The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe remains the most valuable horse race in Europe and the 2016 renewal witnessed a quite remarkable training feat from the genius that is Aidan O'Brien. Found, Highland Reel and Order of St George provided the master of Ballydoyle with a scarcely believable one-two-three in the first Arc ever staged at Chantilly and the winner recorded a career best Timeform rating of 129 in the process. Found didn't get the chance to show what she can do in last year's renewal at Longchamp - the only time in her life she has failed to finish in the first three - but enjoyed a much better trip this time around and ended a frustrating run of seconds in top company. She won the Breeders' Cup Turf at the end of a busy campaign 12 months ago and that contest is likely to be high on her agenda once again.
Highland Reel (up 2 lb to 129) matched the form of his Hong Kong Vase victory in second and can be placed to win another international Grade 1 in the coming weeks, while Order of St George acquitted himself well over the shortest trip he had encountered since his two-year-old days. He remains on a rating of 129 and the Ascot Gold Cup winner should continue to be a force in the major staying races for years to come.
Meanwhile, Postponed (down 2 lb to 130) and Harzand (128) appeared to provide the UK and Ireland with their best chances of a winner before the race, but both failed to give their true running on the day and it could just be that they were beginning to feel the effects of a long season.
Limato's (129) aversion to soft ground has allowed him to have a relatively easy campaign and he produced the best effort of his career to date when landing one of the chief supporting races on Sunday's card, the Prix de la Foret. He forged three lengths clear of Karar (up 10 lb to 119) to register his second Group 1 victory of 2016 and will be difficult to beat if making the trip to California for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, with the Mile and Turf Sprint both possible targets.
There will be no such journeys for Speedy Boarding (down 1 lb to 117), who got the better of a sustained battle with Pleascach (117) to land the Prix de l'Opera and now heads for the paddocks. The runner-up produced a huge effort on what was her first run for nearly 13 months and could now line up in the Fillies & Mares Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot, while So Mi Dar did well to finish as close as she did after a troubled passage in third. She loses her 'p', however, and is down 2 lb to 120.
Marsha (up 1 lb to 121) made the breakthrough at the top level at the first time of asking in the Prix de l'Abbaye, staying on strongly to lead deep inside the final furlong and holding off the late challenge of Washington DC (up 4 lb to 121). The first two look set to play in part in all the top five furlong races next year, but it remains to be seen what will become of Mecca's Angel (131), who was well below her Nunthorpe-winning form in third and may now have run her last race. Meanwhile, Wuheida (now rated 112p) and National Defense (now rated 118p) produced smart efforts to land the two Group 1 races for two-year-olds on the card - the Prix Marcel Boussac and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere respectively - and head into the winter with their classic aspirations intact, although it should be noted that Sunday's contests didn't look the strongest for the grade.
There was more quality racing on Saturday's card at Chantilly - Quest For More's (up 1 lb to 119) victory in the Prix du Cadran the pick of the bunch on ratings - but the best performance of the day actually came much closer to home. Alice Springs (rating unchanged at 122) added another Group 1 to her tally in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket, not having to better the form from her earlier victory in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, but doing well in a race run at a very different tempo and certainly showing enough to suggest she will remain competitive wherever she turns up between now and the end of the season.
Alice Springs has shown herself to be an incredibly durable filly since finishing third on her return to action in the 1000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown, a race in which Jet Setting (now rated 122) ran out an impressive three-length winner. Jet Setting went on to win the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh in May and bounced back from a couple of below par efforts with a dominant success in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes at Tipperary on Sunday. She appeared to relish the testing conditions there and could face a rematch with Alice Springs in the QEII Stakes on Champions Day, although the Ballydoyle filly is thought to not want the ground too soft.
Finally, Ascot staged a good quality card of its own on Saturday and witnessed the return to action of last year's leading two-year-old Shalaa (now rated 123p). He showed that he retains all of his ability with a comfortable victory in the Group 3 Bengough Stakes, beating some race-fit rivals with more in hand than the bare facts suggest and giving the impression the outing will put him spot on for a crack at the British Champions Sprint. He would appear to be a leading player for that contest if making the expected progress and could face Saturday's Challenge Cup winner Librisa Breeze (up 3 lb to 122), who showed an electric turn of foot to get himself out of trouble in the final furlong and looks well worth a crack at six furlongs in pattern company on that evidence.