Fillies sweep top Arc slots as Japan team falters
Hiruno d'Amour and Nakayama Festa
So close and then so far. There are those who may have thought that last year's Arc performance by Nakayama Festa – second by a head and the best ever for Japan – was surely an indication that the Holy Grail was finally close at hand. But the 90th running of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 2 would have snapped them rudely back to reality with a reminder of one basic rule – there is no sure thing in racing.
And just hours after the seemingly invincible Rocket Man shocked in Japan with his first run out of the money, the Arc was conquered in a surprise attack by a virtual battalion of Amazons, with Japan's Hiruno d'Amour and Nakayama Festa strolling home in 10th and 11th place in the field of 16. The two Japanese horses crossed the line in the 2,400-meter G1 more than 10 lengths off the 3-year-old filly Danedream, who pulled away in the final 100 meters to win with 5 lengths to spare.
Following the German filly piloted by Andrasch Starke, 37, over the line was the Irish-bred Shareta, another 3-year-old dismissed by the punters. Snow Fairy, ridden by Lanfranco Dettori and winner of last year's Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto, followed Shareta home by a neck in third. The first male over the line was So You Think in fourth place. Race favorite Sarafina finished in seventh place.
Danedream , a daughter of Lomitas, sat handily behind the pacemakers, then answered Starke's call to fire with a force that rocketed her to the finish line. It was only the second German win in the race's history and the filly's third group 1 victory in a row following the Grosser Preis von Baden and the Grosser Preis von Berlin.
The win by the little-known Danedream was not only a huge surprise to punters, but was also run in course record time, 2 minutes 24.49 seconds, and shaved 0.11 seconds off Peintre Celebre's previous best set in 1997.
It was the first win of the Arc for trainer Peter Schiergen, who had been five-times German champion jockey but had never been given a chance to ride in the Arc. Schiergen took out his trainer's license in 1997 and got his best Arc run, a third with Tiger Hill, the following year. "This is a really big day for German racing," Schiergen said. " And my best moment in racing. I don't believe it. She won her last two races very easily, but I didn't think she would be such an easy winner. She is a small filly with a big, big heart."
"This is the win of a lifetime," said Starke, who became the first German rider to win the Arc. "It's like a dream. She made a fabulous burst when I asked her to give it her all. The acceleration was worthy of a very, very great filly."
Danedream was bred in Germany by Gestut Brummerhof. The bay filly is out of the unraced Danehill mare, Danedrop. She is owned by Gestut Burg Eberstein and Teruya Yoshida.
Turning in the better results of the two Arc contenders from Japan was Hiruno d'Amour, who started from the far inside slot and settled in 5-6 position. He took the turn neatly without a loss of ground before moving slightly out but faded quickly from the 300-meter mark and bettered his sire Manhattan Cafe's 13th-place finish in the Arc by only three.
"I think the race itself went well," said jockey Shinji Fujita "But, he was quite agitated up to the start, to an extent he's never shown in Japan. But the time we got in the gate, he was sweating, and during the race he just wasn't able to give us much."
Trainer Mitsugu Kon, as well, blamed the loss on the colt's unusual restlessness. "He was totally ready for the race, but somehow the atmosphere got the best of him. From the pre-parade ring, he lost his cool and couldn't give us him best. The field was a formidable one too, I think."
Nakayama Festa broke from the far outside and raced two from the rear in the early stages. Plans to charge forward from the stretch as he had last year, however, never materialized, as the 5-year-old failed to kick.
Jockey Masayoshi Ebina had no explanation. "He was nothing like last year, " he said, but immediately added on an upbeat note, "I think it's fantastic that he was able to come all the way to the Arc, after a long time off and his run in the Prix Foy. It's unfortunate that he couldn't give us a run like he did last year. His condition just didn't improve in a big way and he wasn't able to return to his best. It's too bad for this time, but if you'd don't try you can never win. I hope to do my best in any chances that may come my way in the future," Ebina said.
Trainer Yoshitaka Ninomiya was also perplexed, "I don't know, maybe it was the heat," he said searching for an explanation for the loss. "I really felt just how high the level of European racing is. It's been a long and winding road, but to have come this far is thanks to all my staff. I also want to express my appreciation to the owner for bringing us here," Ninomiya said. "The training went better than it had for the Prix Foy. It wasn't the kind of run he can give us in his best times, but he did try his hardest," the 59-year-old said in praise of Nakayama Festa, then added with determination, "The horses and the horsemen must continue to study and rise to the challenge. Someday, I want to win this race."
Despite the loss by Japan's duo, one Japanese still made the news, as it was learned that just two days before the race Shadai's Teruya Yoshida had acquired a half-share in the winning filly Danedream.
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