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Titleholder team dreaming of first Japanese Arc success

Wed 28 Sep 2022

Trainer Toru Kurita admits it would be a dream come true if Titleholder can provide Japan with an elusive first victory in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

It has been an ongoing quest for the Japanese to claim Europe’s premier middle-distance prize, with the El Condor Pasa memorably pushing Montjeu close in 1999.

The hugely popular Deep Impact was beaten less than a length into third place when hot favourite for the 2006 renewal of the Longchamp showpiece, while four years later Nakayama Festa was denied by a head by Sir Michael Stoute’s Workforce.

Japan looked sure to finally claim Arc glory when Orfevre swept clear in 2012, but he was heartbreakingly reeled in by Solemia and beaten a neck. He returned to Paris 12 months later and finished second once more, this time behind dual Arc heroine Treve.

Titleholder, winner of last year’s Japanese St Leger, was last seen winning the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in June – becoming the first horse to win the Grade One contest and the Tenno Sho in the same season since Deep Impact 16 years ago.

Asked what it would mean for his stable to become the first Japanese Arc winner, Kurita said: “It’s a dream for everyone. Many prestigious, very good Japanese horses have come and tried it and haven’t won.

“For me personally it’s really a dream just to be at the start of this race and we will do as much as we can to win it.

“It’s very difficult to tell what the reaction would be in Japan. Obviously everybody would be super happy. Every year the horses come to Longchamp and have a lot of Japanese followers.”

After seeing Titleholder enjoy a Wednesday morning workout in Chantilly, Kurita is confident he is firing on all cylinders ahead of Europe’s biggest race.

“We gave him a grass gallop this morning. There were two horses in front of him and he was waiting behind and he adapted himself very well to the ground,” said the trainer.

“They went approximately a mile and a quarter, went slowly at the beginning and then quickened in the final four furlongs. The horse came close to joining the other ones in front. It was a good workout.

“It is very difficult to put a number on it (how much he can improve), but I can feel that the horse is getting better – he is improving and coming right for the race.”

Kazuo Yokoyama has been ever present in the saddle aboard Titleholder this year and is relishing the opportunity to ride him again on his French debut.

He said: “It’s a very prestigious race and I’m very happy to ride in it, but I’m not going to concern myself with the other horses and will just ride my race.

“As the trainer explained, we did a gallop this morning with two horses in front and the main thing for me was to be behind and to check that my horse was mentally fit and well.

“The ground was very soft, but my horse didn’t have any problems going through it and I have a very good idea now how he is going to be in the race.

“Two or three years ago I didn’t think I would ride in this race. I’m extremely delighted to be here now and very happy to ride Titleholder, who every time I’ve ridden him has become stronger.”

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