28 September 2022

Titleholder team dreaming of first Japanese Arc success

28 September 2022

Trainer Toru Kurita admits it would be a dream come true if Titleholder can provide Japan with an elusive first victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

It has been an ongoing quest for the Japanese to claim Europe’s premier middle-distance prize, with the El Condor Pasa memorably pushing Montjeu close in 1999.

The hugely popular Deep Impact was beaten less than a length into third place when hot favourite for the 2006 renewal of the Longchamp showpiece, while four years later Nakayama Festa was denied by a head by Sir Michael Stoute’s Workforce.

Japan looked sure to finally claim Arc glory when Orfevre swept clear in 2012, but he was heartbreakingly reeled in by Solemia and beaten a neck. He returned to Paris 12 months later and finished second once more, this time behind dual Arc heroine Treve.

Titleholder, winner of last year’s Japanese St Leger, was last seen winning the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in June – becoming the first horse to win the Grade One contest and the Tenno Sho in the same season since Deep Impact 16 years ago.

Asked what it would mean for his stable to become the first Japanese Arc winner, Kurita said: “It’s a dream for everyone. Many prestigious, very good Japanese horses have come and tried it and haven’t won.

“For me personally it’s really a dream just to be at the start of this race and we will do as much as we can to win it.

“It’s very difficult to tell what the reaction would be in Japan. Obviously everybody would be super happy. Every year the horses come to Longchamp and have a lot of Japanese followers.”

After seeing Titleholder enjoy a Wednesday morning workout in Chantilly, Kurita is confident he is firing on all cylinders ahead of Europe’s biggest race.

I can feel that the horse is getting better - he is improving and coming right for the race

“We gave him a grass gallop this morning. There were two horses in front of him and he was waiting behind and he adapted himself very well to the ground,” said the trainer.

“They went approximately a mile and a quarter, went slowly at the beginning and then quickened in the final four furlongs. The horse came close to joining the other ones in front. It was a good workout.

“It is very difficult to put a number on it (how much he can improve), but I can feel that the horse is getting better – he is improving and coming right for the race.”

Kazuo Yokoyama has been ever present in the saddle aboard Titleholder this year and is relishing the opportunity to ride him again on his French debut.

He said: “It’s a very prestigious race and I’m very happy to ride in it, but I’m not going to concern myself with the other horses and will just ride my race.

“As the trainer explained, we did a gallop this morning with two horses in front and the main thing for me was to be behind and to check that my horse was mentally fit and well.

“The ground was very soft, but my horse didn’t have any problems going through it and I have a very good idea now how he is going to be in the race.

“Two or three years ago I didn’t think I would ride in this race. I’m extremely delighted to be here now and very happy to ride Titleholder, who every time I’ve ridden him has become stronger.”

Japan are also represented in the race by Do Deuce, a Yasuo Tomomichi-trained winner of the Japanese Derby who was last seen finishing fourth in the Prix Niel at Longchamp earlier this month.

The colt was partnered by leading Japanese rider Yutaka Take on that occasion and will be in the Arc itself, with the rider feeling a long gap in between his Derby victory and his first visit to Europe was the reason for the defeat.

“In the beginning of the race three weeks ago he felt fine, but then I also felt that he was tired when we came to the final furlong,” he said.

“He hadn’t run in quite some time but this morning (Wednesday), I didn’t ride him when he worked but I saw him and I saw that he moved really well and that he had improved since that last run in Longchamp.

“I’ve had the opportunity to ride very good horses in the race and Do Deuce is going to be one of them. He’s only three and he is still improving.

“To win the Arc has always been a dream and it’s always been an objective of mine. While I’m still riding it remains very high on my agenda in my career.”

There is a further Japanese contender in the shape of Stay Foolish, trained by Yoshito Yahagi and due to be ridden by Christophe Lemaire in a second start in France after his second-placed effort in the Grand Prix de Deauville.

The horse is well-travelled, having won in both Riyadh and Meydan, and brings alternative form to the table when compared with his native rivals.

“Stay Foolish has a different profile compared to the horses that have run the Classic races like Do Deuce, who has run in the Derby, and Titleholder, who has run in the Group Ones in Japan,” Lemaire explained.

“He’s a horse who has improved a lot with age, especially over the longer trips. He’s maybe not as strong as a Derby winner but he has got a lot of experience.”

Lemaire rode the horse in a piece of work on Wednesday morning and was satisfied that his mount is coming into the race in good form.

“It was a very good workout this morning on ground that I would call good to soft, I was very happy with the way he cantered and galloped,” he said.

“In fact, he actually gave me the feeling I had before the run in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“It was important for me to connect with the horse and feel that’s switched on to see how he moves and it was perfect.”

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