Kiseki finishes third in Arc trial Prix Foy
With the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just three weeks away, action heated up at Longchamp Racecourse on Sept. 15 with Arc Trials Day, featuring three turf races for Arc entrants over the classic distance of 2,400 meters – the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, and the Group 2 Prix Foy and Prix Niel.
This year, of Japan’s three Arc hopefuls, only Kiseki, the Katsuhiko Sumii-trained 5-year-old son of Rulership, got a prep on French turf, in the Prix Foy, the second race on the Sunday card of eight, the first of the day’s trials, and worth €130,000.
Looking to give Japan its fourth win of the Prix Foy and become Japan’s third horse (after El Condor Pasa and Orfevre) to capture the race, Kiseki, with Christophe Soumillon in the saddle, was instead given a tough run for his money.
A tiny field of four ranging in age from 5 to 7 and all running under 58kg featured Waldgeist, a 5-year-old from the Andre Fabre stables who won the Foy last year and ran fourth in the 2018 Arc.
True to recent form, Kiseki broke well, and immediately took the lead, setting a solid pace with favorite Waldgeist settling directly behind. The field held steady running head to tail until well into the straight, where Kiseki was passed 200 meters out by Waldgeist, then by Way to Paris.
Waldgeist lengthened his lead, easily pulling away from Way to Paris, with Cristian Demuro up, to scoop the race by two lengths with no urging from 26-year-old Frenchman Pierre-Charles Boudot. Kiseki held his ground as best he could and managed to finish in third a length behind the runner-up and only a head in front of Silverwave.
Trainer Sumii’s wish to see Kiseki “race behind the frontrunner” was not to be, but Soumillon blamed the surface not the trip for the loss, having declared Kiseki in “perfect condition” two days prior after riding work at Les Aigles training grounds in Chantilly. “The pace slowed down but he was very relaxed,” Soumillon said. “Still the track was too hard for him. I think he wanted something a bit softer. He was in great shape but Waldgeist easily passed him just before the finish. Kiseki never gave up though. He kept giving it his all.”
“It was his first race in a while and with this race behind him, I think he’ll improve,” said the 38-year-old Soumillon, who was racing with Kiseki for the first time. “The Arc field will be very strong but I know the course and I think he’ll be able to step up his game.”
Sumii, 55, was optimistic despite the results. “Soumillon pushed him solidly and I think we can expect improvement. The Arc is the toughest race in the world but I think this horse is qualified for it, if he can improve some with this race under his belt.”
Four times Japanese horses have finished second in the Arc, but none has yet to win it, which has established the Longchamp icon as Japanese horsemen’s holy grail. This will be Sumii’s second horse aimed at the Arc (after Victoire Pisa) and his third bid.
Earlier in the week, Sumii had commented, “Kiseki has a big stride and he was able to do well even over the sloppy ground in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger). Of course, it’s not as simple as saying he can handle heavy going in Japan so he should be able to handle heavy ground in Europe, but it was definitely a factor in deciding to bring him to Europe. I’m hoping he can handle the undulations and a rough track.”
Victory has continued to elude Kiseki, whose last win was the 3-year-old classic Kikuka Sho in 2017, but he nonetheless has come close, running second in three of his last five starts prior to the Prix Foy, all Grade 1 events, including last year’s Japan Cup behind Almond Eye.
Kiseki is to join two other Japan-based horses in the Arc – this year’s Tenno Sho (Spring) winner Fierement and 2018 Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) champ Blast Onepiece, who arrived in Newmarket on Sept. 11.
Waldgeist is British-bred and French-trained. His time in the Prix Foy was 2 minutes, 27.57 seconds over good turf. Winner of three Group 1 events (all in France), the chestnut son of Galileo has raced in six countries, including as far from home as the United States and Hong Kong. He finished third this year in both the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The Foy victory boosted his career record to 8-for-20.