As George Orwell reminded us, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. So it is with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, all renewals of which are great, even if some are greater than others. This year’s race will doubtless have its knockers with Europe’s best weight-for-age horses (Frankel, Danedream, Cirrus Des Aigles, Nathaniel and Snow Fairy) being absent for various reasons and with the most talented horses who did show up either running below form (Camelot and Shareta) or turning down the opportunity to win (Orfevre). Notwithstanding this litany of absentees and excuses, though, Solemia ranks as a worthy winner of the Arc, having outbattled Orfevre to land a victory which carried the hallmark of toughness which all top horses should possess. She comes from a great family which had one other Group One winner on the day (Silasol) and which has produced one recent Derby winner (Authorized), but even so her toughness surely comes largely from her father Poliglote, whose ability to sire admirable racehorses is thoroughly proven and who fits very nicely into history’s roll of Arc winner-producing stallions, writes John Berry.
The influence of Sadler's Wells on the world’s middle-distance and staying races in the modern era is second to none. With the Arc being run in the autumn and thus very often on a wet track, it is rather surprising that he has not featured more often in the pedigrees of its winners. He sired two winners (Carnegie and Montjeu) and ranks as broodmare sire of two more (Sakhee and Workforce) but until this year his sons collectively had only come up with the winner on one occasion (in 2005 when Montjeu’s son Hurricane Run scored). Now Poliglote has matched Montjeu’s feat.
Being a son of Sadler’s Wells, Poliglote is very well-bred. That almost goes without saying, Sadler’s Wells having rarely covered any mares whose credentials were not impeccable. Poliglote’s dam Alexandrie visited Sadler’s Wells at Coolmore Stud in 1991, at which time Sadler’s Wells was aged 10 and already the height of fashion. Having won the Irish 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse and Irish Champion Stakes in 1984, Sadler’s Wells had retired to Coolmore Stud at a fee of 125,000 Irish guineas in 1985. As this fee implies would have been the case, his first book comprised only mares who were worthy of such expenditure. The result was a bunch of well-bred sons and daughters, many of whom turned out at least as good as their pedigrees suggested. Thus, by the time that the Wertheimer brothers booked Alexandrie into Sadler’s Wells for the 1991 season, the stallion had been represented by the Group One winners Scenic, Prince Of Dance, Old Vic, In The Wings and Braashee from his first crop, and by Salsabil, a triple Classic winner in 1990, from his second.
As one might have expected, Alexandrie was a very good mare. In her younger days she had been trained for the Wertheimers by Criquette Head-Maarek, whose father Alec Head had many trained top-class horses for the Wertheimer family over the years including the Arc winners Ivanjica and Gold River (both of whom were ridden by Alec Head’s son Freddy, who more recently has trained the Wertheimers’ star racemare Goldikova, a great-grand-daughter of Gold River) and the Prix du Jockey-Club winners Roi Lear and Val De L'orne, as well as the excellent stallions Riverman, Lyphard and Green Dancer. Alexandrie wasn’t quite as good as her sire Val De L’Orne had been, but even so she was still very good, as she particularly showed when winning the Group Three Prix Cleopatre over 2100m as a three-year-old in 1983. By the time that she was covered by Sadler’s Wells as an 11-year-old in 1991, Alexandrie had already bred the 1988 Oaks place-getter Animatrice; while Alexandrie’s half-brother Antheus (who was by Sadler’s Wells’ sire Northern Dancer) had won a Group One race over 2400m in Italy in 1986. Furthermore, Alexandrie’s close relative Quest For Fame (whose Group One-winning dam Aryenne was a half-sister to Alexandrie’s dam Apachee) had won the 1990 Derby for Prince Khalid Abdullah. Alexandrie was thus clearly deserving of the extravagance of a visit to Sadler’s Wells.
Alexandrie was merely one of many top-class mare among Sadler’s Wells’ mates in 1991, in which year his book included the former top fillies Arctique Royale, Moon Cactus and Flame Of Tara, and such distinguished producers as Hellenic and Le Melody. All of these unions yielded high-class sons or daughters, with Poliglote being one of the best of Sadler’s Wells’ excellent class of ’92, which also included several other top three-year-olds of 1995 including the St Leger winner Tamure, the Oaks winner Moonshell and the Prix Saint-Alary winner Muncie.
Like his mother before him, Poliglote was put into training by the Wertheimers in Criquette Head-Maarek’s stable. Even though he was from a family not renowned for its precocity (which remark one could also make about the stock of Sadler’s Wells) Poliglote proved to be one of France’s best two-year-olds of 1994, running third behind the subsequent Grand Criterium winner Goldmark on debut over 1600m at Deauville in August and then winning his next three races. These comprised the Prix des Aigles over 1600m at Longchamp in September, the Group Three Prix de Conde over 1800m at Longchamp in the first week of October and the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 2000m in the last week of October. This latter triumph was gained by a head from Solar One, a talented son of Alleged who did not stand much racing but who proved his class in the following season’s Group One Prix Lupin, in which he finished second to his paternal half-brother Flemensfirth.
For all that Poliglote was clearly a promising young stayer, he was not doing himself any favours, being a very hard-pulling colt. Criquette Head was clearly keen to teach him restraint, but things were not going entirely her way. Although he had won the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, the race had not gone to script: she had run a pace-maker for him, but that horse (Spicilege) had unseated Olivier Doleuze leaving the stalls, leaving Freddy Head to make his own running on Poliglote. Come the following spring, Poliglote was still very headstrong, and his exuberance was still concerning his trainer. He was again given the supposed assistance of a pace-maker, but whether this helped was debatable. In the Prix Noailles, his pacemaker Sea Gone led until the 400m before weakening into a distant last, while Poliglote was only able to battle on from the rear into an uninspiring third place behind Walk On Mix and Solar One. In the Prix Hocquart, though, things went better: Poliglote sat second behind his pace-maker Fifty Four before taking the lead 250m from home – only to be caught on the line by the Aga Khan's colt Rifapour, who beat him by a short neck.
Poliglote duly lined up in the Prix du Jockey-Club as one of the main chances, but seemingly with little hope of beating the much-vaunted English colt Celtic Swing, who had been Europe’s dominant two-year-old of 1994 before losing his unbeaten record when touched off by Pennekamp in the 2,000 Guineas. Poliglote’s chance seemed to have been further reduced by the fact that his intended pace-maker went amiss a couple of days before the race, meaning that Freddy Head would not be able to rely on outside assistance in settling his mount. In the race, Head tried to take Poliglote back after the start. The problem was that Poliglote had other ideas, pulling his way forward until he was on the heels of the leader after 600m. Even if he was not as tractable as his jockey would have liked, however, no one could fault his courage: he took up the running with 500m remaining and was only caught close home by Celtic Swing, losing out by half a length with the top-class colts Winged Love, Classic Cliche and Flemensfirth finishing just behind him.
Come the end of the season, Poliglote was the only one of the first five home in the Prix du Jockey-Club (which was then still run over 2400m and was still France’s equivalent of the Derby) not to have won a Group One race during the year. His subsequent performances that season, therefore, could be viewed as slightly disappointing, even if his second place behind Housamix in the Prix Niel (with Winged Love, who had franked the Prix du Jockey-Club form by winning the Irish Derby, in third) was a decent run.
Poliglote remained in training at both four and five. He was not able to add a second Group One victory to his name to go with his top-flight success as a two-year-old, but even so he showed himself to be very durable, as well as very good and very genuine. He raced only in America as a five-year-old in 1997 and was not seen to best advantage in his three starts there, but at four in France he posted some more very good performances. His wins in 1996 came in the Group Two Grand Prix d’Evry over 2400m and the listed Prix de la Porte de Madrid over the same distance at Longchamp. His best effort, though, was arguably his third of nine in the Group One Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, beaten only by the top-class pair Helissio and Swain.
Poliglote duly retired to stud in 1998 at the age of six. He had been conceived in Ireland and born in England (because his dam visited Rainbow Quest at Banstead Manor Stud in 1992, which union yielded King Alex, winner of the Group Three Royal Whip at the Curragh over 10 furlongs as a four-year-old in 1997) but he was in every other respect a very French horse. It was only right, therefore, that he should retire to stud in France – and there he remains, now one of the elder statesmen at Haras d’Etreham, where his stud-companions include another former Wertheimer galloper, the 2008 Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Falco (who was trained for the Wertheimers by Criquette Maarek-Head’s son-in-law Carlos Laffon-Parias, who now trains Poliglote’s Arc-winning daughter Solemia for them).
Poliglote can also be regarded as one of the elder statesman of the stallion ranks of France. He has been represented by several Grade One winners from his stints of shuttling to Argentina (Cacht Wells, Perugia Wells, Guambia Bo, Tino Wells, Smart Wells, Cachorra Wells and Kalath Wells) where, as these names suggest, owners and breeders are seemingly very aware that he is a son of Sadler’s Wells. In Europe he had not sired a Group One winner until Solemia landed the Arc, but he had previously come up with several Group One-standard performers. The full-brothers Hello Sunday and Hello Morning rank as top-level place-getters on opposite sides of the Atlantic, while the dual Grand Prix de Deauville winner Irish Wells boasted excellent Group One form, most notably courtesy of his second position behind Dylan Thomas in the 2007 Prix Ganay. In Britain, Poliglote’s best winner has been the diminutive but supertough Zain Al Boldan, successful in last year’s Lingfield Oaks Trial, while in America his best result has been the victory of the Argentinian import Cacht Wells in the Grade Two Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont in 2005.
In addition to Poliglote’s excellent results in Flat races (mainly over middle distances), he has also been equally prolific as a sire of graded winners over jumps. We have, fortunately, moved on from the days when the quidnuncs would sneer at a stallion or broodmare for producing good jumpers – Sadler’s Wells, to name but one, forced that habit out of fashion with his long list of high-class National Hunt successes. Poliglote’s best jumpers to have found their way to Britain include Lingo, Spirit Son and Hinterland, while of those who have remained in their homeland Kiko, Prince Oui Oui, Saint Du Chenet, Tanais Du Chenet, Tell No One, Berryville, Young Poli, Nikita Du Berlais and Kotkieglote have all scored graded victories, with the first four of those having won at Grade One level.
Poliglote, who currently stands at a fee of 8,000 euros, has consistently been one of France’s best stallions of the 21st century. He was a very good and very tough racehorse and he boasts a great pedigree - so, with his proven record of throwing good, tough racehorses by the dozen, it should not be viewed as anything of a surprise that he has thrown an Arc winner from one of the few opportunities which he has had to cover a top-class mare.