By Craig Kemp
24th June 2019
It’s been 50 years since Japan first sent a horse to run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, when Speed Symboli finished 11th.
Other Japanese raiders have come much closer to that elusive first victory since, with a trio of extremely near misses standing out as the most difficult to take.
El Condor Pasa attempted to make all in 1999, before being run down in the final strides by superstar sire Montjeu.
Nakayama Festa then got to within a head of Workforce in 2010 when locked in a tight battle for the final two furlongs with that year’s Epsom Derby victor.
Then the wait finally seemed over in 2012 when Orfevre stormed into the lead with a burst down the outside. However, he appeared to idle in front and allowed 33/1 shot outsider Solemia to collar him on the line.
This will be the 98th running of the Arc and the leading Japanese fancy in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe betting is Saturnalia at 25/1, whose unbeaten record was ended when sent off odds-on favourite in the Japanese Derby.
Despite finishing quickly, he was given too much to do by jockey Damian Lane and could only finish fourth.
However, at half the price higher up the betting is another horse who technically could ensure Japan wins the Arc for the first time.
Japan to showcase himself as the best European middle-distance three-year-old of 2019
When it comes to Royal Ascot winners, none were more visually impressive than Aidan O’Brien’s Japan, who hosed up in the King Edward VII Stakes.
Ryan Moore piloted the horse on the widest route throughout, clearly realising he was on a class horse and ensuring he avoided any trouble in running.
This proved sensible, as the Epsom Derby third quickened smartly and soon put the Group 2 to bed, winning by the best part of five lengths.
O’Brien said after the success: “This is a smart horse. He’s coming forward lovely and progressing all the time.”
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 27th has been earmarked as the likely next step for Japan, with Broome potentially the more likely of the O’Brien three-year-old contingent to step up in trip for the St Leger.
This leaves Japan as a candidate to be one of the O’Brien clan sent to Longchamp for the Arc and his chances will be added by a weight allowance at odds of 12/1.
Three-year-old colts get a 6lb pull in the weights from the older males and 3lbs from the older females, which includes current 3/1 ante-post Arc favourite and hat-trick seeking Enable.
Some 11 of the last 16 Arc winners have been aged three. It’s 40/1 that Japan lands the King George and Arc double.