The sweeping facade to the 18th century Grand Ecuries is one of Chantilly’s standout landmarks and, according to legend, was built to house Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon and Prince of Conde when he returned in the afterlife as a racehorse.
The beautiful stable block would be a fitting retirement home one day for Purebred Arabian champion Al Mourtajez who will start as the overwhelming favourite for the Qatar Arabian World Cup at the home of this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting on Sunday. It is a bold statement ahead of any sporting event, but, barring accidents, he will win.
Al Mourtajez has shown this season in Europe that he can run anywhere, on any course and virtually any way and still come out on top. Overall the five-year-old son of Dahess has accumulated seven Group 1 wins and his last three victories have come at an aggregate winning margin of 20 lengths.
He has been ridden each time by Julien Auge, who, although may be slightly biased, cannot see past the world’s highest-rated Purebred Arabian who is trained by Thomas Fourcy.
“His big action makes it very different for his rivals,” Auge said. “This big stride just takes him along and it is possible that he can change gear and sprint at the end of the race. He is the best Purebred Arabian horse that you will see in the world.
“Some Arabians can change speed, but this Arabian is exceptional because he runs like a thoroughbred. I think he will win the Qatar World Cup, same as last year.”
Twelve months ago Al Mourtajez beat 19 others to the €500,000 (Dh2 million) cheque that he picked up for owners Al Shaqab. Five lengths behind was Gazwan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa’s grey son of Amer. Five months later Al Mourtajez displayed his only Achilles heel when, harried by a pacemaker, Gazwan secured his revenge in the Emir’s Sword in Doha and prevented Al Mourtajez from defending his crown.
“He just went off too fast and burnt himself out,” Harry Bentley, Gazwan’s jockey on Sunday, said. “On a good day, Gazwan is a very good horse and is capable of beating him. If Al Mourtajez gets an easy lead he will be very difficult to beat.”
Alban De Mieulle, who has won the Qatar Arabian World Cup twice, does not have a runner on Sunday partly because he feels Al Mourtajez is unbeatable. De Mieulle trained Dahess, and sees similar characteristics with the horse he trained to win in six different countries.
“I took his father all over the world and he won something like 11 Group 1 races,” De Mieulle said. “He ran everywhere. Al Mourtajez is the same. He is a very relaxed horse and that means you can do what you like with him.
“Thomas told me a while ago that when the horse was young he showed nothing at home on the gallops. It is on the racecourse that matters, though and he is a champion.”
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