Japan is still as passionate about winning Europe’s most prestigious race the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe even if their best horses are not running this year said Tomohito Ozeki, trainer of their sole entry Through Seven Seas.
The Japanese have been trying to win Sunday’s race since Speed Symboli came for the 1969 Arc and some of their finest thoroughbreds have just fallen short in a quest that has been equated to the ‘Holy Grail’ by Through Seven Seas jockey Christophe Lemaire.
Orfevre would probably have won it in 2012 but for a dramatic wander across to the rails in the final furlong when clear of the field.
A record four raiders came to Longchamp last year and floundered in the rain-soaked ground — Japanese horses are not lovers of such conditions.
With the world’s best rated horse Equinox side-stepping this weekend’s showpiece questions have been raised whether the Arc has lost its lustre for the Japanese.
Ozeki is adamant the answer is no.
“There’s a lot of thought going on in Japan at the moment in the sense of which horse could adapt to the ground in the Arc -– that is the major thing people think about,” said Ozeki on Wednesday.
“It was the same for Through Seven Seas, the owners and breeders sat together for long discussions before they decided to come here.
“Personally I believe at the moment the mare is the best horse the Japanese could have sent over to run in the Arc.
“Obviously for the last three or four years Japanese horses have found it very difficult to run in the Arc because the ground has been very soft, even heavy last year.”
Through Seven Seas seems on paper to be out of her depth.
Only a Group Three winner she earned her trip to France due to finishing second to Equinox in the Group One Takarazuka Kinen at the end of June.
She has not run since which makes it a long time in between drinks but Ozeki says that is normal for her.
“She was quite tiny, quite skinny, she didn’t eat a lot and she was a bit of a difficult character, but has matured and started to put on weight,” he said.
“Last summer she had a long stretch without running and that did her a lot of good. She has just grown stronger as the year has progressed.”
Ozeki says that the hiatus between races is the same as between her win in the Group Three and her eye-catching run behind Equinox.
“She is a mare that needs a little bit of time between her races, probably longer than other horses,” he said.
“I think that is ideal for her.”
Through Seven Seas is Ozeki’s first runner in the Arc, although he did have one on Arc weekend around a decade ago — however he is thrilled to be centre stage this time.
“For every trainer the Arc is a big target in your career,” he said.
“It’s usually a target that is very far away, but now it’s here and I’m finding myself with this race in front of me and I have to be me on the day.
“But it would mean a lot to me to win it as a trainer.”
Lemaire has forged a hugely successful career in Japan since leaving Europe where he had chalked up some top class wins.
The 44-year-old Frenchman has a Melbourne Cup to his credit, Dunaden in 2011, but like the Japanese success in the Arc has eluded him.
“As a jockey you dream about winning the Arc, as you can imagine considering my history with Japan, it would mean a lot to win the Arc with a Japanese horse,” said Lemaire seated beside Ozeki after Through Seven Seas’ final pre-race gallop at Chantilly.
“It would be such an event if I were to win the Arc with a Japanese horse, so I’m going to give everything I have.”
Source : France24