Japanese suffer again with Orfevre in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Ninety minutes before the first race here at Longchamp on Sunday, four hours before the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself, nearly 100 people were queuing for a betting booth set aside for Japan‘s travelling fans and the man behind the window was fighting a losing battle. For every punter who left clutching a ticket two more seemed to join the back of the line.

It was, as it turned out, a futile exercise. Orfevre and Kizuna, who had drawn an estimated 6,000 Japanese racegoers to Paris, one for every mile between Tokyo and Paris, ran well in defeat but could finish only second and fourth respectively. The punters’ money stayed in France.

But a fair percentage of it would have stayed behind in any case because, while the man in the betting booth would not have had time to ponder the irony, many of the bets he was struggling to process were not being placed in the expectation of being cashed.

There was no lack of confidence behind Orfevre and Kizuna and their supporters had travelled not just in hope but with a realistic expectation that at last there would be a first victory for Japan in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Japanese fans wanted to be there to see it and to back the winner.

But what many did not want, or need, was to pick up the money afterwards. The winning slips, if such they proved to be, would not be mere souvenirs but artefacts too, a sign that those who placed the bets were not just there for a horse race on a pleasant afternoon in the Bois de Boulogne but to witness a moment of history too.

It was the same in 2006, when the great Japanese champion Deep Impact could finish only third with the weight of a nation’s expectation on his back. That afternoon there were estimates of between 10,000 and 15,000 visiting fans from Japan and, though Orfevre and Kizuna did not have quite the same pulling power, the enthusiasm and excitement were just as compelling.

Longchamp itself played its part on an afternoon when three cultures came together in Paris: west, east and the middle east, via the meeting’s sponsor, Qatar. As well as the betting windows with Japanese-speaking staff, there were bilingual guides roaming the main enclosure, and many signs in Japanese too. On the front of Paris-Turf, the French equivalent of the Racing Post, Orfevre and Christophe Soumillon were exploding like a firework from the Arc de Triomphe itself.

As Orfevre went to post he was a 6-5 chance on the PMU, the tote system which monopolises French betting, yet he could be backed at 5-2 with British bookmakers. After the disappointment of last year, when a first Japanese success in the race was snatched away in the dying strides, the sense of imminent history increased as each of the 17 runners went into the stalls.

It was not to be. Orfevre let no one down but nor did he ever threaten to achieve anything more than his second-place finish, while Kizuna too came up short in one of the best Arc fields to assemble for many years.

“He was feeling very well and I was confident,” Soumillon said. “We had a good run. I would have preferred to sit fifth or sixth with a stronger pace but I don’t think Treve was beatable today.”

Orfevre and Kizuna are just the latest names on a list of gallant Japanese-trained failures at Longchamp on the first weekend in October. The near-misses began in 1999, when El Condor Pasa led from the start until well inside the final furlong before the outstanding Montjeu somehow summoned the energy to launch a winning run on desperate ground.

Deep Impact finished third behind Rail Link seven years later, though he was later disqualified after he failed a drugs test, believed to be the result of a nasal spray. Four years after that, in 2010, Nakayama Festa was just a head behind Workforce, that year’s Derby winner. Orfevre’s sudden capitulation with the race at his mercy 12 months ago was surely as close as Japan will ever get to winning an Arc without actually doing so.

It is possible that Orfevre will return to Longchamp once again in 2014, when he will be six years old. He is trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, whose father Yasuo was responsible for Deep Impact, and he at least will need little invitation to try his luck for a third time.

Kizuna, meanwhile, showed enough in defeat in Sunday’s race to suggest that he would not need to find much improvement to stand a chance in a less competitive field.

Yet both may have had, and missed, their chance, Orfevre more painfully than Kizuna. Somewhere in Japan, however, there may even now be a two-year-old or a yearling colt who will one day fly halfway round the world with several thousand racing fans and deliver the result which they crave.

When it happens, as it surely will, the delight will be felt most deeply of all by those travelling Japanese fans who were there for the disappointments too.

It will be a pleasure, too, to leave their betting money behind in Paris, if it means that they can head home with an uncashed ticket for the winner to prove that they were there.

Source Article from http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663879/s/321fea08/sc/19/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Csport0C20A130Coct0C0A60Cjapanese0Eorfevre0Eprix0Ede0Elarc0Ede0Etriomphe/story01.htm
Japanese suffer again with Orfevre in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
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Japanese Test – Yahoo News Search Results

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