Just A Way leads Japan hopefuls in another go at Arc

Three Japanese horses will race in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday in Paris, their largest contingent ever at the turf race.

Yuichi Fukunaga rides Just a Way on Wednesday for a training session ahead of Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Matthieu Alexandre / AFP / October 1, 2014
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Paris, France // Like a moody French model pursued by several suitors, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe becomes a greater obsession for the Japanese with every failure.

Sunday’s race will be the 13th attempt by Japanese horses to bring back the Arc to the Land Of The Rising Sun.

Speed Symboli in 1969 became the first Japanese runner to grace Longchamp in the Arc but back then it was far more about taking part than about securing the prize.

Speed Symboli came 11th and Mejiro Mushashi was 18th three years later. Sirius Symboli fared little better in 1986, but it was El Condor Pasa’s mighty performance through the mud when going down to Montjeu in 1999 that raised awareness significantly.

It was household name Deep Impact who buried the Arc deep into the Japanese consciousness when third past the post in 2006. The ignominy at his disqualification for a prohibited substance has been carried by all in his homeland since then.

And who can forget Orfevre, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in 2012 only to follow home Treve last season?

For the first time Japan has sent over three runners to Paris, and impressive Dubai Duty Free winner Just A Way is considered the most likely winner among the Asian trio.

Just A Way’s six-length demolition at Meydan in March elevated him to top of the world rankings, a position he still occupies going into the world’s most valuable race on turf.

Just A Way is a son of Heart’s Cry, an out and out middle distance colt who narrowly failed to return home from Ascot with the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2006. It is the colt’s breeding that has led rider Yuichi Fukunaga to believe the 2,400 metres of the Arc is within is mount’s compass.

“We are aware that he has not won over the Arc distance and normally people get anxious over such things,” Fukunaga said.

“His sire Heart’s Cry ran very well in the King George a few years ago so we hope we can stretch him.”

Just A Way will be joined in the race by fellow Japanese raiders Harp Star and Gold Ship. Harp Star will be ridden by Yuga Kawaga, while Gold Ship also has a Japanese rider in Norihiro Yokoyama.

Naosuke Sugai trains both Just A Way and Gold Ship, and explained to the world’s media at Chantilly on Wednesday why he had resisted calls to utilise a European rider more au fait with Longchamp.

“I am Japanese, the horse is Japanese and the owner is Japanese. I wanted a 100 per cent Japanese team,” he said.

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