Thursday, September 29, 2022

Arc 2022 - Japan at long last ?

ParisLongchamp hosts the greatest Flat race of the year on Sunday. There is nothing that comes close in terms of prestige and there is no doubt that its reputation would have been further enhanced if it could do without the deluge of rain that bestows upon the racetrack at this time of the year. Let's face it; countless champions have failed to act on the heavy ground and many have opted to bypass it altogether based solely on the underfoot conditions. It is what it is, the Arc is the most coveted of them all, particularly to the Japanese, who I believe, have a monstrous chance this year.

Ah... memories of Deep Impact, the greatest of all the Japanese thoroughbreds. How mismanaged he was, leading the pack, when he was the best closing finisher of them all. And he failed the drug test, pure incompetence from the trainer! And Orfevre, the mad genius, the most talented of them all. He was coasting 100 yards from the finish, you could have bet your life Japan had finally hit its holy grail. And the inevitable happened, and Japanese hearts had never been so broken. 

But the Japanese thoroughbred has arrived. Delta Blues and Pop Rock for a 1-2 in the Melbourne Cup. So many Japanese wins at the Dubai Carnival: Victoire Pisa, Heart's Cry, Almond Eye, Just a Way and recently Shahryar to name a few. Deidre winning the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. And finally they conquered America with Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine last year.

The only bastion left is the Arc. So many seconds in there and this year could be the one when they make the long-awaited breach. They will be a 4-strong contingent: Titleholder, Deep Bond, Do Deuce and Stay Foolish. None of them is on a par with Deep Impact or Orfevre, but they might not have to be. Deep Bond probably does not belong but the other 3 can have their say.

Do Deuce is the 3-year old Japan Derby winner. He was somewhat disappointing in his prep race, the Prix Niel, finishing only 4th, but that was his first race after a layoff and should be in a better disposition with the cobwebs removed. Definitely has an outside chance.

Stay Foolish was mighty impressive winning in Riyadh and Meydan at the start of the year. He definitely has the experience for those big races. He is definitely suited for a bigger distance than a mile and a half but if it is a stamina-sapping contest, he might vie for the the places.

Then we have Titleholder, who I believe, could be The One. Like Stay Foolish and Deep Bond, this is a stayer with an abundance of stamina and winner of the Japanese St Leger. But this middle-class performer has a lot of class, matched with speed enough to win a top-class mile and a half race. He usually figures prominently or takes control of his races, submits his opponents to the ground by leading the line with blistering speed. It is almost obvious that he will take a serious option for the lead on Sunday and if he is 5 lengths clear entering the straight, it could be Sayonara baby time for Japan! This horse has the potential of setting fractions enough to demoralize the likes of an unproven-at-the-distance star like Vadeni!

Out of the rest of the pack, I will note the following 3 as the main contenders to Titleholder: Torquator Tasso, Alpinista and Luxembourg. Tasso is the reigning champion, the one who shocked the world last year by beating a strong field that included Tarnawa and Hurricane Lane. It was no fluke, Tasso was the best on the day, winning while having to cover a lot of ground on the outside. But the heavy footing was his best ally. If the conditions are similar this Sunday, Tasso has a major chance. And it doesn't hurt to have Dettori as rider. I think Tasso can and will run huge.

Alpinista has won 7 races on the trot and relishes the distance. She's beaten Tasso before and will get the advantageous 3 pounds allowance as a mare. If she continues on her fantastic form, she can be a proper danger to the males. Based on her record, she cannot be under-estimated.

Finally, Luxembourg, the favourite. Mighty impressive although beaten in the 2000 Guineas, he was struck with a big layoff due to injury. He's come back great, winning a Group 3 in a rather hard-fought manner and then the Irish Champion Stakes where he finally showcased all the good that connections throught of him. Being a Camelot, there is no doubt he will find the distance right up his alley. His profile going into the race looks very good. I think he will be in the whereabouts at the finish but it could be there are one or two that show better class on the day. 

Imagine the scene; Titleholder leading El Condor Pasa-style entering the mythical ParisLongchamp straight, and showing no signs of letting up. Roared on by the Japanese crowd in the stands, spurred by thousands in front of their tvs in the wee-hours of the morning, Jap time. Could there be a better climax to a race when he flashes past the post, champion-style? The expectation of a nation finally met. Their dream come true. The Holy Grail attained. Could Sunday be that day?

Win: Titleholder

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