PARIS // The two-day Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp, which takes place this weekend, has a long history of being taken over by foreigners. British and Irish racing fans have long made a habit of taking a few days in the French capital on the first weekend of October, and 23 foreign trainers have plundered Europe's 1m4f championship over the race's 86-year history.
This year is more exotic though, as the Qatar racing and equestrian club (QREC) have sponsored the whole jamboree, offering up ?6.7m (Dh34m) in prize-money. That well-received injection of cash in this troubled economic climate will be spread around the meeting's 11 Group races. The lion's share of that prize-money, however, goes to the Arc itself, and the 17 horses that were declared yesterday for Sunday's feature race will be competing for a purse of ?4m, making the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe the richest turf race in the world.
And the effect of the Qatari sponsorship is being felt already. A replica of the Waqif souk in Doha, through which all spectators will be required to walk on their way to the stands, is being erected outside the course, while the monetary ripples have also extended to the track itself. Traditional racegoers may be spared a few raised eyebrows when they notice the Qatar Arabian World Cup on Sunday's card. The Group 1 contest is reserved for Arabian pure breds of four years and upwards, and it will also be the richest race of its kind at ?450,000.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Faleh al Thani, the vice president of the QREC, was proud of the achievement. He said: "I am satisfied at associating the name of Qatar with the Arc, a mythical race. The event will be all the more noteworthy as the Qatar Arabian World Cup will be run on the same day. For the first time in the history of the Arc, we have the opportunity to present our most prestigious purebred Arabian race."
The Gulf region also has a strong say in British racing this weekend, as the Kingdom of Bahrain sponsors Newmarket's Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes tomorrow for which 11 were declared at yesterday's 48-hour stage. No contest at the highest level would be complete this year without an Aidan O'Brien representative, and the Irish trainer left two fillies in the 1m event to compete for the £120,920 (Dh780,000) first-prize.
Halfway To Heaven, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, will be contesting her fifth Group 1 race of the season, and perhaps the most interesting of the Ballydoyle pair is stablemate Listen, ridden by Jamie Spencer. @Email:email@example.com