By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: Arc flop Fierement (Takahisa Tezuka/Christophe Lemaire) closed strongly for a last-gasp victory to complete back-to-back successes in the prestigious Tenno Sho (Spring) at Kyoto on Sunday.
The five-year-old needed every metre of the 3,200-metre (2m) course before getting the verdict by a nose in the tightest of photos with longshot Stiffelio for a repeat success in the 325 million yen (£2.43m) event that is in effect Japan’s staying championship.
Sent off even-money favourite in a 14-runner field for the spring version of the Emperor’s Cup, Fierement settled towards the rear and still seventh turning for home before mounting his irresistible late attack.
“The pace was ideal and I was almost sure it would be an easy win for us, but he wasn’t focused at times, so as it turned out we had to fight hard to the line,” reported Lemaire, landing the 29th JRA G1 triumph of his garlanded Japanese career.
He has now won four Tenno Shos in a row, also having claimed the autumn version – over a shorter 2,000-metre (1m2f) trip at Tokyo in late October – with Rey De Oro (2018) and Almond Eye (2019).
Lemaire added: “In spite of the long distance and the wide draw, he was unhurried earlier in the race and had the strength left to charge home the way he did – everything went well.
“I’m thankful to the fans rooting for us at home. I look forward to seeing them in the stands very soon.”
A son of the great Deep Impact, who won the race in 2006, Fierement was himself a Classic winner in 2018 when he claimed the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger). If there had been any racegoers, they might have been forgiven a case of deja vu as he won that race by a nose at Tenno Sho venue Kyoto.
He had also stayed on strongly to win last year’s Tenno Sho (Spring), albeit by the relatively luxurious margin of a neck over subsequent Hong Kong scorer Glory Vase.
Fierement was last of 12 behind Waldgeist in last year’s Arc, in which compatriot Kiseki was seventh; that rival was sixth in the Tenno Sho.