THIS is, without doubt, one of my favourite racing weekends of the year, and I have been privileged to witness some incredible racing moments over the many years I have attended the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Inevitably one will be asked to nominate a favourite Arc moment, and there have been many renewals of the race that stirred my heart. However, the race that set my ticker racing more than any other, the race I anticipated more than any other, and the one whose outcome I celebrated more than any, was Sea The Stars’ victory in 2009. It came at the end of a long but fruitful season competing at Group 1 level only.

It doesn’t require me to tell you that his racing career was orchestrated to perfection by John Oxx, and the champion’s standing among the greats of racing will be forever testament to the skills of his trainer. Though now retired from the training ranks, John will have a special interest in this year’s running of Europe’s most prestigious race.

Director now of Staffordstown Stud, he will be cheering on the homebred Alpinista who, should she win the €5 million race, would deliver the crowning achievement as a breeder and owner for Kirsten Rausing, an iconic figure in this business who has enjoyed enormous success in recent years. As an independent thinker, and someone who has contributed more than most to the industry, Miss Rausing has done so much for racing and breeding, and victory for Alpinista would be truly deserved.

This year’s Arc looks to be a vintage one, but what a pity that the field does not contain the nine-time Group 1 winner, Verry Elleegant. It has been a public relations disaster in the run-up to the race to find that the New Zealand-bred mare has not made the cut, and one can understand the frustration, indeed anger, of connections.

Nonetheless, they undertook to send the mare to be trained in France with no guarantee that she would make the line-up. What if she had been injured? What if her form deteriorated drastically? There are many what ifs.

I feel that the race would benefit from her participation, but just as European runners have much to overcome in their efforts to run down under, notably in the Melbourne Cup, so too are there challenges faced in reverse. Verry Elleegant’s owners might have some compensation today if she wins the Group 1 Prix de Royallieu.

If she fails to do so, the debate on whether she should have been permitted to run in Sunday’s centrepiece will seem hollow. Either way, there are no winners.