• Kyodo

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Nakayama Festa came within centimeters of realizing the dream of the Japanese racing fraternity on Sunday, the Takarazuka Kinen champion finishing a narrow second to Britain’s Workforce in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The 4-year-old Nakayama Festa, ridden by Masayoshi Ebina and trained by Yoshitaka Ninomiya, had the lead halfway through the final straight in the world’s most prestigious race at the Longchamp track.

But Nakayama Festa, racing under a punishing 59.5 kg, gradually gave in to the 3-year-old Workforce — the Epsom Derby winner trained by Sir Michael Stoute shouldering only 56 kg — and went under the wire a head behind.

It wasn’t the first time Ebina and Ninomiya saw the Arc title slip right through their fingers. The two also combined to take second in 1999 with El Condor Pasa.

“The horse gave it everything he had,” said Ebina, currently the second leading jockey in the Japan Racing Association. “It would have been nice if we had won, but I think he ran a good race. He’s only four, so I’d love another shot with him someday.”

The other entry from Japan, 3-year-old Victoire Pisa ridden by star jockey Yutaka Take, crossed the line eighth among a reduced field of 19 on heavy going.

Workforce’s winning time was 2 minutes, 35.30 seconds. The champion and runnerup were 2 1/2 lengths ahead of 3-year-old French filly Sarafina, who finished third.

Nakayama Festa had warmed up for the Arc with last month’s Prix Foy — held under the same conditions as the Arc at 2,400 meters on the Longchamp turf — and the Stay Gold son also settled for silver in that race.

Both jockey and trainer said the Prix Foy made the difference, allowing their horse to loosen up ahead of the 4 million euro ($5.49 million) event.

“We didn’t have the smoothest of trips, but that’s racing,” Ebina said. “I think the prep race helped, because Nakayama Festa was nice and relaxed out there. I just want to thank the horse for his effort today.”

Added Ninomiya: “Everyone at the stable worked hard for this for the last two months. The horse was very calm today, and giving him a dry run here did him a lot of good. But I think there’s a lot to be learned for us from this result.”

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