Solemia surprises in Arc de Triomphe
Long-shot Solemia came through with a dramatic finish and edged tiring favorite Orfevre in the final strides to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Sunday.
Orfevre, Japan's 2011 Horse of the Year, looked to be a sure winner when he took the lead with about 300 yards to go. But Solemia, urged on by jockey Olivier Peslier, kept the pressure on in the stretch, moved past Orfevre on the outside two strides from the finish line and gave the French rider his fourth win in the Arc.
''I thought I was racing for a place, but she was very brave,'' Peslier said of his winning filly. ''When I came out of the last turn, I pushed hard and just kept going. I kept fighting. When I saw Orfevre ahead, I thought I was racing for second or third place. I thought I couldn't catch Orfevre.''
Orfevre started from the unfavorable far outside No. 18 post position but burst into the lead on the outside and seemed to take command of the race. Solemia wouldn't give up, though, and won by nearly a half-length at odds of 33-1.
Peslier, 39, last won the Arc in 1998 aboard Sagamix. He also won in 1996 with Helissio and in 1997 with Peintre Celebre.
Solemia is expected to compete in the Breeders' Cup next month at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
The 4-year-old filly won for the fifth time in 13 career starts for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias. She picked a big race for her best performance.
''Soft ground is very important to her. I hoped she might get a place, and, obviously, this is much better,'' Laffon-Parias said. ''Sometimes, the jockey can make the difference, and Olivier Peslier is the one who won the race.''
Winner of Japan's Triple Crown last year, Orfevre was tucked into the back of the bunch for most of the race's 1-1/2 miles. Then, jockey Christophe Soumillon made his move on the outside of the 18-horse field. But Peslier used all of his experience to time his move perfectly and, as Orfevre's legs started to go in the closing meters, Solemia surged forward to deny the Japanese a victory at the prestigious race.
''I love Japan, and Orfevre was my favorite before the race, even with that number (18 post),'' Peslier said. ''I'm very happy for myself, and very sad for the Japanese. But this is racing, and these things happen.''
Solemia started the from the No. 6 post, which has produced four of the past eight Arc winners.
Masterstroke, 11-1 with the British bookmakers, was third. Haya Landa finished fourth.
Expected favorite Danedream was pulled out of the race a few days earlier when her stable in Germany was placed into quarantine because of an outbreak of an equine infection.
Camelot came into the race as a top choice along with Orfevre, but the 3-year-old colt finished an unchallenging seventh under three-time Arc winner Frankie Dettori. Camelot won the 2,000 Guineas and the English Derby in 2012 earlier in the year, and Dettori said the horse was a bit tired.
''It was just a long season took its toll,'' Dettori said. ''I had a perfect trip and he took me beautifully into the straight on the bridle, but just as soon, I knew we were in trouble. And, in fairness to the horse, he's been going for some time since the Guineas.''