The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is generally the most hotly contested race of the year in Europe, so it is understandable that dual winners are something of a rarity. The very idea that there could be a triple winner of the race might have seemed fanciful enough to be considered a virtual impossibility, but it’s time for a re-think now that Sheikh Joaan Al Thani has accepted the challenge with his brilliant filly Treve.

Few apart from trainer Criquette Head-Maarek believed that the daughter of Motivator could claim a second Arc after three previous disappointing efforts on 2014, but on the big day she was scarcely less impressive than when retaining her unbeaten record in 2013, again displaying a lethal burst of acceleration to settle the issue in a few strides. It would be hard, at present, to name a threat to her in 2015, but who knows whether there might be an exceptional performer among the new three-year-olds? We must also trust that Treve will turn up fit and in top form for her date with destiny, which is not something we can take for granted.

Plenty of horses have had three – or even more – shots at winning the Arc, and we don’t have to look back far to remember Youmzain’s gallant second places behind Dylan Thomas in 2007, Zarkava in 2008 and Sea The Stars in 2009. But none of the previous dual winners has returned in an attempt to secure a third triumph, though two doubled up after failing at their first attempt. One was Motrico, who finished fourth at three and scored his wins at five and seven, the latter when he already had foals on the ground. The other was Corrida, like Treve the daughter of a Derby winner (Coronach), and she came closest to pulling off the treble, beaten two necks as a three-year-old before her successes at four and five.

There was now no doubt that, at her formidable best, Corrida was the top middle-distance performer of either sex active in Europe

Corrida, a foal of 1932, was bred and raced by Marcel Boussac, and it was during her career on the turf that he established his dominance of the French racing and breeding scene that would endure for two decades. Already smart at two, Corrida began with a third place in the Prix Yacowlef, then as now, the most important newcomers’ race at Deauville. Nine days later she won the Prix Morny, and after a break she returned to finish second in the Grand Criterium, then an unexciting fifth in the all-aged Prix de la Foret.

No fan of Newmarket
The filly was based with Boussac’s private trainer William Hall at Chantilly at two, but in the following spring her owner switched her to England, targeting major races from George Lambton’s stable. The move was not a success. Corrida finished stone last of 22 in the 1,000 Guineas, and nearly last in both the Oaks and Coronation Stakes. Lambton decided that the filly did not like Newmarket and advised that she should return to Hall, although it became clear in the following years that she was never at her best early in the season.

There was improvement after Corrida’s return to Chantilly. She ran a half-length second to the older Rarity in the Prix d’Astarte, a performance she repeated behind Admiral Drake in the Grand International d’Ostende. To that point she had run nine times for just that single victory in the previous year’s Morny, yet she was now sent for the Arc and only Baron Edouard de Rothschild’s pair Brantome and Peniche, coupled at 2-1 on, started at shorter odds. There were only three three-year-old fillies in the 12-strong field, and they finished 1-2-3, Samos prevailing by a neck over Peniche, who had the same margin to spare over Corrida. Two more runs at three brought Corrida second place, beaten a short head, in the Prix du Conseil Municipal and at last another victory, in the Grand Prix de Marseille, a race which carried plenty of prestige in those days.

After two wins from 13 lifetime starts, Corrida could not be considered any kind of champion, but she showed marked improvement as a four-year-old, when she ran 12 times for seven wins, three seconds, a third and a fourth. Now trained by Jack Watts, who had replaced the retired Hall, she began as runner-up in the Prix Boiard, filled the same place in the Prix de la Jonchere, then ran fourth in the Prix Daphnis et Chloe, giving 3kg to those who finished in front of her. Four consecutive victories followed, including the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and Prix du President de la Republique at Saint-Cloud, before two other foreign visits. She failed by a length to give 7kg to the celebrated German three-year-old filly Nereide in the Braunes Band von Deutschland in Munich, but then scored a fluent victory in the Grand International d’Ostende In the enforced absence of Prix du Jockey-Club and Grand Prix de Paris hero Mieuxce, who had split a pastern, Corrida was an odds-on chance for her second shot at the Arc and she won in impeccable style, with the previous year’s winner Samos back in fifth place. A trip to Newmarket shortly afterwards resulted in third place in a falsely-run Champion Stakes, but she concluded her season with a second triumph in the Grand Prix de Marseille.

As usual, Corrida took some time to reach her peak as a five-year-old. She won only an uncompetitive edition of the Grand Prix du Tremblay from her first six starts that year, but she finished in the frame in four of the other five, her one indifferent effort being a fifth behind dead-heaters Cecil and His Grace in the Coronation Cup. She picked up the winning thread again when scoring her second success in the Grand International d’Ostende, then gave a convincing display at Hoppegarten in the Grosser Preis der Reichshauptstadt, leaving two winners of the Deutsches Derby in arrears.

There was now no doubt that, at her formidable best, Corrida was the top middle-distance performer of either sex active in Europe. The leaders of the three-year-old division, Clairvoyant (injured) and Donatello (already retired), were not going to be around to test her in her third Arc bid, so it was no surprise she started even-money favourite (coupled with stablemate Dadji) in what would be her swansong. It was not all plain sailing, however, as Dadji’s jockey failed to set the required strong pace and at the turn for home Corrida was seemingly in a hopeless position, going nowhere in ninth place. The mare’s rider, Charlie Elliott, had to bring her on the wide outside to launch her challenge, but her trademark burst of acceleration was once more in evidence, allied to admirable resolution under pressure. In the dying strides of a thrilling contest, she edged ahead of Prix Vermeille heroine Tonnelle to win by a short head.

A true international champion, successful in Belgium, Germany and England as well as her native France, Corrida retired as a winner of 13 of her 34 races. Her win-to-start ratio does not do her justice because, like Dahlia, another chesnut mare of a later vintage, she was unable to produce her best until the second half of the season.

Hopes were naturally high that she would prove as outstanding at stud as she had been on the racecourse. It was not to be.

Corrida slipped twins to Tourbillon in 1939 as a result of her first covering, and her 1940 filly by Mahmoud broke her spine in a freak accident in her box. She proved barren to Pharis in 1941 and to Tourbillon again in 1943 and 1944, and in late July of the latter year she disappeared, stolen by the retreating German army. We can never be certain of her fate, but it seems likely that she was killed and fed to hungry soldiers.

Corrida’s only surviving produce was her 1942 Tourbillon colt Coaraze, who provided an indication of what might have been, winning the Prix Morny at two, the Prix du Jockey-Club and Prix Jacques le Marois at three, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud at four, and the Prix d’Ispahan at both four and five. Later a successful sire in Brazil, Coaraze was noted in France chiefly for his daughter La Mirambule, eight-length winner of the 1952 Prix Vermeille before starting favourite for, and finishing second in, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.