Japanese racing fans will have a horse of their own to support in Sunday's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, with the nation's British-based star Deirdre set to be ridden in public for the first time at Longchamp by Jamie Spencer.
Deirdre, photo Liesl King
Oisin Murphy has partnered the Mitsuru Hashida-trained Deirdre on her last seven outings, most famously when the pair combined to win last year's Nassau Stakes.
More recently, Deirdre finished last of the seven runners in the latest running of the Goodwood prize, where a sore back is thought to have contributed to her below-par effort. Connections are confident the six-year-old is now in prime condition, and with Murphy's availability for the Arc in doubt, Spencer has been booked to assist the general 50-1 shot.
The trainer's son and assistant Yoshi Hashida, who has been supervising preparations in Newmarket, said: "We think Jamie Spencer's style will suit Deirdre. We were also impressed with his passion to ride her. Even when it looked as though he would definitely have to spend eight days in quarantine he wanted to take the mount.
"Jamie has returned from serious injury this year and Deirdre is returning from a setback as well. We're hoping on Sunday they can unite for a great comeback story."
Conditions could be the most testing Deirdre has ever faced in her career in Paris, although she did finish third to Magical when last season's Champion Stakes was staged on soft ground at Ascot.
Hashida added: "I know she is a Japanese-bred horse but after her experiences overseas I think she's now better equipped and able to handle soft ground. It's also true that if you don’t take on difficult challenges you won’t succeed.
"She's in beautiful form and we think she's very close to being at her absolute best."