x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Kizuna also handed advantageous starting gate as raiders descend on French showpiece.

Japanese horse Orfevre, right, trots on a training field, in Chantilly, west of Paris. AP Photo
Japanese horse Orfevre, right, trots on a training field, in Chantilly, west of Paris. AP Photo

Now there can be no excuses.

Orfevre may have been the victim of a poor draw 12 months ago when finishing second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but Japan’s great hope will emerge from stall eight in Europe’s showpiece middle-distance event tomorrow.

Three years ago, Workforce denied Japanese runner Nakayama Festa by a head from stall eight and Orfevre will try to make up for that defeat, and his own, from the centre of the 19 runners, having been drawn out by Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli in the post position ceremony in Paris yesterday.

Nakayama Festa came back in 2011, but finished a disappointing 11th to Danedream and Orfevre will have to defy the statistic that 60 horses have failed to win the Arc after having been beaten the previous year.

His berth allows jockey Christophe Soumillon every option. Japan’s Kizuna has a similarly advantageous position.

Kizuna was drawn outside Orfevre in stall 11, and although no horse has won from a double-figure gate since Dalakhani in 2003, connections of the Japanese Derby winner were delighted.

“We are very satisfied with the draw and can’t wait to see him run,” said Koji Maeda, Kizuna’s breeder.

Jockey Yutaka Take has come a long way since his wayward ride on White Muzzle in the 1994 Arc, when he waited too long with his mount.

He rode Kizuna to success in the Prix Niel at Longchamp on Arc trials day three weeks ago and is ready for any eventuality in a race that appears to lack a significant pacemaker.

“I’ve thought of all the different possibilities for how the race will pan out, but first and foremost, I want to ride in a way that will bring out his best,” Take said.

“I’ll do my best and aim to have no regrets.”

Novellist, the German challenger, was drawn one place further out than Kizuna in 12 and trainer Andreas Wohler was less enthusiastic about his charge’s place in the starting stalls.

Novellist added the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Baden last month to his scintillating victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July and remains one of the more likely winners under Johnny Murtagh.

“We would have liked to be further inside, but it could have been worse,” Wohler said. “I can’t see much pace in the race.”

The clash between Cirrus Des Aigles and Planteur in the Prix Dollar dominates today’s undercard at Longchamp.

The former Dubai World Cup night runners face 11 others in the extended nine-furlong contest, including Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed’s Maputo and Godolphin France’s Buckwheat.

Both horses have bigger and greater targets ahead of them, however.

Cirrus Des Aigles is in line for a crack at the Champion Stakes at Ascot later this month and Planteur is slated to travel to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.

As such, neither can be considered as top of their game and Corine Barande-Barbe said that today’s Group 2 would act as part of her horse’s preparation for the ultimate mission of regaining the crown he won at Ascot in 2011.

“He is coming up to his peak,” Barande-Barbe said. “He improves in steps and we have always had the Champion Stakes in mind.”

sports@thenational.ae