Horses To Follow » Kizuna


Kizuna was the horse for me who furthered his case for the Arc de Triomphe most on Arc Trials day at Longchamp on Sunday. Both Treve and Orfevre admittedly put up more impressive performances visually than Kizuna did, but the Prix Niel looked the strongest of the trials beforehand and there was a lot to like about the performance that Kizuna put up in winning it.

To start with, he was racing for the first time since he won the Japanese Derby in May (for which he had been sent off a strong favourite). His sire Deep Impact didn’t run in a trial before he ran in the Arc, but all the other Japanese horses who have gone close in the Arc in recent years – El Condor Pasa, Nakayama Festa and Orfevre last year – came on appreciably for their run in a trial. (Incidentally, they were all four-year-olds, running in a race in which three-year-olds are advantaged.)

Kizuna was also racing on ground that was softer than anything he had encountered before, and he handled it well. On top of that, he was dropped out from the start and raced right towards the rear in a race in which the pace wasn’t overly strong, as is often the case in these trials, despite the presence of a pace-maker. He was in a share of second last place turning into the home straight, and he was wider than ideal around the home turn (despite the fact that he started from stall three), but he travelled really well, he eased closer two furlongs out, and he showed a fine turn of foot to go past a field of high-class three-year-olds and hit the front deep inside the final furlong.

He was probably slightly fortunate to win in the end, he just beat Ruler Of The World in a head-bob. Also, Ruler Of The World was a little short of room and had to switch two furlongs out. Whereas Kizuna had an uninterrupted run down the outside. However, lack of a recent run may have started to take its toll on the winner late on.

The manner in which he travelled into the race was really likeable. If he comes on for this run as much as his trainer seems to think he will, that gives him a big chance of winning the Arc. Despite four-year-olds finishing first, second and fourth in last year’s Arc, three-year-olds are still very much the correct starting point in the race (they have won eight of the last 10 arcs and 15 of the last 20), their 8lb weight-for-age allowance is generous at this time of year, and Kizuna has beaten some of the best of the three-year-olds this year despite apparently being a little way off full fitness. With much of the focus on the performance that last year’s unfortunate Arc runner-up Orfevre put up in winning the Prix Foy, the effort that his compatriot Kizuna put up in winning the Niel may have gone under the radar a little.

15th September 2013