Japan team in France for Arc buildup
* Note: Victoire Pisa has been withdrawn from the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and the Prix Foy.
The colt is lame in his left hind which has interrupted his training.
Japan’s quartet of Arc contenders – 2011 Dubai World Cup winner Victoire Pisa, 2010 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runnerup Nakayama Festa, Nakayama Knight and Hiruno d’Amour -- arrived safely at their respective training grounds in France early in the evening of Aug. 10 in preparation for their Arc trial runs. Three will take on the Prix Foy on Sept. 11, with Nakayama Knight being readied to run in the Prix Niel on the day’s same card. All four horses have been registered in the Oct. 2 Arc.
“First of all, we have arrived safely. I’m relieved since both horses are well,” said Katsuhiko Sumii, trainer of the 4-year-old Victoire Pisa, who was traveling with the Mitsugu Kon-trained Hiruno d’Amour, also 4. “I’ll start thinking of his training schedule from here on,” Sumii said. The soft-spoken, affable Sumii, 47, has accumulated 17 top-level wins at home since opening his stable in 2001 and this year gave Japan, still reeling from the March 11 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster triple blow, its first Dubai World Cup.
Victoire Pisa, 2011 Dubai World Cup winner
Both Victoire Pisa and Hiruno d’Amour are to be housed in the Paris yard of France-based Japanese trainer Satoshi Kobayashi. Nakayama Festa, 5, and the 3-year-old Nakayama Knight will be housed nearby with Tony Clout. Yoshitaka Ninomiya, trainer of the two Shinichi Izumi-owned horses, said, “First of all, it’s a relief they’ve arrived safely. Both horses look good. The horses really appreciate the cool climate. As for their work, I’ll be giving a lot of thought to things as we go along.” Hiruno d’Amour’s assistant trainer said the colt was “calm and hadn’t worked up a sweat. He looks in fine shape, is eating well and his eyes are bright.”
The Arc, with a purse of 4 million euro (about 440 mil. yen), is seen by most as the pinnacle of racing. Sumii, whose wins abroad also include the American Oaks, the Hong Kong Mile and the Melbourne Cup, said, "I think this race is actually the world championship of horseracing. It will be an honor just to be involved. I am sure that we have a chance to win.” Last year, Sumii fielded Victoire Pisa in the Prix Niel, where he finished fourth, before the colt went on to a seventh-place finish in the Arc (he crossed the line in eighth).
This year, Victoire Pisa’s trial will be the Prix Foy. After his Arc run, Victoire Pisa ran third in the Japan Cup, then, paired with Italian rider Mirco Demuro, captured his next three runs -- the yearend Arima Kinen (G1), the Nakayama Kinen (G2) on Feb. 27, and the Dubai World Cup on March 26. The son of the Sunday Silence-sired Neo Universe, out of the Machiavellian mare Whitewater Affair, is now 8-for-13, and has only finished out of the money twice. Victoire Pisa, with earnings in Japan of close to 600 million yen, is owned by Yoshimi Ichikawa and Teruya Yoshida, and was bred at Shadai Farm in Hokkaido.
Nakayama Festa (right),
2010 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runnerup
Nakayama Festa’s outstanding performance in last year’s Arc gave eventual winner Workforce a formidable run for the money and the racing world is keen to see a rematch this year. His form since last year’s Arc, however, is hard to assess. Nakayama Festa was given only one run after returning to Japan from France. That was the Japan Cup in November, in which he went to the gate the second pick but managed only a 14th from among 18 runners. The Prix Foy will be his first race since the Japan Cup. Sired by Stay Gold, also a son of Sunday Silence, he was bred at Arai Bokujo in Mukawa-cho, Hokkaido. He has five wins and three seconds from 13 outings. Nakayama Festa picked up his first and only G1 last year with a winning run in the Takarazuka Kinen. In addition, he has won one G2 level race and a G3 level event. He is expected to be paired once again with his regular rider Masayoshi Ebina, who took the reins in last year’s Arc.
Nakayama Festa’s Ninomiya, 48, and a trainer since 1990, has won three top-level races in Japan, two with El Condor Pasa, the other Nakayama Festa. Ninomiya also has dared to take on the big races outside of Japan and has the nation’s best record in the Arc -- two seconds -- to his name. The first was notched by El Condor Pasa in 1999. Though 10 horses have tried, the first in 1969, a Japan-based horse has yet to give the country its first victory in the elusive Arc.
Hiruno d'Amour, 2011 Tenno Sho (Spring) winner
Hiruno d’Amour, by the Sunday Silence-sired Manhattan Cafe, is out of the Lammtarra mare Share Elegance. Hiruno d’Amour’s 14 starts to date have given him four wins, five seconds and a third. The colt leaped to graded competition on his third race, but failed to find the winner’s circle until this spring, with a win in the Sankei Osaka Hai (2,000 meters, G2) on April 3. He captured his first big prize his next time out, in his last outing, the prestigious Tenno Sho (Spring), a 3,200-meter G1 at Kyoto on May 1.
Nakayama Knight (first from right: black cap)
Nakayama Knight has finished first in three of his nine starts, along with three seconds. Also by Stay Gold, the colt started the year well with a win in the Kyodo News Service Hai (1,800 meters, G3), but went on to a fifth and a fourth in his next two runs, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas)(2,000 meters, G1) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1) over 2,400 meters. Nakayama Knight has yet to prove himself at distances longer than 1,800 meters. His other win was at the mile.