Three Japanese Arc de Triomphe heartbreaks

Japan dreams of winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, widely regarded as Europe’s greatest flat race, and Sunday’s overtime will feature a record four Japanese runners.

They first tried underdog Symboli Speed ​​in 1969 and have contested numerous editions of the Arc since.

Here, AFP Sport picks three occasions when their dream almost came true:

El Condor Pasa – 1999

The title of a Peruvian song that gained worldwide attention when it was covered by Simon and Garfunkel. The latter added “If I Could” to the title, and at one point it looked like the horse version might actually land the arc.

He moved away from second favorite – due to victories in the prestigious Grand Prix de Saint Cloud and Arc Trial, the Prix Foy – and when Masayoshi Ebina edged him to three lengths at the head of the home stretch, the Japanese crowd held their breath.

However, Mick Kinane managed to tear favorites Montjeu off the rails and when he had a clear run he took the lead before leveling with El Condor Pasa.

Ebina didn’t give up and put him back in front, but Montjeu had a bit left again and had a half-length on his brave opponent at the finish.

If there was any consolation, it was his nomination as 20th Century Japanese Racehorse based on form ratings.

Nakayama Festa-2010

Ebina returned aboard the far less popular Nakayama Festa and was once again close to delivering for Japan.

“I felt like ‘I’m back, let’s do this again’ when I saw the track,” he told fellow jockey Christophe Lemaire in an interview for World Horse Racing 2021.

Ebina waited for his chance before delivering his challenge halfway down the straight. He drew level with the leaders only to join Epsom Derby winner Workforce.

“I thought we could really win, but then I could see the horse’s nose in us.”

The duo fought a terrific duel “We went head to head,” said Ebina and he could hear the Japanese spectators cheering at Longchamp.

Ryan Moore, however, was only able to head off a victory against Workforce.

It was little consolation for Ebina at such a grandiose performance.

“It was such a shame,” he said.

“Finishing second in horse racing means your name will never be left in history.”


Orfevre’s defeat will forever be the arc that escaped Japan.

Horse owners Sunday Racing made the bold decision to choose top Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon of France – the first time a Japanese runner had a European rider in the Arc – and on the back of winning the Prix Foy and some 2000 Japanese Spectators at Longchamp started as favourites.

Soumillon played all his cards right after being unfavorably drawn from the outside and waited at the back until he produced a devastating burst of speed as they reached the home stretch, passing 12 of his rivals.

He outpaced names like Epsom Derby winner Camelot as he cleared. But damn his quirky temper, Orfevre suddenly turned right and despite Soumillon’s efforts to straighten him, he hit the rail.

The loss of direction and momentum allowed the unassuming Solemia to sneak past him and win by a narrow margin.

Soumillon refused to accept that he was to blame for the defeat.

“Once I took the lead nobody could have imagined that we would be beaten,” he said.

“The overconfidence in him defeated us.

“He quit because the ground was so heavy and he is known to be too smart and cheeky at times.

“If he had stayed straight he would have won the bow by three or four lengths. I’m sorry, but I have no regrets.”

Orfevre and Soumillon returned again the following year, again starting as favorites and finishing second – but there was no losing streak as Treve beat him by five lengths.


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