Coach Toru Kurita believes Japan’s dream of a maiden Arc victory is “within reach” as the defending champion travels to Paris with a prime chance.
As a racing nation, Japan has flourished in recent years, clinching multimillion-pound prizes around the world, from the Middle East to the United States.
But, the famous Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trophy – Europe’s ultimate meeting of the best stars over a mile and a half – has so far eluded the Japanese.
Ending that hoodoo has become something of a national obsession, amplified by a number of near misses in recent years with Orferve (2012 and 2013) and Nakayama Festa (2010) both taking second place.
Kurita himself came close but saw his 2006 pre-race favorite Deep Impact come in third before being disqualified later.
The defending champion, currently an 8/1 shot for Sunday’s big race at ParisLongchamp live on Sky Sports Racing, is the main hope of the four Japanese horses in this year’s 20-rider field after winning all three of his starts this year, including freshman triumphs. in Tenno Sho and Takarazuka Kinen.
Despite the weight of expectations on their shoulders, Kurita and his stable star maintain their composure.
“He’s really calm and kind when he’s in his stable, and when he’s racing he’s very focused and runs hard to the finish,” Kurita told Sky Sports Racing. “There is no doubt about his stamina.
“In truth, I try to stay calm, like when I’m in Japan. It’s important that the horse stays the same and doesn’t get stressed.
“The Arc is a very tough race to win and the horses representing Japan haven’t made it yet, but it looks within reach.
The best Arc contenders from around the world
Luxembourg (IRELAND) – 7/2
Mountaineer (BRITTANY) – 11/2
Torquator Tasso (GERMANY) – 6/1
Vadeni (FRANCE) – 15/2
Defending champion (JAPAN) – 8/1
Westover (BRITAIN) – 9/1
Onesto (FRANCE) – 10/1
“So I think everyone is looking forward to this moment. But over the past few years the level of racing in Japan has improved.
“It would be nice if it was time to win the race. But the most important part of our job is to get the defending champion in top form for Arc day.”
The defending champion arrived at his temporary base in France on September 16 and acclimatized to the local conditions.
“The goal is for him to get used to the pitch and prepare for next week,” Kurita said. “He arrived last week and everything has gone very well so far. He is progressing well.
“His progress is due to maturity, more than distance. I understood the horse’s characteristics and his strengths.”
With plenty of rain expected in Paris over the Arc weekend, the defending champion’s stamina could be well and truly tested, while Kurita admits the ground conditions will be somewhat unknown.
“There is the matter of the field, but the quality of the Japanese horses has improved, so with the four starters this year we will see how well they can do,” he said. “We won’t know until day.
“I’m going to make sure he’s 100 per cent to give the best performance possible.
“His strength is that he has a good cruising speed and can run powerfully to the end of his races. The most important thing is that he has established his style of racing.
“The name Titleholder means the horse that won the titles, and now that he has won three Group 1 races, he deserves that name!
“The name suits him well and I hope he wins many more titles!”