Dubai World Cup Day - Preview
This year, Japan's horsemen field one of their biggest entourages to Dubai as they prepare to take on some of the world's toughest competition on Dubai World Cup Day, Saturday, March 26. A total of five runners from Japan are going through their paces in Dubai on the eve of the big day at Meydan Racecourse. The five include Japan's best – 2010 Horse of the Year Buena Vista and 2010 Champion 3-year-old Colt Victoire Pisa. Joining them in the Dubai World Cup will be Transcend. On the same day, the lightly raced Laser Bullet will run in the G2 UAE Derby, a 1,900-meter event on the all-weather surface. Rulership looks to become the third Japan-based horse to reign sovereign in the 2,410-meter Dubai Sheema Classic turf G1.
Four of the members left Japan on March 9, just two days before the country was struck by the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The last of the five made the trip on March 17. The grief, suffering and anxiety back home are by no means forgotten. If anything, the horsemen to Dubai are hoping to be able to do their small part to help boost battered spirits by bringing a bit of good news to their fellow countrymen and all affected by the disaster.
In Dubai, in fact, Japan's horsemen are carrying a message of hope to all in the form of polo shirts emblazoned with the Japanese national flag and the single word, "Hope," on the shirt's right sleeve and back. Their helmets carry the same emblem. The gesture was the idea of all the stable staff members, who after getting together to discuss what they could do, decided to have the shirts made. Hisami Yamashita, an exercise rider with the Transcend team, said, "We decided to wear these shirts in memory of all the victims of the disaster, with wishes for a speedy recovery and in the hope that we can help give others a bit of courage and hope," he said. "Not just for racing fans, but for all the people of Japan, we will do our utmost to bring them, even in this small way, the hope to carry on."
It's a heavy burden to shoulder, but Japan's horsemen shoulder it gladly. And this year, the country's team may have its best shot at the Dubai World Cup ever.
The biggest hope comes in the form of Buena Vista, Japan's 2010 Horse of the Year, who has taken on the boys repeatedly and put them in their places – down the line from her. Not new to Dubai, the 5-year-old mare trained by Hiroyoshi Matsuda, was second in last year's Dubai Sheema Classic. Ridden by Olivier Peslier in that race, she will be paired in the 2,000-meter Dubai World Cup this year with Ryan Moore, three-time British champion jockey. They face stiff competition for the $6 million winner's share of the $10 million purse, with 10 other Group 1 winners scheduled to start in the 16th running of the world's richest horse race, including the expected favorite, Twice Over.
Trained by Henry Cecil, Twice Over won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three earlier this month. He will renew his rivalry with Cape Blanco, who won the 2010 Irish Champion Stakes as Twice Over finished third.
Five nations are expected to be represented in the 14-strong World Cup field, the final race on the Saturday' eight-race card.
Buena Vista, by Special Week out of the Caerleon mare Biwa Heide, currently has 8 wins and 6 seconds in 17 starts. Owned by Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. , she is coming of a second-place finish in the yearend Arima Kinen, less than a month after her Japan Cup run, in which she crossed the finish line in first but was set back to second after being deemed guilty of impeding the path of Rose Kingdom. The mare has been successful over a variety of distances, including 2,000 meters. Earlier last year, Buena Vista scooped both the Victoria Mile and the 2,000-meter Tenno Sho (Autumn), both top-level races. She was second in the 2,200- meter G1 Takarazuka Kinen. It will, however, be her first time to race on the Tapeta artificial surface.
Victoire Pisa, a 4-year-old by Neo Universe out of the Sunday Silence mare Whitewater Affair, is being saddled by the globe-trotting Katsuhiko Sumii, a Ritto trainer perhaps best known for saddling the one-two scoop of the 2006 Melbourne Cup -- Delta Blues and Pop Rock.
Coming off a win of the 1,800-meter Nakayama Kinen on Feb. 27, Victoire Pisa capped 2010 with a win of the Arima Kinen. He is currently 7 for 12, with 1 seconds and 2 thirds. The World Cup distance is perfect for the Yoshimi Ichikawa-owned Victoire Pisa, though it will also be his first time on the artificial surface. He will be ridden by Italian rider Mirco Demuro, who guided him to victory in his last two outings.
Transcend completes the trio for the World Cup. A 5-year-old by Wild Rush, Transcend hails from the stable of the Ritto-based Takayuki Yasuda and is owned by Koji Maeda. The front-running Transcend has won 8 of his 15 starts, and his last three in a row, which included the Japan Cup Dirt and the February Stakes, both G1 races. All his wins have been on dirt and all of them at less than 2,000 meters. Eighteen-hundred seems to be his best distance. He will be ridden by Japanese jockey Shinji Fujita.
American horses have dominated the Dubai World Cup from its begin in 1996, when Cigar won the inaugural running. Britain won the following year with Singspiel, but until last year and Gloria De Campeao's first victory for France, the winners have come from either the United States or the host country, the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. has notched 8 wins altogether.
The Dubai World Cup lineup has included Japan-based runners in all but two of its runnings. Its best result was a second-place by To the Victory in 2001 Sumii has fielded one runner before in the Cup, in 2006 with Kane Hekili, who finished fourth.
Buena Vista trainer Matsuda is making his second bid at the Dubai World Cup. His first was with Admire Don in 2004. Admire Don finished in eighth place.
In two other races on the day come Laser Bullet and Rulership.
Rulership, another member of the Sumii stable, takes on the Dubai Sheema Classic, the race prior to the Dubai World Cup. A 4-year-old by King Kamehameha out of the Tony Bin mare Air Groove, Rulership is also owned by Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. and is currently 5 for 9 and has had winning runs at distances from 1,800 meters to 2,400 meters. He was sixth in the G1 2,500-meter Arima Kinen under Christophe Lemaire, but aced his last race, the G2 classic distance Nikkei Shimbun Hai on Jan. 16 at Kyoto under Umberto Rispoli. He will be ridden in the Dubai Sheema Classic by Christophe Soumillon.
Japan has fared well in the Dubai Sheema Classic in the past. Six horses in as many years have taken part in the race, with Stay Gold winning it in 2001 and Heart's Cry claiming first in 2006. Sumii's previous attempt at the Dubai Sheema Classic came in 2007 with a sixth-place finish by Pop Rock.
Laser Bullet goes largely unproven to Dubai, having only three races behind him. He will be running in the UAE Derby, the fourth race on the card. The 3-year-old colt by Brian's Time out of the Mr. Prospector mare Complicata is trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara and owned by Yoko Maeda. Shinji Fujita will take the reins for the first time.
Laser Bullet has run exclusively on dirt and won at both 1,600 and 1,800 meters over fast ground. His last race, a listed at 1,600 saw him finish in 8th place on softer ground. Laser Bullet will be Japan's first bid at the UAE Derby since 2008 and the fifth horse Japan has fielded in the race. Their best performance was a third-place finish in 2006 by the Sumii-trained Flamme de Passion, a 3-year-old colt.
Post time for the UAE Derby is 6:25 p.m. local time. The Dubai Sheema Classic kicks off at 8:50 p.m. and the Dubai World Cup will be staged at 9:35 p.m. Dubai is five hours behind Japan. In Japan, races will be carried live by Green Channel racing channel, which will broadcast from 11 p.m. Saturday night Japan time until 3 a.m.
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