Things We Learned » Japan and the Arc

Japan and the Arc

One of these years, a Japanese-trained horse is going to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

It almost happened in 1999, it looked for a few strides as if it was going to happen, when Masayoshi Ebina kicked El Condor Pasa into a three-lead on the run to the final furlong, but that was before Michael Kinane got Montjeu out after him and forced his horse up to win by half a length.

Takao Watanabe’s horse was just unlucky to come up against the brilliant Montjeu on the day. If Michael Tabor’s horse had not been in the race, the Japanese raider would have run out a six-length winner.

There were others between El Condor Pasa and Deep Impact in 2006, but none who fuelled the passion like Deep Impact fuelled the passion. It is difficult for us – mere gai-koku-jin – to understand the depth of feeling that Deep Impact engendered among Japanese sports fans. People backed him just so that they could keep the ticket, with no intention of ever collecting. Think Henry Shefflin multiplied by Niall Horan.

Defeat for Deep Impact was met with incredulity and shock and sorrow among the Japanese throngs. Those who lumped on the hare at short odds in the match with the tortoise could not have been as disappointed. If anything, however, that defeat fuelled the passion further.

(Slight digression: Deep Impact was subsequently disqualified from third place because traces of a banned substance were found in his sample. Think of the fall-out if he had been disqualified from first place instead of third. In many ways, it was probably a very good thing that he did not pass the post first.)

The largely unheralded Nakayama Festa ran Workforce to a head in 2010. Again, Masayoshi Ebina was in the plate and, again, he was just caught on the line by a Derby winner. Then, there was Orfevre, wayward and beaten by Solemia in 2012, and Orfevre in 2013, beaten by the brilliance of Treve.

So, four times the Japanese have finished second in the Arc, three times in the last four years. Tomorrow, they field a triumvirate of high-class horses in a race that, for now, lacks a European superstar. This could be their year.

Arc stat attack

Some Arc stats then. A couple of things for you to digest as you mull over one of the most open Arcs in years.

Three-year-olds win the Arc. Three-year-olds have won 16 of the last 20 renewals and eight of the last 10. Three-year-olds have won 80% of the last 10 renewals from just 45% of the runners. If you had had €1 win on every three-year-old who ran in the race in the last 10 years, you would admittedly be showing a net loss of €10.46, but if you had had €1 place on every three-year-old, you would be showing a net profit of €4.13.

Even more important than being the correct age, however, is having the correct draw. You simply have to be drawn inside.

Before Treve came along last year and confounded several laws of physics, the previous nine winners had been drawn eight or lower, and eight of them had been drawn six or lower.

More than that, horses drawn 11 or lower have filled 16 of the 20 places available in the last 10 years, and horses drawn nine or lower have filled 13 of them.

If you had had €1 on every horse drawn six or lower in the last 10 years, you would have made a net profit of €29.54, and if you had had €1 each-way on every horse drawn six or lower, you would have made a net profit of an impressive €65.30. €1 win on every horse drawn seven or higher would have resulted in a net loss of €84.50, while €1 each-way on every horse drawn seven or higher would have resulted in a net loss of €118.56.

So begin your search at stall one and work your way out. Slowly.

Prince going places

There was a lot to like about the performance that Prince Connoisseur put up in winning the five-furlong handicap at The Curragh last Sunday.

Fast away, Fran Berry quickly had him across and racing against the stands rail, which is usually the place to be on the straight track at The Curragh, but it may be unwise to automatically assume that he gained an advantage in so doing. He had to expend energy to get sufficiently clear so that he could tack over, and the stands rail may not have conferred that great an advantage anyway. The second and third both raced out in the centre of the track. Actually, three of the six horses who formed the blanket finish for the minor placings raced towards the centre.

John Feane’s horse won by just three parts of a length in the end, but he led just about all the way, and he left the impression that he could have found more if more had been required. It was a solid race, run in a good time, faster than standard, and there is a solid look to the form with the second, third and fourth – good sprint handicappers all – all well-backed beforehand.

The handicapper has raised Prince Connoisseur 6lb to a mark of 89 for Sunday’s win, but that is fair. The Art Connoisseur gelding is only three and this was just his sixth race, so he could improve significantly now as a sprinter. He has now won over five furlongs and six, on easy ground, on Polytrack and on fast ground, and on a straight track and on a turning track, so he has lots of options. Fran Berry has ridden him to three of his four victories now, he obviously gets on well with the horse and knows him well. He will be of interest wherever he runs next, and he could be a horse for some of the big sprint handicaps next season as a four-year-old.

Many happy returns

It was great to see Mikey Fogarty back in the saddle at Navan on Saturday. It looked on the approach to the second last fence in the two-and-a-half-mile chase that he was going to come back with a winner on Theatre Mill, but he was ultimately probably out-stayed by the 4/9 favourite Nearly Nama’d. Even so, Paul Nolan’s horse did not lack for assistance from the saddle, and even a ‘brought down’ in the beginners’ chase could not dampen the day.

Fogarty said afterwards that he was riding out for lots of trainers, including Paul Nolan, Colm Murphy, Liz Doyle and, of course Willie Mullins. Winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March on the Mullins-trained Don Poli, he should be able to pick up again now where he left off in the spring.

Great also to see Mark Bolger come back after three weeks off at Sligo on Wednesday, and win on Stynes at Clonmel on Thursday, and fantastic to see Ruby Walsh back at Tipperary tomorrow after four months on the sidelines. Oh it’s getting going again now all right. (Sizing Europe’s return at Gowran Park today tells you so.)

Old man sprinter

It is not going to be easy for the juveniles Cotai Glory or Goken in the Prix de l’Abbaye tomorrow. The last juvenile to win the Abbaye was the Sigy in 1978, ridden by Freddy Head, who beat the Vincent O’Brien-trained Solinus into second place. That’s 36 years ago.

That said, only three juveniles have run in the race in the last 10 years. Remember also, they do receive 18lb from their elders. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult.

Three-year-olds do not receive a weight allowance from their elders and, sure enough, Total Gallery’s win in 2009 is the only victory recorded by a three-year-old in the last 10 years from 32 attempts. Contrast that with five and six-year-olds, who have had three and four winners respectively from similar representation. The Abbaye is generally a race for the elders.

© The Irish Field, 4th October 2014