PARIS, FRANCE -- Rail Link spoiled the dreams of the Japanese nation at Longchamp on Sunday as he ran down Deep Impact late in the stretch to give Andre Fabre his seventh victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
In turning back the challenge of the Japanese invader as well as that of defending Arc titleholder Hurricane Run, Rail Link was using his expertise over Longchamp's mile and a half course as well as his love of good ground to the best possible advantage. The winner of both the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris and the Group 2 Prix Niel over the Arc course and distance on similar ground, he was always in perfect striking distance in what turned out to be a highly tactical affair.
Yutaka Take brought Deep Impact out of the gate and right into second place behind Irish Wells, a position much closer to the pace than he had ever been in his ten wins in Japan. After a half, Take relinquished second to an eager Shirocco as Kieren Fallon was in no hurry aboard Hurricane Run at the back of the eight-runner field.
Deep Impact took the lead at the quarter pole as Rail Link loomed largest of all on the outside. The 3-year-old son of Dansili surged to the lead inside the final furlong as the mare Pride finished fastest of all for second, a neck behind the winner with Deep Impact a game third, half a length behind the runner-up.
It was another 2-1/2 lengths back to Hurricane Run in fourth with Shirocco weakening to finish last, beaten 11 lengths. The time for the 1 1/2 miles ws 2:31.70.
"Rail Link is a tough and solid horse," said Fabre, six of whose Arc winners have been 3-year-olds. "It is always very exciting to see a horse improve at this time of year, but I don't think he will run again this season. He will stay in training next year."
Winning owner Khalid Abdullah, who received $1.45 million of the Arc's total purse of $2.55 million, was winning France's greatest race for the third time, but it has been a long time between drinks. The Saudi prince, who bred Rail Link himself for Juddmonte Farm, had previously pulled off an Arc double in 1985 with Rainbow Quest and a year later with Dancing Brave.
Fabre said that he was willing to write off Shirocco's dull effort, especially as the Monsun 5-year-old disliked the ground, and that he was still probable to defend his Breeders' Cup Turf title at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. He did not reveal any immediate plans for Hurricane Run.
The Japanese public provided a dramatic subplot to this year's Arc, one that played havoc with the race's pari-mutuel prices. At least 10,000 of the 50,000 plus fans at Longchamp on Sunday traveled especially to see their hero Deep Impact, and they seemed to bring half of the funds of the Bank of Japan with them. By noon, Deep Impact was 1-10 and he remained there until 15 minutes before the off as Shirocco drifted to 14-1 and Hurricane Run to 15-1.
The non-Japanese fans proceeded to pour it in on those two as Deep Impact ultimately drifted to 2-5 with Hurricane Run at 4-1 and Shirocco at 6-1. Rail Link, who opened a half hour before the start at 35-1, was ultimately banged down to 23.60-1, a very juicy price for anyone who believes in course and distance theories as well as for those who understand the difference between firm ground lovers and the soft ground rivals.
As for Deep Impact, beaten by just three quarters of a length, his post-race epitaph reads much the same as that of Heart's Cry after his one-length third to Hurricane Run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on July 29. In both cases, the Japanese horses were running off lengthy layoffs. Thus, opportunities taken may well have become opportunities lost but for a single prep race.
Deep Impact will now return to Japan, his head held high, to seek revenge over Heart's Cry on Dec. 24 in the Arima Kinen at Nakayama in what will be an intramural affair to savor.