Yasutoshi Ikee brushed aside the disappointment of his Japanese superstar Orfevre finishing second in Europe’s most prestigious race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the second successive year, and pledged to return and claim a victory his country craves.
The 44-year-old trainer, whose father Yasuo also failed to land the race when champion Deep Impact finished third in 2006, said he was extremely proud of Orfevre’s performance in finishing a five-length second to unbeaten French filly Treve.
It was a more comprehensive defeat than last year when the horse’s quirky temperament cost him the race, veering across the track and coming almost to a halt, allowing unheralded filly Solemia to steal the honours.
However, Ikee, who kept his emotions to himself unlike many of his 6,000 compatriots who flew in for the race and openly wept, said it was a greater performance as he came second in a renewal regarded by many as the best since Dancing Brave won in 1986.
“For me it was his greatest performance,” said Ikee, who in 2011 trained him to become only the seventh horse to win the Japanese Triple Crown (2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger all over different distances).
“He didn’t lose his head this year, he wouldn’t let Intello (who finished third) get past him all the way down the finishing straight, it was very impressive.
“He had got a bit excited on the bend into the final straight but he calmed down which a year ago he would not have done.”
Ikee said defeat only made him keener to make history for Japan.
“I will be back and try to win the Arc. This experience only makes me hungrier to win it,” said Ikee, although whether Orfevre will be his representative is unlikely given he will be six next year.
Orfevre’s jockey Christophe Soumillon, who had been instructed not to try to get his mount to the front as early this year, said he had no complaints about the result.
“He ran a great race, he was a lot more tense this year, but he was also a lot stronger mentally,” said the 32-year-old Belgian of the horse he nicknamed ‘The War Machine’ after he won his second successive Prix Foy at Longchamp last month.
“The only time he got slightly unnerved was when Treve came alongside us on the run down to the final bend but he refocused.
“We got slightly jammed in and Treve took her chance to go clear. Myself and Olivier [Peslier on Intello] had to be careful and squeeze through a narrow gap and not get bumped.
“I hoped that Treve would run out of gas but it wasn’t to be and my fellow lacked the turn of foot he had last year to reel her in.”
Soumillon, who won the second of his two Arcs in 2008 on Zarkava, said he was sad not to be able to give the Japanese their first taste of Arc glory but he was sure it would come.
“I am very sorry for the Japanese people that this wasn’t to be their day but I am sure one day they will make history,” said Soumillon, who refused to use the fact Treve was carrying five kilos less weight than Orfevre as making a significant difference to the result.
The connections of the other Japanese runner, Kizuna, who had every chance entering the final straight but failed to quicken and finished fourth, accepted they had been beaten by better opposition.
“We had the ideal race and were in a great position in the straight,” said jockey Yutaka Take, whose previous five rides in the Arc included the one on Deep Impact in the 2006 renewal.
“But we must accept the evidence, the first three were better than us.”