graffard pointed to the fact the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe had been run with 24 runners the year Urban Sea triumphed. 

“Opening the race has been done in the past,” he said. “I think for international racing it would have been fantastic. We are not the only ones affected. 

“La Parisienne is 12-1 in the betting and she is not getting in the race and is owned in America and trained by a young guy. 

“It is not good for the sport in general. It is not like we are trying to put horses with no chance into the race, they are proper racehorses.

“Verry Elleegant is in very good form and the season is not over for her. Good days will come from this bad experience.”

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Verry Elleegant Mark Zahra France Galop Zed