Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races - Profiles of two Japanese runners
The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races on Sunday at Hong Kong's Sha Tin Racecourse will feature two Japanese horses this year: Jaguar Mail in the 2,400-meter Hong Kong Vase for the third time and A Shin Forward in the 1,600-meter Hong Kong Mile.
A far cry from Japan's near sweep of all four of the International Races in 2001 (Stay Gold in the Vase, Eishin Preston in the Mile, Agnes Digital in the Cup), the last several years have been winless for Japan-based runners in Hong Kong. Hat Trick, trained by Katsuhiko Sumii (trainer for Vodka, Delta Blues, Pop Rock, Victoire Pisa), was the most recent victor (2005) from Japan. This year's duo both have a relatively consistent year behind them but they will be facing a tough international team at Sha Tin on Sunday. A Shin Forward is considered the bigger threat of the two, with distance seen as Jaguar Mail's stumbling block.
The $1.8-million Vase, the first of the four big races Sunday and the fourth on the day's card, boasts eight G1 winners among its ranks. The classic distance Vase is likely to see Melbourne Cup winner Americain, riding high on a five-race winning streak, go to the gate the favorite. He may, however, find the distance a bit short for his liking. Two-time G1 winner, the 8-year-old Viva Pataca is likely to carry the local money as the aging charge of Hong Kong-based John Moore appears to be still going strong. Godolphin's St. Leger's hero Mastery will be taking on a distance more suited to him and Lanfranco Dettori may be there to give Saeed Bin Suroor another first. Joshua Tree, who was touted for the Japan Cup, but failed to live up to the hype, is also taking on the Vase.
The $2-million Mile is expected to be headlined at the windows by the Richard Hannon-trained 5-year-old Paco Boy, who will be capping his career with the race. The three-time G1 winner has drawn the No. 13 for the race, the seventh of the day, and the outside slot is raising concerns. Also, doubts have been voiced as to the suitability of the quick ground for the colt, who will be paired with Ryan Moore.
Profiles of the two Japan-based runners are as follows:
JAGUAR MAIL: The Noriyuki Hori-trained son of former Japan Cup winner Jungle Pocket returns to Sha Tin for his third time after finishing fourth last year only slightly more than a length behind winner Daryakana, the 3-year-old French filly running with a 4-kg allowance. Jaguar Mail left from the inside barrier, traveled in the middle of the pack and was briefly out in front until overtaken just before the line.
After last year's Vase, Jaguar Mail was given a month breather and was set to race in the 3,400-meter G3 Diamond Stakes but scratched due to phlegmon in his left foreleg. He raced six days later in the much shorter Kyoto Kinen over 2,200 meters under Christophe Lemaire and placed second, only half a length behind Buena Vista. From there, the 6-year-old moved up to the G1 level, where he stayed for his next four starts. In the Tenno Sho (Spring) (3,200 meters) at Kyoto, he was able to finally capture his first G1 race, doing so under Craig Williams, whom he gave his first JRA graded race as well. After that Jaguar Mail took on the 2,200-meter Takarazuka Kinen and finished eighth. He sat the summer out, returning to the turf at the end of October for the Tenno Sho (Autumn), this time in Tokyo over 2,000 meters. With Douglas Whyte up, Jaguar Mail failed to perform and was unable to fare better than 15th. . To make matters worse he was put back to 18th place when stewards determined he had caused interference in the stretch. His last time out, the Japan Cup on Nov. 28 at Tokyo, saw him battle to a fourth-place finish under Ryan Moore.
Jaguar Mail is owned by Shadai's Kazumi Yoshida and was bred at Aioi Farm in Urakawa, Hokkaido. He has notched six wins and four seconds in 20 outings, including his two trips to Hong Kong.
Craig Williams has been given the ride in the Vase. The 33-year-old Australian, who was riding in Japan on a short-term license in the spring, became the first foreign rider to win the Tenno Sho (Spring) in taking Jaguar Mail to the winner's circle.
Jaguar Mail will break from the No. 7 gate. Workrider Masanori Watanabe, on hand for the draw Thursday at Sha Tin, said, "The draw's good for us, because we can be aware of horses outside and inside. Maybe a more inside draw would be better, but there was number 14 left as well, so I am much happier to get seven." Watanabe added, "(Jaguar Mail) is improving physically with age, so he can handle to be boxed in."
A SHIN FORWARD: The American-bred by Forest Wildcat is coming off a win of the Mile Championship (G1) at Kyoto Racecourse on Nov. 21. It was his second win this year and the first win of three G1 bids in 2010. A Shin Forward had a relatively heavy schedule of six races in the first half of the year after which he was given four months off until the G2 Swan Stakes in October. He started off the year with a second in the open-class New Year Stakes, a mile race, followed by a third in the Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3), another mile event, before going on to win the 1,400-meter G3 Hankyu Hai. From there he took on the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) 1,200-meter sprint and finished in third place, went next to the Keio Hai Spring Cup (G2, 1,400 meters) and finished in fourth place before ending the spring season with the G1 Yasuda Kinen, in which he crossed the line an uncharacteristic tenth. Back in the autumn, A Shin Forward failed to meet the top-pick expectations in the Swan Stakes, finished eighth and went to the Mile gate the 13th choice of the day, only to surprise with a win. This year he has been paired with Yasunari Iwata for five of his eight starts. The 5-year-old bay currently has six wins, three seconds and three thirds from 23 starts.
A Shin Forward's connections pulled the No. 8 slot in the Hong Kong Mile barrier draw on Thursday at Sha Tin. Owner representative Katsuhiko Hirai commented on the mid-gate position. "From number three to eight was my ideal draw. Outside that was not preferred so eight is fine with me."
* Please visit the following websites for more information.
© Japan Association for International Racing and Stud Book (JAIRS). All Rights Reserved.