The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is regarded as the greatest prize in racing by the Japanese and champion jockey Yuichi Fukunaga hopes he finally delivers it on Just A Way at Longchamp.
The 37-year-old partnered Just A Way to a devastating six length victory in the Group One Dubai Duty Free in March.
While it was an eye-catching performance, doubts persist as to whether the five-year-old trained by Naosuke Sugai, who also saddles another five-year-old in Gold Ship, will stay over a distance that is three furlongs (600m) longer than he won over in Dubai.
However, Fukunaga is adamant he would not be in France unless he felt the horse had a genuine chance of ending Japan’s frustrating 45 year-quest to win the Arc on Sunday.
Japanese horses have run second four times, including the past two editions with Orfevre.
“For the Japanese there are many big race possibilities abroad but for us as a nation the Arc is the greatest race, the top of the tops,” Fukunaga said after partnering Just A Way in his final gallop at Chantilly on Wednesday.
“I waited a long time to have a ride that is good enough to race in the Arc and now I have struck lucky and I hope to seize this opportunity for the Japanese people.”
Sugai, who consulted Orfevre’s trainer Yasutoshi Ikee about preparing a horse for the Arc but opted to do things completely differently, said he had not really considered it as an option.
“Just A Way is usually much better after a long rest so I decided to leave him be after his last race in June, and I thought running him in the Foy would have been too risky as it was so close to the Arc,” Sugai said.
“Gold Ship also ran a super prep race before coming here and I didn’t want to separate them by sending one over earlier than the other as they have grown up together, they have been stabled beside each other since they were two and have undergone the same training regime.”
Matsuda, who has won Japan’s most prestigious turf race, the Japan Cup, twice with Admire Moon and Buena Vista in 2007 and 2011 respectively, only arrived in France on Monday but was happy with what he saw.
“As everything is going so well I am just waiting for the applause on Sunday,” he said.