Talking Horses: Shock winner makes waves but Arc misses traveling fans | sport
TThe sound of silence is never a fully satisfactory postscript for a great race, especially on a big occasion like the 100th edition of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and there is no doubt that Torquator Tasso, the winner 69-1 (80-1 with British bookmakers) at Longchamp on Sunday, was fortunate to see the race unfold as it did, with little pace for much of the course, and over desperate terrain and holding which was an ideal match for his German pedigree.
But it could be seen coming in a certain way, and unlike several rivals – Hurricane Lane, perhaps, in particular – RenÃ© Piechulek was able to set off on a long, uninterrupted run over the winner after turning for the house in a great location, not too far from the head. And he was, after all, already a two-time winner at the highest level, albeit in German Group 1s which most of us rejected – recklessly, in fact, as not living up to a classic. English.
From a British perspective, there wasn’t even the consolation that an outrageous result for bookmakers – one described it as “the best Arc result in bookmaking history” – would see a slice of ( very) gross profit raising the Levy, as any hopes of expanding the sport’s funding system to overseas races were pushed back into the very tall grass earlier this year.
But there seems to be a realistic chance that Derby and King George winner Adayar and Leger winner Hurricane Lane will race at age four next season, likely with another Arc tilt like the ultimate goal. This in turn would be very good news for France Galop after an afternoon which highlighted how difficult it will be to rebuild the popularity of the Arc, with overseas racing fans in particular, in the post-Covid era.
Longchamp was a very pleasant place on Sunday afternoon – nowhere better, in fact, for a top racing fan, once the morning rain had subsided and the sun was at least trying to get out.
But that’s, at least in part, because there were so few spectators there. Walking through the Jardin de l’Arc, the cheapest of the two main enclosures, about an hour before the big race, there were no queues for food outlets, bars or shop windows. paris, and many empty tables to scatter on the lawns.
Longchamp was rightly criticized for its offer to runners when its magnificent new grandstand opened in 2018, when organizers seriously underestimated the amount that itinerant runners particularly like to drink and eat. There were long lines for everything, and little to no choice for those if or when spectators finally made it to the front lines.
Sunday, however, was the other extreme, and in its own way, just as much of a problem for France Galop, who is trying to turn the Arc weekend into a jackpot after Longchamp’s â¬ 140million. [Â£123m] redevelopment.
Attendance in 2019, the last pre-Covid year, was actually up from 2018, from 35,000 to 42,000, but the race was held behind closed doors last year, drew 15,000 on Sunday and must more than double next year just to get back to its 2018 level. It must be more like 60 years old than six years old, as 55,000 watched Golden Horn win the Final Arc at old Longchamp.
British and Irish spectators made up at least 50% of the Arc’s attendance just a few years ago, but three years is more than enough for many regulars to Longchamp to simply lose the habit of making their annual trip to Paris the first weekend of October. The 101st edition will say a lot about the chances that the Arc will one day reconstitute its old army of traveling fans.