Each year, thousands of racing fans flock to Longchamp from all over the world to witness what is generally considered to be the ultimate test for thoroughbreds.
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The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is a Group 1 turf race in France (similar to a Grade 1 race in America)for three-year-old thoroughbreds and older. It is run at Longchamp over a distance of 2,400 metres (about 1 ½ miles) and istypically contested on the first Sunday in October.
Often referred to as the "Arc", the Prix de l'Arc de Triompheis one of the most prestigious horse races in the world, with a list of winners that includes Ribot, Alleged and Treve (all of whom won it twice), as well as Topyo (who bested a record 29 rivals), Mill Reef, Allez France, Dancing Brave, Sakhee, Sea the Stars and many others.
After years of being billed the “richest turf race on the planet,” with a purse of 5 million Euros (about $5.8 million), the Arc is now the second-richest turf race on the planet, behind The Everest - a 1,200-meter race (approximately six furlongs) that debuted at Royal Randwick racecourse in Australia in 2017.
Aside from providing a magnificent sporting spectacle, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphealso plays a major role in dictating bloodlines. Male Arc winners are dearly sought after for stud duty, and their progeny have gone on to improve thoroughbred performance from generation to generation. In terms of fostering future champions, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphehas proven to be in a class of its own.
The first-ever race was run at Longchamp on April 27, 1857, in front of a massive crowd. The Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie were present, having sailed down the Seine on their private yacht to watch the third race (until 1930, many Parisians came to the track down the river on steamboats and various other vessels).
The royal couple joined Prince Jerome Bonaparte and his son Prince Napoleon in the Royal Enclosure alongside the Prince of Nassau, Prince Murat and the Duke of Morny, an avid racegoer. Non-aristocratic members of the upper classes were not permitted into the Royal enclosure and had to be content with watching from their barouche carriages on the lawn.
Charabancs, Victoria carriages and paddle boats all brought Parisians to Longchamp. And they came as much for a day out as from curiosity for this new form of entertainment.
The card on the opening day of Longchamp consisted of five races. The first horse ever to cross the finishing line was Eclaireur, in the black and red colors of AugusteLupin. A short length behind was Miss Gladiator, destined, a few years later, to become one of the most famous broodmares in French racing history when she foaled the celebrated Gladiator, whose bronze statue still stands at the main entrance to the racetrack.
In the late spring of 1914, Longchamp introduced the Grand Prix de Paris - at the time, the world's richest race, with prize money totaling 300,000 French francs (roughly $1.4 million today). At the beginning of August, however, all racecourses were requisitioned for the war effort. Racing officially began again on May 5, 1919 at MaisonsLaffitte, followed by Longchamp again on May 8, 1919.
First run on Oct. 3, 1920, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe was a spinoffof the Grand Prix de Paris, its title a tribute to the French soldiers that served in the Great War. The name was preferred to another contender, the "Prix de la Victoire".
The first horse to win the Arc was Comrade, who picked up FF150,000; second was King's Cross, winning FF18,000, and Pleurs was third, winning FF10,000.
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