Nakayama Festa did Japan proud Sunday with a second-place run in the Prix de l'Arc Triomphe trial, the G2 Prix Foy at Longchamp. Nakayama Festa, ridden by Masayoshi Ebina and fielded by trainer Yoshitaka Ninomiya, gave eventual winner Duncan a run for his money as the Japanese 4-year-old presented Duncan and rider William Buick with their biggest threat from the six-horse field.
Duncan was sent to the lead on the far outside but was overtaken by Nakayama Festa with 2 furlongs to go. He then regained the lead with 100 meters left and pushed on when challenged by a hard-driving Nakayama Festa, to finish 3/4 length ahead of the Japanese contender.
Nakayama Festa, by Stay Gold out of Dear Wink, raced in third position until taking the lead with 100 meters left in the race, but was unable to hold his ground against Duncan. Nakayama Festa was racing for the first time since his winning run in the (G1) Takarazuka Kinen June 27 at Hanshin Racecourse.
At the finish, Timos was next over the line in third, with race favorite Byword ending in fourth place.
Duncan, trained by John Gosden, and owned by Normandie Stud Limited. covered the 2,400 meters of soft turf in 2 minutes 35.9 seconds.
The Prix Foy was the seventh race of the day at Longchamp, with a 4:45 p.m. local time post time.
Also running on the Sunday card at Longchamp just three weeks from the Arc weekend were two other Japan-based horses – Pisa no Varon and Victoire Pisa -- both trained by the globetrotting Katsuhiko Sumii.
Early in the day, Pisa no Varon unsuccessfully took on the 14-strong field of the G3 Prix du Petit Couvert , a 1,000-meter sprint for 3-year-olds and up. The Prix du Petit Couvert was run at 2:35 p.m. local time as the third race on the Sunday card.
The Manhattan Cafe-sired Pisa no Varon showed good early speed under Yutaka Take, but weakened quickly from about halfway to finish in the far rear. Winning was the English-bred Swiss Diva, a 4-year-old filly by Pivotal ridden by French champion Ioritz Mendizabal. Swiss Diva bested the field with a room-to-spare 2 lengths and a head and not a touch of the whip. Swiss Diva is owned and bred by Lordship Stud Limited and trained by David Elsworth. Her winning time was 57.5 seconds over soft turf.
Swiss Diva was followed over the line by Bluster under William Buick and Mar Adentro, with Christophe Soumillon up, in third.
Pisa no Varon had not raced since early May and remains winless in JRA races, but has notched three wins at the NAR Nagoya track.
At 4:15 p.m., Victoire Pisa took on six other fellow 3-year-olds in the Prix Niel, a G2 event over a classic 2,400 meters. Victoire Pisa waited patiently under Yutaka Take until the final 2 furlongs, where he quickened and moved up to third position with 200 meters to go. He was unable, however, to find what he needed and was relegated to fourth place 8 lengths off the winner, Behkabad under Christophe Lemaire.
The Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris winner Behkabad ran down Planteur close to the finish to score by a short head in the Prix Niel, a race that has been won by subsequent Arc victors Montjeu, Sinndar, Dalakhani, Hurricane Run and Rail Link. Kidnapping finished in third place.
Behkabad, who covered the 2,400 meters of soft turf in 2 minutes 30.8 seconds, is owned and bred by the Aga Khan and trained by Jean-Claude Rouget. With the win of the Prix Niel, Behkabad has considerably upped his likely popularity in the Arc.
Victoire Pisa was running for the first time since his third-place finish in the (G1) Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) on May 30.
Both Nakayama Festa, whose trainer Ninomiya succeeded in taking second place with El Condor Pasa in the 1999 Arc, and Victoire Pisa are registered for the Arc on Oct. 3. Pisa no Varon is set to take part in the mile G2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Oct. 2.
In the past 20 years the Prix Niel, Prix Foy and Prix Vermeille (a G1 race for 3-year-old and upwards fillies and mares won by Midday at Longchamp on Sunday) have produced 12 winners of the Prix de l'Arc Triomphe, as well as seven runners-up and six thirds.
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