Horse racing: Japan’s finest begin assault on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Japan’s training jockey Yusuke Oe rides the Japanese horse Makahiki. Jacques Demarthon / AFP
Japan’s training jockey Yusuke Oe rides the Japanese horse Makahiki. Jacques Demarthon / AFP

Japanese horsemen have proved to the world many times over that they are a durable bunch and their latest attempt to plunder the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe starts in earnest when Makahiki makes his European bow in Chantilly on Sunday.

The scenes of anguish from legions of travelling Japanese racegoers at Longchamp when much-vaunted thoroughbreds such as Nakayama Festa, Deep Impact and Orfevre all were forced to return home with their tails between their legs have only galvanized their horsemen.

A record 11 horses from the Land of the Rising Sun were entered this season for l’Arc, but Makahiki is the only one to have stood his ground and will advertise his credentials in the Group 2 Prix Niel on l’Arc Trials day card.

Makahiki has been stationed in Chantilly for nearly two months in the care of Japanese trainer Satoshi Kobayashi.

The three-year-old colt last raced in May when he nosed ahead of Santono Diamond in the Tokyo Yoshun, which is the Japanese Derby staged over l‘Arc and Prix Niel trip of 2,400 metres. It was his fifth win from just six starts.

The last Japanese Derby winner to attempt l’Arc was Kizuna, who won the Prix Niel in 2013 before he finished third to Treve on soft ground, but this year’s edition looked a much deeper race.

Trained by Yasuo Tomomichi, who has flown in late for the race, Makahiki will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire. The French jockey has been based in Japan for the past two seasons and has had a lot to do with the training of the Japanese star.

This week Makahiki underwent a preparatory run in front of the usual gaggle of Japanese media, after which Lemaire said: “The horse has a very smooth stride and feels good. The horses tend to run tightly packed together at Chantilly, but Makahiki has good balance and is easy to control, so I don’t have any concerns. It’s important for Makahiki to get used to racing in France at the Prix Niel.”

Tomomichi confirmed that he was satisfied with Makahiki’s gallop and that he has been training well and it would be a monumental shock if his horse was turned over.

British raider Midterm, who in May was the favourite for the English Derby, is the only realistic challenger and will be ridden by Ted Durcan. Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Darabad, Andre Fabre’s Doha Dream and outsider Carzoff make up the numbers.

The Prix Niel is one of three l’Arc trials, all of which are over 2,400 metres. The Group 2 Prix Foy is for older horses and has attracted only four runners as last night’s scintillating Irish Champion Stakes attracted the cream of the French.

The Prix Vermeille is for fillies and mares and is one of two Group 1 races on the card that includes the Prix Du Moulin De Longchamp.

Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby and William Buick have an interest in both. Endless Time is set to face five others in the Vermeille, while Dutch Connection faces a tricky task against five rivals in the mile event.

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Published: September 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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