The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is a Group 1 flat horse race in France which is open to thoroughbreds aged three years or older. It is run at Longchamp over a distance of 2,400 metres (about 1½ miles), and it is scheduled to take place each year, usually on the first Sunday in October.
Popularly referred to as the "Arc", it is the most prestigious horse race in Europe, and one of the most renowned international events in any sport. Many of its winners are subsequently regarded as champions, and its roll of honour features such highly acclaimed horses as Ribot, Sea Bird, Dancing Brave, Zarkava and Sea The Stars. It is currently the world's second richest horse race on turf, after the Japan Cup.
A slogan of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, first used on a promotional poster in 2003, describes the event as "Ce n'est pas une course, c'est un monument" – "Not so much a race as a monument".
The former governing body of French racing, the Société d'Encouragement, had initially restricted its races to thoroughbreds which were born and bred in France. In 1863, however, it launched a new event, the Grand Prix de Paris, which was designed to bring together the best three-year-olds from any country. Thirty years later it introduced a second international event, the Prix du Conseil Municipal, which enabled the leading horses of different age groups to compete against each other. This race was run over 2,400 metres in October, and its conditions included "overweights and underweights", a handicap system based on the previous performances of the participating horses.
The creation of a third such race was proposed by the Société d'Encouragement at a committee meeting on January 24, 1920. The new event, like its predecessors, would take place at Longchamp. It was to be an international race to complement the Grand Prix de Paris, and it would serve as a showcase for French thoroughbred breeding. It would have similar characteristics to the Prix du Conseil Municipal, but unlike that event it would use the weight for age system, with each horse competing on equal terms, unpenalised for previous victories.
Coming in the wake of World War I, it was decided that the race would be named after the Arc de Triomphe, a famous monument in Paris which had been the scene of a victory parade by the Allies in 1919. The title Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe had been previously assigned to a minor event at Longchamp. Another suggested title had been the Prix de la Victoire.
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