Orfevre primed to end Japan's Arc heartbreak
Japanese jockey Kenichi Ikezoe on Orfevre (C) fights Yasunari Iwata on Gentildonna (R) during the 2,400-metre (1.5 mile) Japan Cup at the Tokyo Race Course on November 25, 2012
Orfevre -- only the seventh horse to win Japan's Triple Crown (2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger) in 2011 -- is one of two top class entries from Japan, Japanese Derby winner Kizuna the other, in an Arc termed by Italian riding great Frankie Dettori the best since Dancing Brave's in 1986.
That Arc is commonly regarded as the greatest of modern times.
Orfevre, who is all but certain to start favourite after an impressive second successive win over a fortnight ago in the Prix Foy at the same Longchamp track where the Arc takes place, could well have returned to Paris as the defending champion.
However, his contrary temperament bubbled to the surface at the most inopportune time last year when having burst clear under Christophe Soumillon he veered across the track, hit the rails and almost came to a standstill -- outsider Solemia passed him to win by a neck.
It is that quirkiness more than the fact he bled -- when the horse's lungs fill with blood -- in a race earlier this year that has most preoccupied his trainer Yasutoshi Ikee.
"I don't fear any of his rivals on Sunday," said Ikee on Wednesday.
"I fear Orfrevre, for he is his biggest rival."
However, Ikee and Soumillon -- who described Orfevre after the Foy win as a 'war machine' -- believe this time round Orfevre will behave himself especially after a pleasing gallop on Wednesday.
For 44-year-old Ikee, whose father Yasuo also suffered Arc disappointment as a trainer with his Triple Crown winner Deep Impact in 2006, it is his chance to put matters right after last year's huge disappointment.
"It is the big dream of Japan to win this race -- it is the best race in the world -- and I hope to be the person who brings that dream to fruition.
"Last year I disappointed hugely the Japanese people, this year they are counting on me for victory."
To that end Ikee, who will have been delighted that Orfevre drew a favourable barrier eight and not wide out in 18 which he did last year, has been reliving what went before constantly in the lead up to the race.
"When they turned into the finishing straight I too thought we were going to win, and like me the stands exploded with joy," he said.
"As it turned out it was premature. This year it is the return and I am hoping that this time the explosion of joy will take place after the finishing post."
Yutaka Take, Kizuna's jockey and who coincidentally was in the same class as Ikee at school, also has sour memories of the race, no more so than when he rode Deep Impact in the 2006 Arc where he failed to justify his favourite's tag and finished third.
Equally important for 44-year-old Take is the symbolic name of his mount as Kizuna means 'bonds' or 'ties' - a sentiment owner Shinji Maeda hoped would prevail among the Japanese people in the wake of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake disaster that hit north eastern Japan and left over 18,000 people dead.
"Kizuna is a very special name and very important for the Japanese people," the 44-year-old told AFP.
"If we won the Arc it would bring a lot of pleasure to the Japanese people and give them a lot of encouragement.
"I will ride in this Arc with a very special feeling in my heart."
Orfevre and Kizuna, who will once again face Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World who finished second to him in the Prix Niel last month, have some stern opposition especially unbeaten French filly Treve.
She is now ridden by Thierry Jarnet, who rode her to victory in the French Oaks in June, after Dettori fractured his ankle on Wednesday.
German runner Novellist would have had a great chance but he was pulled out on Saturday after running a fever.
Master French trainer Andre Fabre meanwhile can entertain hopes of an eighth victory but first since 2006.
He said his chief hope among his five runners -- filly Pirika is a live longshot -- is French Derby champion Intello, who if successful would give jockey Olivier Peslier a record fifth win in the race.
"He (Intello) always runs his race, he's very easy to ride and has a lot of speed yet he's won well at 2,100 metres (Arc is 2400 metres/1 1/2miles), so I think he goes there with good credentials," said Peslier.
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