David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Lemaire believes ‘open’ Arc gives Japan a chance

There is no standout champion in this year’s Longchamp feature and that should mean Through Seven Seas’ form with Equinox will give her a strong claim.

Christophe Lemaire believes the lack of a proven champion in Sunday’s G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe gives Through Seven Seas a chance at securing a famous victory, but experience has taught him not to allow his hopes to rise too high.

The Frenchman, Japan’s five-time champion jockey, has never won his home country’s greatest race, and no horse from his country of residence has ever succeeded in the Longchamp feature either.

“We have had so much disappointment with the Japanese horses in the Arc that it’s difficult to be extremely optimistic,” he told Asian Racing Report on Wednesday afternoon, following a morning in which he exited a flight from Japan, rode Through Seven Seas in a fluent gallop at Chantilly, and made himself available to the world’s media.


“I’m confident she will run a good race,” he continued. “When you consider her performance in the Takarazuka Kinen, and thinking that Equinox is the best horse in the world, we have to consider very much her chance in the Arc, and especially in a field where of course there are good Group 1 horses, but there are no champion or superstar horses.

“Ace Impact is the best three-year-old in France and is unbeaten, and he was quite impressive in his last two runs; Hukum won the King George, which is also a great performance, and they are good horses, of course, but no superstars: I think it’s a very open race.”

Equinox is the highest rated horse in the world at present, and as Lemaire is that colt’s ever-present jockey, so he is well-placed to assess the merits of Through Seven Seas’ close second to the champion last time out in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen.

Christophe Lemaire following Equinox's thrilling G1 Takarazuka Kinen victory. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

In fact, Lemaire also has as good a handle on Through Seven Seas as anyone outside of her trainer Tomohito Ozeki and his team. It was Lemaire who rode her to a debut win at Nakayama three years ago, and who now has a three from three record on the mare; and it was Lemaire who partnered her to win the G3 Nakayama Himba back in March, the race that convinced connections she was ready to test Group 1 waters in the Takarazuka Kinen.

“When I rode her the first time this year and won the Group 3, I definitely felt that she had really improved compared to previous years, and she confirmed that improvement when finishing second to Equinox in the Takarazuka Kinen,” he said.

“I had a very good feeling in that Group 3 and she won easily, with some margin. Because she was improving like that I really thought she could step up in class in the Takarazuka Kinen. I didn’t think she would beat Equinox, but I was sure she could finish in the first three, and that’s what she did. She also beat Justin Palace, a Group 1 horse, and there were some other good horses in the race. Her last 200 metres were very impressive and she finished a half-length from Equinox, so that was a fantastic performance.”

Lemaire noted that Through Seven Seas has changed mentally and physically this season, and that has brought about the improvement in a mare that connections have long believed possessed plenty of innate quality.

“This year especially she pumped up physically, she got stronger,” he said. “When she was a two-year-old, she used to be a filly that had high tension, and she was a little bit skinny, but now she’s more mature, and she eats more than when she was a young horse, so maybe that’s why she has put on weight and gained muscle.”

Confidence in the mare’s wellbeing is high, but given Japan’s history of near misses and disappointing failures in Paris, optimism is tempered.

“All the connections have done their best to bring the filly to Paris at her top,” Lemaire added. “I think she’s in very good condition but how she will adapt to Longchamp’s course, how she’ll run after such a long break without having a trial, there are lots of questions.”




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