Kiseki’s seventh tops Japan trio in Arc
Japan’s three hopefuls – Kiseki, Blast Onepiece and Fierement – finished in seventh, 11th and 12th place, respectively, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp Racecourse on Sunday. Victory went to the British-born, French-trained 5-year-old Waldgeist, with race favorite and two-time winner of the race, Enable, finishing a length and three-quarters behind in second. Three-year-old colt Sottsass made a late charge to round out the top three.
Kiseki’s seventh was the best result since 2014, but far off Japan’s best -- four second-place finishes – recorded since their first Arc bid in 1969. Nonetheless, all three of this year’s runners did their country proud by running their hearts out in unrelenting pursuit of Japanese horsemen’s most coveted prize.
And, though he was on a French-trained runner, Yutaka Take beat the Japanese raiders to the finish line aboard Soft Light in sixth place, eight lengths ahead of Kiseki.
Kiseki, a 5-year-old by Rulership and winner of the 2017 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St .Leger), had held back midfield and wasn’t able to keep up when the frontrunners accelerated in the stretch. “It’s a shame,” said trainer Katsuhiko Sumii. “The plan had been to get a position more to the front but that didn’t happen. He raced in with the others, but I don’t think he looked that keen. I don’t believe Kiseki wasn’t suited to this kind of going, but the Japanese horses do seem to have found it difficult.”
Belgian-born Christophe Soumillon, aboard Kiseki for the second time since his prep-race Prix Foy, said: “It was a very good race. He ran next to Waldgeist the whole time and things were good until the third and fourth bend. He couldn’t pick up speed due to the heavy track. The ground is unique at Longchamp and this soft ground just didn’t suit him.”
Finishing some 12 lengths behind Kiseki was Blast Onepiece, winner of last year’s Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix). The Harbinger-sired colt had held his own running midfield under Yuga Kawada, Japan’s current leading jockey. But into the straight he quickly dropped back.
“The results were unfortunate,” said trainer Masahiro Otake. “He didn’t get worked up before the race since he didn’t have to circle around the paddock as much as he does at home, and he was in a better frame of mind than usual going to the gate, but the ground was bad. I know that’s no excuse, since everyone ran under the same conditions. And, the jockey rode as planned within striking distance of the frontrunners. He’d already had to urge him on in the false straight, however, so it was tough in the final stage.
“This was quite an Arc for my first overseas bid and I’m afraid my lack of experience has done me in. Still, I’m going to take what I’ve learned and add a whole lot more to that. Surely something good will come of it sometime in the future.”
Blast Onepiece and Fierement had been stabled in Newmarket prior to the Arc and the two, unlike Kiseki, did not have a prep run in Europe. Kawada, who was riding for the third time in the Arc, said, “It was a very difficult race and he’d done some nice work in Newmarket and went to this race in good shape. He broke well and things went smoothly at first but the going was just too soft. It’s already a tough course, so this on top of that made things really difficult.”
Fierement, a Deep Impact 4-year-old colt, had moved up quickly from the gate to just behind the frontrunner, but was unable to maintain his exuberance. He finished last in 12th place. “I hadn’t planned to send him forward from the start, but he broke so well that that’s where we were. He was a bit keen as well,” said jockey Christophe Lemaire, who was chasing his first Arc victory.
“It’s a shame. He was in good shape and I’d hoped for better results. He was flagging early on and stopped in the false straight. The track was just too heavy and he couldn’t pick up any speed. He needed a faster track.”
“I’d walked the track and had decided on an off-the-pace strategy,” said Fierement’s trainer Takahisa Tezuka. “But he broke better than expected and I think that is what did us in. I thought he might be able to hold his ground but as expected, that wasn’t going to happen.
“Even with the trip from Newmarket, he was looking good and was relaxed. Everything had gone smoothly up to the race. I knew the track was going to be heavy so I can’t really use that as an excuse for doing poorly.”
Yutaka Take on Soft Light, a 3-year-old colt trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, was also hampered by the heavy going. “He couldn’t keep up at all over the first half,” said Take, whose first Arc runner was Deep Impact 15 years ago. “I thought the soft ground would actually work in his favor and he does have good late speed, so I gave it my best until the end. It was a difficult race, with more than half the field flagging, but he did run well in the final stages. I think he ran his race.”
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