Marialite (pink cap) fends off the running-on Duramente
PICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
Report: Japan, Sunday
Hanshin: Takarazuka Kinen (Grade 1) 1m3f, turf, 3yo+
HOPES of Japan realising its dream of winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe were dealt a blow on Sunday when Duramente – the nation’s leading challenger according to bookmakers at least – was found to be lame after finishing second to five-year-old mare Marialite (Takashi Kubota/Masayoshi Ebina) in the 325 million yen (£2.3m/€2.8m) Takarazuka Kinen.
The four-year-old – a general 12-1 for the world’s richest turf race – missed the Arc through injury last year and his bad luck continued after he slipped crossing the line, putting a trip to France in the autumn on hold again.
Japanese-based Italian jockey Mirco Demuro, who was on board last year’s Japanese 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner, said: “After the finishing line he slipped on the wet ground and seemed to injure his left fore.”
That diagnosis was seemingly confirmed by Shunsuke Yoshida, the representative of Duramente’s owners Sunday Racing Co Ltd.
Ruling out the Arc, which will be run at Chantilly this year with Longchamp closed for redevelopment, he said: “I heard that he injured his left-fore leg when he lost his balance after the race. He is being x-rayed now. No Arc.”
After returning to the track this term, Duramente – second to Arc favourite and middle-distance powerhouse Postponed in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March – lined up as 9-10 favourite in a classy Takarazuka Kinen, one of two contests on the JRA calendar that fans vote for which horses they would like to see run.
The field included last year’s winner Lovely Day, One And Only, who won the Japanese Derby in 2014, strong stayer Kitasan Black, who has a Tenno Sho (Spring) and Japanese St Leger on his CV, and Fame Game, who started favourite for the Emirates Melbourne Cup in November.
Settled towards the rear by Demuro, Duramente picked up well in the closing stages, but could not reel in Marialite, last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup heroine who had quickened away earlier to give trainer Kubota the biggest success of his career.
It was also a first win in the race for Ebina, who came agonisingly close to providing Japan with a much-sought-after strike in the Arc on El Condor Pasa in 1999 only for the mighty Montjeu to swoop late under Mick Kinane.
Since then Hall of Fame inductee Deep Impact – Marialite’s all-conquering sire – Nakayama Festa and Orfevre are among the raiders to have missed out in the contest Japan craves more than any other.
Makahiki, this year’s Japanese Derby winner who will prep for the Arc in the Prix Niel, now looks the country’s leading hope of breaking its duck in one of the world’s most historic and prestigious races.
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