Japanese quartet set to land Holy Grail Arc

A record four Japanese horses will compete for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, with one of the quartet’s jockeys, Christophe Lemaire, saying Japan’s win in the race, widely regarded as the greatest in Europe, would be the ” Holy Grail”.

The 43-year-old Frenchman, who has been crowned Japan Jockey Champion multiple times since moving in 2015, rides the underdog of the four in the veteran Stay Foolish.

He, Deep Bond, who was last shadowed in Arc 2021, and the more coveted duo of Japanese Derby winner Do Deuce and serial Group 1 winner, Defending Champion, will be up against 16 of Europe’s finest Thoroughbreds at Longchamp.

Germany’s defending champions Torquator Tasso returns with the impressive presence of Frankie Dettori on board – and is struggling for a record-breaking seventh win – but has a difficult away game.

Vadeni and Westover, winners of the French and Irish derbies respectively, also feature, with the former’s jockey Christophe Soumillon set to spend much of the sideline later in the month.

The apologetic Belgian ace was handed a 60-day ban for causing Rossa Ryan’s fall at Saint Cloud on Friday.

Luxembourg, who defeated Vadeni in the Irish Champion Stakes, will likely start as favorites to give trainer Aidan O’Brien his third win of the race.

The hard-hitting alpinista is targeting her sixth consecutive Group 1 win and would be a popular win thanks to her 74-year-old England coach and storyteller Mark Prescott.

Prescott compares his job to that of a schoolmaster and usually prefers to stay at home when his horses are racing abroad – apart from one occasion when he had a runner at the Japan Cup but when he couldn’t run he eventually became taken a concert by Eric Clapton.

He confessed to Thoroughbred Racing Commentary that he had never heard of Clapton but found it all pretty funny – although he will be at his best on Sunday.

“I have to go to Longchamp, Miss Rausing (the owner) insists,” he told the Racing Post.

“It’s a bit of a waste of time if you could train horses.”

– ‘Super happy’ –

The Japanese, however, are not the least bit intimidated by their European rivals and are optimistic about their chances of winning the arc at the 18th attempt.

Lemaire has never won the Arc despite many high-profile successes in Europe, but knows where he stands for himself and for the Japanese.

“The Arc is the biggest race in the world and it’s a date I’m circling on my calendar,” he said on Wednesday.

“As a French jockey, it has a special taste. Living in Japan I understand the determination they have to win the Arc.

“Winning an arc would be the Holy Grail if you knew what it represented to the Japanese.”

The bold frontrunner titleholder is 44-year-old coach Toru Kurita’s first arc runner, and he believes his star has improved both physically and mentally over the year.

“It was a dream at the beginning of the year but now it’s a reality,” he said.

“Winning the Arc is a dream for everyone, I’ve dreamed of it for a long time, but many who have tried have failed.

“Everyone in Japan would be super happy if we won, every year they (Japanese racing fans) come and take a close look at home.

“You can’t let them down.”

Defending champion’s jockey Kazuo Yokoyama, 29, is hoping to surpass his father Norihiro’s 14th-place finish in the 2014 Arc on Golden Ship.

Although it’s a new experience for him, he will stick to his pre-race ritual of “tidying up my room”.

His veteran compatriot Yutaka Take – who rides Do Deuce – hasn’t had the best times in the Arc, but the 53-year-old Japanese riding legend says he still has work to do.

“It’s always been a dream and winning the Arc is a motivating factor for me to keep going,” he said.

pi/no

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