Japanese Dream when Soumillon bids for Arc Redemption

Around two thousand Japanese racing fans made the annual pilgrimage to Longchamp racecourse on Sunday in the hope that one of their four runners would finally crack the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the 18th attempt.

The quartet, widely regarded as Europe’s greatest race, is a record entry for Japan in the Arc – there are a maximum of 20 runners in total – in which they have finished second on several occasions.

Defending champions and Japan Derby winners Do Deuce are their highest hopes of making history with Deep Bond, who finished last in 2021, and veterans Stay Foolish.

Their colors were hung on four doors near the grandstands with good luck messages from Japanese turfistes.

Stay Foolish rider Christophe Lemaire has won several Japanese jockey titles since moving there in 2015 after a successful stint in France and he understands Japan’s passion for racing.

“Winning an arc would be the Holy Grail if you knew what it represented for the Japanese,” he said.

As for how the expected 30,000 spectators should react should Christophe Soumillon win on Vadeni, French racing authority France Galop could keep their fingers crossed that there are no whistles and boos.

The 41-year-old Belgian ace is set to start a 60-day suspension in two weeks after he elbowed rival Rossa Ryan in Saint Cloud on Friday, resulting in a fall.

Neither France Galop nor David Redvers, co-owner of a horse Soumillon will ride later on Sunday, are happy he has refused to step down for the highest-profile race weekend in France.

Under French racing rules, a suspension comes into effect fourteen days after the penalty is imposed.

Soumillon rides French Derby winner Vadeni for his employer Aga Khan – the jockey’s previous two victories at Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (2008) were for him – and his daughter Princess Zahra expressed her dismay at his actions on Saturday.

“Obviously it was an irresponsible and unthinkable thing to happen and do. It was very difficult to watch,” she said.

“We did talk about it (the incident), of course, but it was too close to this weekend to do anything.”

– ‘Fire flickers’ –

Frankie Dettori is another equestrian legend who has had his ups and downs this season, but the exuberant Italian has a peachy ride as he seeks a record-breaking seventh arc win over last year’s winner Torquator Tasso.

The 2021 champions – one of two German runners in the race – have an unfavorable away draw (18 of 20) but Dettori is undeterred after leading Golden Horn to victory in 2015 from 14.

Torquator Tasso, an 80-1 underdog last year, would become the ninth to win the race twice and the eighth to win it consecutively.

“We made a miracle out of a wide draw in 2015 and ended up on the Golden Horn – I’ll never forget that!” the 51-year-old told his Sporting Index blog.

“He doesn’t mind the rush at all, he keeps fit, is roadworthy and masters the test conditions when it rains.

“He was second in a King George with some top quality horses behind him so there are no issues with his form this season.”

The likely favorite is Luxemburg – he beat Vadeni and another French runner Onesto in the Irish Champion Stakes last month – and would give trainer Aidan O’Brien his third winner of the race.

The crowd pleaser, or at least for the thousands of English racing fans who will be in attendance, will be tough as Teak Alpinista.

She owes her popularity not only to her five consecutive Group 1 wins but also to her trainer, well-known storyteller Mark Prescott, 74.

Trainer for 53 years – he was the youngest with a license when he started – he says she is without a doubt the best mare in the world.

“If Alpinista wins, the fire will flicker a little longer,” he told the Guardian.

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