ThoroughBred Racing

Mark Zahra booked to ride Verry Elleegant in G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Mark Zahra booked to ride Verry Elleegant in G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

An Australian jockey will partner Verry Elleegant in next weekend’s €5 million G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp with Mark Zahra booked to ride.

Connections of Verry Elleegant were searching for a new jockey to partner the champion mare in Paris as Frankie Dettori and Christophe Soumillon, riders who rode her in recent French starts, had other Arc commitments.

Their decision to select Zahra was announced via Verry Elleegant’s official twitter page on Saturday.

Verry Elleegant has been ridden by Zahra on three occasions, each outing during the 2020 Melbourne Spring Carnival. They successfully combined in the G1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) before finishing seventh to Twilight Payment in the G1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).

Zahra has competed in nine countries but has little European riding experience with the Shergar Cup meeting at Ascot in August 2019 his only participation on the continent.

The 40-year-old made a positive impression from that visit of five rides on the single card, collecting ‘ride of the day’ honours for his winning ride aboard Indianapolis in the Shergar Cup Challenge (2406m).

Zahra, who is yet to ride competitively in France, has ridden winners in Hong Kong, India, Mauritius and Singapore.

Sportsbet have Verry Elleegant as a $21 chance to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but she is anticipated to start at least double that quote on the French tote against a star-studded field on October 2.

Soumillon will ride multiple Group 1-winning French three-year-old Vadeni while Dettori is due to partner last year’s German-trained Arc winner Torquator Tasso.

Chantilly-based trainer Francis Graffard has overseen Verry Elleegant’s French campaign which has resulted in two defeats.

The New Zealand-bred seven-year-old mare was last of seven in the €250,000 Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet (2000m) for mares at Deauville on August 21.

She then attempted to lead throughout in the €130,000 G2 Prix Foy (2400m) at Longchamp on September 12, running a fighting third to multiple French stakes winners Iresine and Bubble Gift.

WATCH: Verry Elleegant’s third in 2022 Prix Foy (silks: green)


Verry Elleegant, an 11-time Australian Group 1 winner, will become the first Australasian-bred horse to contest the Arc in over a decade after connections paid a late entry fee of €120,000 (A$180,000) on Monday.

1995 Victoria Derby winner Nothin’ Leica Dane was the last Australian-bred Arc runner, finishing second last in a field of 18, beaten 25 lengths by Peintre Celebre in 1997.

So You Think was the most recent New Zealand-bred runner in the Arc, finishing fourth beaten 5.75 lengths by Danedream in 2011.