Gerard and Alain Wertheimer's filly Solemia won the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 7 at Longchamp in a huge upset, overtaking front-runner Orfevre (JPN) in the final strides in a heartbreaking loss to the Japanese superstar.
Japan's 2011 Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner, Orfevre raced near the back of the field on heavy going under French champion jockey Christophe Soumillon, but swept past nearly all the field on the outside and into command about 200 meters out.
Opening a three-length lead and looking like he would land a historic first victory from 12 tries in the race for Japan, Orfevre weakened a bit on the stamina-draining ground nearing the finish. He could not hold back the tremendous rally of Solemia, who raced in contention from the start along the rail before landing her first Group 1 victory by a neck.
"It's the Arc!" trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias exclaimed to the French press after landing his first win in the race. "I thought we were beaten in the straight, then I saw Orfevre stopping."
Solemia provided jockey Olivier Peslier a fourth win in the Arc, Europe's premier middle-distance race, after three consecutive wins from 1996-1998. The irish-bred filly covered the Arc's 1 1/2 miles in 2:37.68 on turf rated as heavy after breaking from post 6 in the Arc, from which three of the seven previous winners have started. Orfevre was drawn widest of all in post 18 and raced on the far outside throughout before his crushing defeat.
"He did everything, but he stopped in the final 150 meters," a disappointed Soumillon said told France's Press Association. "It's such a shame; he had so much potential."
The Wertheimer brothers, owners of the House of Chanel in Paris, enjoyed a first win in the event but continued a family tradition. Their father, Jacques, won the race twice, with Ivanjica in 1976 and Gold River in 1981. Earlier on the card, the brothers enjoyed a win with Silasol in the Total Prix Marcel Boussac-Criterium des Pouliches.
Solemia came into the Arc having finished third to Arc contender Shareta in the Qatar Prix Vermeille Sept. 16 at Longchamp. Shareta failed to handle the testing ground in the Arc and finished ninth.
Godolphin's Masterstroke finished third, seven lengths behind Orfevre.
The early pace was set by trainer Aidan O'Brien's Ernest Hemingway and Robin Hood, stablemates of Camelot, who was seeking redemption after failing in his bid to sweep the English Triple Crown in the Ladbrokes St. Leger last month. He was never a threat under Frankie Dettori and finished seventh. O'Brien also sent out St Nicholas Abbey, who finished 11th.
Solemia has won half of her six starts this season, including the Prix Corrida in May at Saint-Cloud. Her overall record improves to five wins, three seconds, and two thirds from 13 starts.
By Poliglote, she was produced by the Shirley Heights mare Brooklyn's Dance. Solemia is a three-quarter sister to French group winners Prospect Park and Prospect Wells from the family of leading French sire and classic winner Green Dancer and European champion and English classic winner Authorized.