Japanese fans to flood Longchamp for Arc de Triomphe
A boy holds a Japanese flag while attending the 91st edition of the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp racecourse, outside Paris on October 6, 2012
Orfevre, last year's unlucky runner-up, and this year's Japanese Derby winner Kizuna, provide Japan's strongest ever challenge for a race that to the Japanese is the one they dream of winning.
Orefevre, who will be once again ridden by crack Belgian-born jockey Christophe Soumillon, is set to start a very short-priced favourite after landing a key Arc trial the Prix Foy, over the course and distance, for a second time last month.
Orfevre's trainer Yasutoshi Ikee was buoyed also by the number eight draw he got which is far more convenient than the 18 he drew last year.
"Eight is also a lucky number for us," said the 44-year-old.
He certainly won' be short of support in the stands as thousands of Japanese fly in for the race.
"We expect around 5,000 Japanese racegoers to fly over from Japan to support their horses," a France Galop spokesman said.
Orfevre and Kizuna, who also won his Arc trial the Prix Niel on the same day, will face 15 opponents on what is likely to be soft going after German star Novellist was withdrawn overnight because he was running a temperature.
The news is a huge blow for his German connections as, on the strength of his record-breaking King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes win at Ascot in July, he had a major shot at Europe's most prestigious race.
He was aiming to give Germany their second Arc in three years after Danedream's success in 2011.
Trainer Andreas Wohler told The Racing Post: "Everything was fine until this morning when we took his temperature."
Wohler had delayed Novellist's trip from Germany to Paris in the hope that his stable star's condition might improve but in the end his fever only got worse.
This is the second successive year that German racing has been robbed of fielding a major fancy for the French feature as Danedream was unable to mount a title defence due to an outbreak of swamp fever in Cologne.
The soft going is unlikely to suit the highly-fancied Flintshire, one of Andre Fabre's five runners, who prefers to hear his hooves rattle on good ground as he showed when he won the Group One Grand Prix de Paris in impressive fashion in July at Longchamp.
Fabre, though, is the Arc specialist of the modern era having saddled seven winners, the last Rail Link in 2006 when he dashed the hopes of another Japanese superstar Deep Impact, and in French Derby winner Intello he has another major chance.
Criquette Head-Maarek by contrast has just one Arc win to her credit, filly Three Troikas in 1979, but in unbeaten Treve she holds a great opportunity to deny the Japanese.
Her father Alec, who bred Treve, certainly believes so.
"The ideal horse for the Arc is one that stays the distance but can relax during the race," said Head, who trained the winner of the Arc twice.
"The horse also needs a good turn of foot and from what I saw of Treve when she won the Prix Vermeille she possesses all those qualities."