x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Japanese horses shape up well for Arc tilt with wins at Longchamp

Orfevre and Kizuna won prep races in France ahead of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, giving Japan race fans hope of a first victory next monty in the Group 1 race.

Belgian born jockey Christophe Soumillon riding Orfevre crosses the finish line to win the Prix Foy at the Longchamp race track in Paris. Francois Mori / AP Photo
Belgian born jockey Christophe Soumillon riding Orfevre crosses the finish line to win the Prix Foy at the Longchamp race track in Paris. Francois Mori / AP Photo

PARIS // Japan can start dreaming. Orfevre and Kizuna threw down the gauntlet in spectacular style at Longchamp on Sunday to give race fans in the Land of the Rising Sun real hope of winning a first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Orfevre was a three-length winner of the Prix Foy, the race he took 12 months ago before throwing away the Arc at the Paris track, while Kizuna edged out fellow Derby winner Ruler Of The World in an engrossing Prix Niel.

Orfevre went down to Solemia in last season’s Arc after jinking badly under Christophe Soumillon but, after the pair had sauntered clear of Dubai Sheema Classic third Very Nice Name, the Belgian rider was hopeful of making good.

“After a performance like that, there’s not much more I can say,” the winning jockey said. “You can’t change what happened last year but we can go back to the Arc with confidence.”

Kizuna had not raced since winning the Japan Derby in May and although there is much to work on in terms of fitness, according to trainer Shozo Sasaki, the colt was able to hold off by a short head the late thrust of the English Derby winner.

Flintshire, who was previously considered the favourite for the Arc, laboured on the soft ground to finish fourth for trainer Andre Fabre, one place behind stablemate Ocovango.

Yutaka Take was on board Deep Impact, Kizuna’s sire, when third for Japan in the Arc in 2006 and the winning rider has been talking up his mount since the pair prevailed in Tokyo four months ago.

Sasaki was more hushed in his praise, however, and was aware how much work there was left to do before the first Sunday in October.

“This was his first run abroad so I’m very pleased,” the trainer said. “He was about 80 per cent compared with the Japanese Derby, so we will work hard to get the final 20 per cent before the Arc.”

The Niel has provided 12 winners of the Arc, although Rail Link was the last horse to complete the double in 2006.

It was the first time Kizuna had raced on rain-softened going and, after 11 millimetres of precipitation fell on Longchamp on Saturday, Aidan O’Brien felt it necessary to scratch possibly Arc-bound Camelot from the Prix Foy.

Instead, last year’s top three-year-old was given a racecourse spin at the Curragh, where Voleuse De Coeurs won the Irish St Leger from Godolphin’s Ahzeemah.

Japan has yet to win the Arc in 14 attempts, with Nakayama Festa coming closest when losing by a head to Workforce in 2010.

Deep Impact was third to Rail Link, although he was subsequently disqualified after an illegal substance was found in his sample.

Frankie Dettori is another who has fallen foul of the Longchamp testers when on Arc trials day last season he tested positive for what later emerged to be cocaine.

The Italian secured his first win at the highest level yesterday since taking the Canadian International with Joshua Tree in October when guiding Treve to an impressive win in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille.

Treve, owned by Qatar’s Sheikh Joaan, will also take her chance in the Arc after running down Wild Coco in the final furlong to win by a length and three quarters.

“It’s brilliant. She’s the first decent horse I’ve ridden for a while,” said Dettori.

sports@thenational.ae