Dettori looks to prolong Japan's Arc drought
By Pirate Irwin ,AFPPARIS , France -- Japan look to have their best chance of fulfilling a decades-long dream and winning Europe's most prestigious horse race the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe next Sunday.
September 30, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
With last year's unlucky runner-up Orfevre — generally the 9/4 favorite with bookmakers — and Japanese Derby winner Kizuna (8/1) they have a formidable duo especially after both won their respective Arc trials at Longchamp a fortnight ago over the same course and distance of Sunday's race.
Their chances, though, of winning the Arc after 33 years of heartbreak are under threat from legendary jockey Frankie Dettori, who will ride crack French filly Treve.
Dettori, 42, will want victory not only to add to his three previous Arc successes — the last on shock winner Marienbard in 2002 — but to end what has been a traumatic year marred by a six-month suspension for taking cocaine on a high note.
However, the exuberant Italian, who if successful would be celebrating at the racecourse where he failed the dope test in September 2012, does not have his fate in his hands as the filly is yet to be entered in the race.
However, her trainer Criquette Head-Maarek looks certain now to go ahead and supplement her (a higher fee for a late entry) on Thursday after originally giving out ambivalent signals about whether she wanted Treve — unbeaten in her four races including Group One wins in the Prix Diane (French Oaks) and the Prix Vermeille over the course and distance of the Arc a fortnight ago — to run.
The 64-year-old, who has just the one Arc win to her credit with another filly Three Troikas in 1979, denied that her change of mind over entering her was because of the horse's owner Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, younger brother of Qatar's emir, as the Qatari royal family sponsor the race.
“When she ran in May we had to enter for the Arc and that was when she ran her first race this year,” Head-Maarek told At The Races.
“As she hadn't run I thought she's not built enough to go there, we are going to pass the Arc and go for the Breeders' Cup maybe.
“Sheikh Joann didn't put pressure on me. He bought that filly because people told him that she was the best three-year-old and that (she) was a filly to win the Arc and I'm sure that the people who said that to him were right.
“She was not entered so we had to supplement her.”
“Time will tell, but one thing is this filly has improved a lot. Every race has brought her up and up mentally and physically. Now she is capable to do it with no doubt and run in the Arc with a good chance.”
If Treve is to become the first filly since the unbeaten Zarkava in 2008 to complete the Diane/Vermeille/Arc treble then Orfevre looks to be her biggest obstacle.
For Orfevre's trainer Yasutoshi Ikee it is not about righting what went wrong so dramatically last year when bursting clear inside the final two furlongs (400 metres) the horse's quirky character intervened and he veered towards the rails almost coming to a halt and sending rider Christophe Soumillon over the rails.
However, despite most believing that Orfevre lost the race rather than outsider Solemia winning it, Ikee believes that counts for nothing this time round.
“We are starting from zero this time, what happened last year is in the past and for me Orfevre is his own biggest rival. He is so unpredictable,” said the 38-year-old.
Soumillon, who Ikee hopes will not allow the horse to hit the front as early this time round, believes it is very much a case of getting the horse the reward he deserves.
“However, now it is all about October 6 and setting the record straight. Not just for me, or the connections but for all those many Japanese people who were so bitterly disappointed last year.”