Japan strengthens Arc case with cosy success in Grand Prix de Paris

Twenty-four hours after Ten Sovereigns completed his recovery mission from a frustrating spring, stablemate Japan definitively put his own problems behind him with a smart success over the Arc course and distance in the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) at Longchamp on Sunday.

While the Coolmore brains trust will all have an input, Aidan O'Brien made it plain that a break and an Arc prep will be on the cards for the strapping son of Galileo before taking dead aim at hat-trick-seeking Enable.

Paddy Power cut his Arc odds to 9-1 (from 12) and Japan is now the shortest-priced challenger to Enable among the Classic generation.

The acceleration might not have been as decisive as when dismissing his Group 2 rivals at Royal Ascot but, behind no more than an even pace set by stablemate Western Australia, Ryan Moore always had Japan handy and was perhaps not at full stretch to hold Slalom by half a length.

"We were very happy with him because today the pace was slower," said O'Brien, who was saddling a fourth Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris winner, following Scorpion, Imperial Monarch and Kew Gardens. "At home when he gets to the front he usually waits. At Ascot they went very fast and when he came there the rest of the field died away.

"Here they didn’t go fast early and then it was sprinting all the way. Knowing the horse we were very happy with him."

The plan now appears to revolve around returning to Longchamp for a crack at Enable – who will have to concede 3lb to Japan and any other three-year-old colt to accept the challenge – with the route charted via Leopardstown or Arc Trials day back in Paris.

"The Arc always has been [in our minds] and after the last day we wanted to give him one more run and so it was nice to come here. He would then have a possibility of the Irish Champion or coming back here for the Niel," said O'Brien.

While O'Brien has never been backward in sharing his admiration for Japan, what emerged here is quite what a difficult time the team at Ballydoyle endured in even getting him to Epsom and his third-placed run in the Derby.

"He got a temperature very early and we had to leave him off for three weeks," said O'Brien. "We thought we wouldn't get a run into him before the Derby and we left him alone for as long as we could and so he was very babyish in the Dante.

"He came forward lovely from the Dante to the Derby and his progress has been lovely since. We haven't forced him and he was doing it himself."

In France people often speak of an ill for a good and, despite having now run four times since mid-May, that easy period in the crucial weeks of the spring might mean there is more untapped potential when the really big prizes are handed out in the autumn.

Connections of Slalom were left to consider what might have been after he left Maxime Guyon doing a passable impression of the Hamlet cigar man leaving the stalls. 

Off a solid if unspectacular pace, Guyon was soon able to get Slalom back in a challenging position and arguably had plenty of the straight to get past Japan. 

If O'Brien continues to be pleased with Japan's progress into the autumn, Slalom's chance to beat him may have been and gone, although anyone who writes off an Andre Fabre-trained three-year-old does so at their peril. 

Jalmoud ran a fine race in third and must have pleased connections of Headman, who gave him a three-length beating in the Prix Eugene Adam and is now even more than before the interesting dark horse among the three-year-olds.