David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Japan is still an option for Arc heroine Alpinista

Kirsten Rausing and Sir Mark Prescott weigh up whether or not to embark on a lucrative Tokyo raid after another Japanese washout at Longchamp.

Japan’s G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe assault sank in the sodden Longchamp turf on Sunday but the victorious British mare Alpinista could yet be Tokyo-bound to chase a US$3 million bonus in the G1 Japan Cup.

The grey’s trainer Sir Mark Prescott suggested post-race that while retirement is a persuasive option, Japan is still being considered, and that was echoed by owner-breeder Kirsten Rausing who also has the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf to weigh up.  

The five-year-old’s win in the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July had already qualified her for a series of lucrative Japan Cup bonuses; victory in the November 27 feature would net the big pot on top of first-place prize money of US$3.4 million, but there is also a US$1.2 million bonus payment up for grabs for finishing second, down to US$200,000 just for turning up, on top of travel expenses and accommodation being covered by the Japan Racing Association (JRA).

“It would round it off, seven Group 1s in a row would be remarkable,” Prescott said after Alpinista had seen off 19 rivals to win her sixth, including a four-strong raiding party from Japan.

That group, aiming to land a long-awaited first ‘Arc’ win for their homeland, was headed by Titleholder, Japan’s star four-year-old, who attempted to do what El Condor Pasa before him famously could not: lead from start to finish.

The son of Duramente cut out the running under Kazuo Yokoyama through pouring rain. Behind him, Alpinista stuck tight to the fence in fourth, following a ‘fresh strip of ground’ her rider Luke Morris had spoken about pre-race.

As Titleholder’s hooves cut through the wet turf up front, flinging it backwards in a relentless spattering of mud, the Tokyo Yushun winner Do Deuce was many lengths behind at the tail under Yutaka Take, struggling to find traction, let alone rhythm; Deep Bond raced handily but was never at ease and Japan’s fourth-choice, Stay Foolish, raced uncomfortably in midfield. As the field turned into the home straight, Titleholder offered the only hope of a Japanese success.

But that too was diminishing rapidly: his gait was less purposeful, the stride weaker; Alpinista cruised past approaching 300 metres with Morris motionless. Titleholder wilted and retreated.

Prescott, a sportsman of the old school with a famous penchant for bull fighting, was asked what his thoughts were at that moment. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said.

Morris, Prescott’s stable jockey of 11 years, did just that until Vadeni challenged under Christophe Soumillon, then came the rider’s vigorous, bumping drive, aiding the mare in her run to glory. The winning margin was half a length and a neck from Vadeni and last year’s winner Torquator Tasso.

Titleholder was 11th, 13 lengths behind; Stay Foolish was 14th, Deep Bond a distant 18th and Do Deuce a never involved 19th, all thwarted, seemingly, by the ‘very soft’ going.

Rausing’s Lanwades Stud homebred – the first five-year-old mare to win the race since 1937 – registered a winning time of 2m 35.71s, a full 6.1 seconds slower than standard. That provides an insight to the task the daughter of Frankel will face if she does go to Tokyo: Contrail won last year’s Japan Cup on fast ground in a time of 2m 24.7s.


Arc glory for Luke Morris and Alpinista. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

While such comparisons are flawed, given the differences in topography and going conditions Alpinista has encountered in her career, the fact is, the fastest time she has ever clocked over 2400 metres is 2m 26.15s when winning the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud this year.

Prescott and Morris are both of the view that Alpinista will be a better horse on quicker ground and that she just happens to handle soft conditions. That being so, Japan in November will still be an altogether different proposition on ground faster than she has ever encountered, in a high-tempo contest.

But that is for another day should that route be decided upon. In the meantime, Sunday belonged to Alpinista and her connections.

“I’m lucky to get a good one at this time in my career,” added 74-year-old Prescott, who made a rare trip to Longchamp to be in attendance. “It’s a great day.”



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