Gold Ship: dual Classic winner clashes with Japan Cup winner GentildonnaPICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
Arc hopes clash in Takarazuka Kinen
Preview: Japan, Sunday 5.40am BST
Hanshin: Takarazuka Kinen (Grade 1) 1m3f, turf, 3yo+
EVEN in the absence of Orfevre, signficant pointers towards the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe ought to be on show in Japan on Sunday when several likely Longchamp contenders clash in the Takarazuka Kinen, the Grade 1 climax of the nation's spring season.
Orfevre, who notoriously threw away last year's Arc when he veered across the track inside the final furlong, has been ruled out of this 254 million Yen (£1.68m) event after a bleeding episode following a workout.
But the race still features a plethora of top-class horses headed by Dubai Sheema Classic runner-up Gentildonna, Gold Ship and Fenonemo, all of whom took high rank among last year's three-year-olds and now have their sights trained on Europe's most prestigious prize at Longchamp in October.
Gentildonna (Sei Ishizaka/Yasunari Iwata), who touched off Orfevre in the Japan Cup, won all three legs of the fillies' Triple Crown in 2012 and is only a 16-1 chance for the Arc.
The grey Gold Ship (Naosuke Sugai/Hiroyuki Uchida), currently on the 25-1 mark, won both the Japanese Guineas and St Leger last term, when he was fifth behind Deep Brillante in a peculiar race in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby).
Second that day, beaten a nose, was Fenomeno (Hirofumi Toda/Masayoshi Ebina), who had Gold Ship back in fifth in the Tenno Sho (Spring) over 2m at Kyoto racecourse in April.
Gold Ship, though, has a fine record at this venue, where he has won a pair of Grade 2 events and he ended last season top of the class with victory over a similar level of opposition in the Arima Kinen, Japan's end-of-season grand prix.