It is questionable which of Orfevre or Solemia has more to prove in the ¥521 million (Dh23.25m) Japan Cup in Tokyo today.
Orfevre appeared to have the world at his feet when passing 12 rivals in a single furlong to lead the field under Christophe Soumillon in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last month in Paris. The sheer exhilaration of his run for his travelling troupe of fans turned almost immediately to despair as he was agonisingly reeled in by Solemia and Olivier Peslier to go down by a neck.
Orfevre wavered when victory was in his grasp, and what was worse for his thousands of fans was that he appeared to shy from his moment of glory, kinking towards the rail to throw away his chance.
The journey back to Japan has not ironed out Orfevre's problems. He lost 20kgs and although he has put it back on his idiosyncrasies were still in evidence during his final training run under regular partner Kenichi Ikezoe.
"Ikezoe ¥rode him up the hill course and, like in his last race, he moved in to the rail when he got out in front," Yasutoshi Ikee, the trainer, said."The main thing is that he runs balanced and straight. If he can do that, we should be able to get results. I hope he can run a race fitting for a horse that represents Japan."
Solemia faces a very different set of circumstances to prove that her success in the European showpiece was no fluke. Orfevre tired in the heavy going at Longchamp, whereas despite rain this week in the Japanese capital the going remains firm.
The French filly, one of five international raiders, has never won on ground described as better than good to soft but trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias seemed unconcerned.
"This is her first overseas trip and over long distance. She seemed to be a little bit tired on arrival and had lost a little weight," he said. "She gradually recovered in four to five days and regained some weight. Solemia is used to softer ground, but she has also run well on firm ground, too. More importantly, she will find the long home stretch to her liking."
Solemia is joined in the 12-furlong Grade 1 race by Marco Botti's Jakkalberry, who has been earmarked for the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival, while the raiding party is completed by Roger Varian's Sri Putra, Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux and Luca Cumani's Mount Athos.
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