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Unbeaten Zarkava to face males in Arc - 2008-10-03

Friday, 2008, October 3
Thoroughbred Times TODAY
Myra Lewyn

The Aga Khan’s brilliant filly Zarkava faces the biggest challenge of her career on Sunday at Longchamp when she meets males for the first time in the $6,243,600 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1), Europe’s premier middle-distance race.

Unbeaten in six lifetime starts, the three-year-old Zamindar filly is the favorite for the 2,400-meter (11.93-furlong) event, which attracted 16 entrants, including a formidable pair trained by Aidan O’Brien in five-time Group 1 winner Duke of Marmalade and Group 1 winner Soldier of Fortune, who has been pointing for a return to the race since finishing fifth last year.

Zarkava got her first test at the Arc distance after a layoff of more than three months in the Qatar Prix Vermeille (Fr-G1) on September 14 at the Parisian racecourse and passed with a stunning performance. She unleashed an electrifying burst of acceleration from last place into the straight and swept past 11 opponents for a comfortable two-length victory.

“It’s almost unreal to see a horse accelerate from so far off the pace like that,” jockey Christophe Soumillon said afterward of Zarkava, who entered with three straight group wins, including classic victories in the Prix de Diane (Fr-G1) (French Oaks) and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Fr-G1) (French One Thousand Guineas).

Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre told Racing Post that the Arc will be the defining race for Zarkava, who could become the first filly since Urban Sea in 1993 to capture the race.

“On Sunday, she will show if she is a very good horse or just a good horse,” he said. “As you would expect, it is a very competitive race.

“However, one thing she has shown us in her races this year is that she has a very impressive turn of foot, but this is much tougher competition than what she is used to. We will just have to wait and see if she is up to it.”

O’Brien has won 20 Group 1 races this season and looks to have a strong hand to add a 21st with either Duke of Marmalade or Soldier of Fortune as he pursues trainer Bobby Frankel’s world record of 25 wins at the highest level.

Duke of Marmalade is perfect in five starts this season and appears poised to provide O’Brien with a second straight win in the Arc after the trainer won last year with Dylan Thomas (Ire).

Soldier of Fortune defeated Arc opponent Youmzain by three-quarters of length in the Juddmonte Coronation Cup (Eng-G1) on June 6 at Epsom, but Youmzain defeated Soldier of Fortune by a half-length in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-G1) on June 29. Youmzain finished third to Duke of Marmalade in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-G1) on July 26 at Ascot in his most recent start.

French-based Vision d’Etat enters the Arc unbeaten in six career starts, including the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-G1) (French Derby) on June 1 at Chantilly. The Chichicastenango colt won the Qatar Prix Niel (Fr-G2) by a hard-fought nose on September 14 at Longchamp after 3 1/2 months off.

Other entrants include Deutsches Derby (Ger-G1) winner Kamsin, who was supplemented to the race; Group 1 winners Cima de Triomphe, Meisho Samson, Schiaparelli, and Zambezi Sun, and group winners Ask, Getaway, It’s Gino, and Papal Bull.

The Arc undercard includes: the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere-Grand Criterium (Fr-G1) for two-year-old colts and fillies, the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches (Fr-G1) for two-year-old fillies, the Qatar Prix de l’Opera (Fr-G1) for fillies and mares, and the Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (Fr-G1) for two-year-olds and older.

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