Ace Impact extends unbeaten streak with brilliant Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe win

Ace Impact extends unbeaten streak with brilliant Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe win

It wasn't as though the 2023 running of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe needed saving, but Ace Impact

confirmed his consummate class with an awesome Longchamp performance that left a watching and expectant world in little doubt that the 'right' horse had won the day.

On an unseasonably sweltering afternoon in Paris, the brilliant Prix du Jockey Club winner cut through suffocating humidity with a searing turn of foot under Cristian Demuro to swallow Westover whole a furlong out and seize his place in history by an emphatic margin of a length and three-quarters. This was a demonstration of unadulterated authority befitting such an epochal Group 1, one that belied pre-race concerns about the winner's capacity to stay a mile and a half. 

In the event, given the way Ace Impact built up a head of steam in the final stretch for Demuro, who had just two behind him for most of the race as he sought to conserve his mount's energy before unleashing the slingshot, it looked like he might be even better at this longer trip. He is a colt of rare calibre. 

Where he eventually fits into the discussion of all-time Arc greats might ultimately depend on whether he is kept in training for another tilt next year, but his credentials are already fairly robust. 

On Ace Impact's debut at the pristine Parisian venue, which was rinsed in glorious, unabating sunshine that sent many runners into a lather of sweat before they even left the parade ring, he extended his unbeaten record to six with a signature flourish. 

Ace Impact was one of those who got in a bit of a stew, as was the runner-up, but it's not out of character for either.

Such a blistering turn of foot was the defining stamp of Ace Impact's French Derby coup at Chantilly, and he joined the pantheon of Arc immortals here in similarly arresting fashion.

The victory also confirmed Jean-Claude Rouget's status as an unlikely heir to Andre Fabre as a trainer with an uncanny ability to prime a heavyweight contender for Arc day. This was his second in four years after he and Demuro prevailed with Sottsass in 2020, and both horses were meticulously brought to a fever pitch for the first Sunday in October, almost deceptively so. Such was the unspectacular nature of Ace Impact's prep win in a Deauville Group 2

that, for some, his prospects were diminished rather than enhanced by it. Not for those who know better. 

"We always say they're the best when a new horse comes along, but I think he has the strongest acceleration I've seen," Rouget said of Ace Impact's breathtaking surge. 

Of the pre-race tension, he added: "In racing you never know what can happen, even if you are confident. My last reflection before the start of the race was that it was too good to be true. Yet it was true!"

Rouget's disarming charm lent a touch of irreverence to the aftermath, and 31-year-old Demuro also added colour. On the day of Frankie Dettori's Arc swansong, here was a charismatic Italian displaying the sort of big-race composure and pizzazz that defined the outgoing icon's long and illustrious tenure, in a race that epitomised that tenure.  

No-one expects Demuro to fill Dettori's boots, but his broad smile and cheery personality made for an apt reminder that the world of racing will keep spinning in the Sardinian's absence. He even had the wit to pay homage to Dettori with a flying dismount. 

"I knew it was the last year for Frankie – I do it for him," he beamed.

Only Onesto and Sisfahan were behind Ace Impact early on, but Demuro was always able to dictate where he wanted to be. 

Mr Hollywood cut out the running from Bay Bridge and Hukum, followed closely by Westover. The pace looked even and, as they moved into the straight, Ace Impact finally began to pick them off. Eventually Demuro switched the 5-2 favourite wide to sweep around the field. In a matter of strides, it was done. 

Westover kept on for second, and Onesto and Through Seven Seas also finished well to be third and fourth ahead of Continuous. 

This, though, was all about the winner, who claimed a first prize of £2.5 million. Demuro rode the son of Cracksman with a deep-seated conviction, saluting the crowd as they swept by the post.

"I knew when we came into the straight I could get to the pace," he said. "I knew that when I pushed the button he would accelerate, and that is what he did." 

"It was amazing," he added. "I hope he stays in training next year because he is a champion, and I like to ride these kind of horses." 

That is a question for Ace Impact's joint-owners Gousserie Racing and Ecuries Serge Stempniak, as well as Rouget. Gousserie is the enterprise of Kamel Chehboub's family, who bought into the colt as a stallion prospect after his Jockey Club win. 

Now he is an Arc winner to boot, one whose latent speed renders him a desirable stallion prospect. 

The Champion Stakes and the Japan Cup will be considered, but whether Ace Impact will turn up in any race ever again is very much up in the air. 

Pauline Chehboub, Kamel's daughter and racing manager, preferred to concentrate on the here and now.  

"It was a dream to be able to run this horse against all these champions," she said. 

"I am very proud to be associated with this horse and to conserve him here in France, so that we can in the future present him to French mares, and so breeders can have access to him." 

If this is to prove Ace Impact's last hurrah, his blazing star has certainly burned bright. 

A year ago few beyond his own close circle of connections even knew he existed. Now, eight months after a successful seaside debut at a lowly Cagnes-sur-Mer fixture at the end of January, he is both a Classic and an Arc hero. What an impact. 

He came from nowhere to conquer Europe, and now there is surely only one thing left to say. Encore, encore!

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