Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Lemaire dreams of Sarafina win

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Christophe-Patrice Lemaire on Sarafina.
Christophe Lemaire rode Sarafina to victory at the Prix de Diane last summer.

The popular caricature of Frenchmen always loving the ladies is not exactly everybody's "tasse de the", but Christophe Lemaire is more than happy to be included in that category this autumn.

A week after partnering the brilliant Sahpresa as she completed a rare hat-trick in a Group One race, Lemaire, 32, turns his attention to another of the classiest fillies in Europe, Sarafina.

A luckless third in France's greatest prize, the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last year, the Aga Khan-owned four-year-old is amongst the favourites as she seeks compensation this time.

And even a mere mention of Sarafina - trained, like Reliable Man, another leading 'Arc' fancy, by Alain de Royer-Dupre - brings the broadest of smiles galloping across Lemaire's face.

"All lights are green," he said as we chatted at Newmarket on the day that Sahpresa once again took the highly prestigious Sun Chariot Stakes.

"We just cross the fingers now because we know the Arc is a rough race. She was nearly brought down last year, but came back. I hope she can have a nicer trip."

Lemaire, appointed as the Aga Khan's number one jockey in 2009 after predecessor Christophe Soumillon was sacked, is recognised as one of the world's top jockeys.

But despite being successful in Classic races in Britain as well as at home in France - he and Sarafina won last year's French Oaks - his best Arc finishing position is second on Pride back in 2006.

Last October, Lemaire was fourth on another of the Aga Khan's runners, Bekhabad, having rejected Sarafina, but is confident about his mount for this year.

Reflecting on the filly's warm-up race - when daringly squeezing through a tiny gap to grab victory in the Prix Foy - also at Longchamp, on 11 September, Lemaire said: "She is like a warrior, she loves to race.

"But she doesn't give you time to blow - you have to concentrate every moment of the race because she wants to go on.

"If we have a nice gap in the last 400m she is a tremendous finisher, and able to win, I think."

And for Lemaire himself, to finally lift the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe trophy, how good would that be?

"It would be fantastique. It is a dream for every jockey to win this big race, especially me because I am French.

"There is such a big atmosphere, such a big emotion during the whole weekend at Longchamp, and I'm sure Sarafina is the right horse to do it."