David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Team Titleholder is gearing up for the Arc challenge

Toru Kurita and his staff are happy with the triple Group 1 winner’s preparations ahead of a key gallop at Chantilly on Wednesday.

Titleholder has pleased connections with his training and will on Wednesday stride out in his final fast work before Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, when the dominant four-year-old will lead the latest Japanese assault on France’s great autumn feature.

Last year’s Japanese St Leger winner is the first overseas runner for his trainer, Toru Kurita, who has entrusted the Chantilly-side preparations so far to his assistant Ryu Tsukada. The son of Duramente is stabled at the yard of Japanese expat trainer Satoshi Kobayashi.  

“Titleholder has settled in very well since he arrived on September 17,” Tsukada told Asian Racing Report.

“He had a faster gallop on the grass last Wednesday with five horses from Satoshi Kobayashi’s stable and that was a great gallop. We plan to have jockey Kazuo Yokoyama riding him when he does his gallop on Wednesday this week.”

Yokoyama gained his first experience of the track at Longchamp when he rode the Kobayashi-trained Black Lives Matter to eighth place in a mile conditions race there on September 15.

“It was only one race but it is a bonus because now he knows the track, the atmosphere, the French style of racing and the processes of race day here,” Tsukada added.


Titleholder romps home in the G1 Tenno Sho Spring. (Photo by JRA)

His boss, Kurita, whose previous best horse was the high-class dirt track runner Arctos, began training in 2011 and is the son of Hironori Kurita who trained the classic winner Isla Bonita and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen hero Shinko Forest.

Tsukada said that the Kurita team is happy with Titleholder’s preparations which have been smooth so far.

Titleholder is unbeaten in three starts this season and is following the route taken by his paternal grandsire, the great Deep Impact, who crossed the line third in the 2006 Arc having gone into the race with emphatic wins in the G1 Tenno Sho Spring and G1 Takarazuka Kinen.  

The latest star of Japanese racing is a powerful front-runner and defeated fellow Arc raider Deep Bond by seven lengths in this season’s Tenno Sho Spring over two miles in early May; he followed that with a race record time for the Takarazuka Kinen when defeating Hishi Iguazu by two lengths.

Connections are not allowing over confidence to enter their thinking though, and are viewing the task ahead as “a challenge” given that no Japanese horse has ever won the Arc. And they are not worrying about the going either, despite the fact that French turf rides much easier than the firm ground found at most JRA fixtures throughout the year. Titleholder has raced only on firm or good.   

“We can’t control the conditions and we don’t know if a horse will handle the softer ground until they race here,” Tsukada said.

This year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is also set to feature from Japan the Tokyo Yushun winner Do Deuce – fourth in the Prix Niel at Longchamp three weeks ago – the Dubai Gold Cup winner Stay Foolish, and Deep Bond, who is scheduled to gallop on Thursday morning.



    Subscribe now & get exclusive weekly content from Asian Racing Report direct to your inbox

      Expert ratings, tips & analysis for Hong Kong racing