2012 Dubai World Cup Day - Preview
Meydan Racecourse (c) Dubai Racing Club
2011 Dubai World Cup: Transcend (right)
Smart Falcon (c) NAR
A Shin Virgo
Japan horsemen are taking their biggest team yet – seven strong -- to the United Arab Emirates this year for Dubai World Cup Day, Saturday, March 31 at Meydan Racecourse. The gala day, highlighted by the 17th running of the world's richest horse race, the G1 Dubai World Cup, features a total nine races, five of them now G1 competitions.
Japan's participants will have a hard time upstaging last year's spectacular one-two finish by Victoire Pisa and Transcend, a heady performance that did much to lift battered spirits just weeks after unprecedented disaster ravaged Japan's northeast. Though connections debated whether to go on with the race, their hopes of giving those back home a bit of good news were met with not only unprecedented success, but a most-likely-undreamed-of outcome.
The retirement of Victoire Pisa late last year puts hopes for success largely on 2011 JRA Best Dirt Horse Transcend, who heads a seven-horse team, with three of them –Transcend, Eishin Flash, Smart Falcon -- aimed at the World Cup. The Dubai World Cup boasts a total purse of $10 million and a first-place prize of $6 million. It is run at a distance of 2,000 meters on the artificial all-weather Tapeta surface.
Taking part in two other G1 races on the day are Dark Shadow in the Dubai Duty Free and A Shin Virgo in the Al Quoz Sprint, upgraded to G1 status from this year. Genten will take on the G2 UAE Derby, while Makani Bisty is set for the G3 Dubai Gold Cup. Japan will have no runners in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, nor in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, a race Japan has captured twice.
Transcend and Dark Shadow have already left for Dubai on March 14. The other five members of the Japan team are scheduled to leave on the 21st.
Transcend, trained by former jockey Takayuki Yasuda, 59, is the only one of the seven with experience in Dubai. Sired by Wild Rush, he has won 10 of his 20 outings to date, with five seconds as well. His wins include Japan's top two dirt events, the Japan Cup Dirt, which he captured in both 2010 and 2011 and the 2011 February Stakes. Transcend's last outing, the February Stakes on Feb. 19 at Tokyo saw him finish a lackluster seventh, but hopes are high he will able to give his all in Dubai. Transcend has run and won predominately over 1,600 and 1,800 meters nearly exclusively on dirt.
The 5-year-old Eishin Flash, by King's Best, is coming off a second in the Arima Kinen behind 2011 Triple Crown winner Orfevre. Eishin Flash has won four of his 16 starts and notched 3 seconds and 4 thirds, and has shown himself to be a consistent runner at distances from 1,800 to 2,500 meters. He has won at 2,000 and 2,400 meters. Winless since capturing the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) in 2010, Eishin Flash nonetheless finished in the money in both the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) and the G1 Takarazuka Kinen last year. He is trained by the 46-year-old Hideaki Fujiwara.
The 7-year-old Smart Falcon, by Gold Allure, has won 23 of his 33 starts. In the charge by JRA trainer Ken Kozaki, the horse has raced primarily, not in JRA events, but in the top NAR races in Japan. The dirt specialist is currently on a nine-race winning streak. Those nine include distances from 1,800 meters to 2,400 meters and six top-level races. On March 15, regular rider Yutaka Take rode Smart Falcon in his last fast work before his schedule departure for Dubai next week. Instead of his usual hill course work, Smart Falcon was, with an eye to the absence of a slope course in Dubai, worked on the flat for the first time in four years. "He feels good. He wanted to just take off, but I asked him to hold back and he did and we were able to get into a nice rhythm," Take said. "The World Cup is a race I've always dreamed of and all along, I hoped that one day…" he said trailing off. "This kind of power is something you don't often see," he said giving a nod to Smart Falcon's ability. Trainer Kozaki agreed. "His times were even faster than he looked out there. Everything is going according to plan."
A Shin Virgo, the only female on the Japan team is to take on the Al Quoz Sprint, 1,000 meters on turf with $600,000 to the winner. The 5-year-old mare is by Falbrav and also trained by Kozaki, 40. The mare's last win came in the G2 Centaur Stakes over 1,200 meters on Sept. 11 of last year. A Shin Virgo finished in third place in the subsequent Sprinters Stakes (G1) on Oct. 2. She has had two poor runs this year, both in G3 races, a 15th place in the Silk Road Stakes in late January and a 10th in her last race, the Ocean Stakes on March 3. She has won 7 out of 18 starts, with 3 seconds and 3 thirds.
Connections of the 5-year-old Dark Shadow, trained by Noriyuki Hori, accepted their invite to the 1,800-meter G1 Dubai Duty Free, with its $5 mil.- purse and $3 mil. to the winner. Five for 11, with four seconds, the Dance in the Dark-sired Dark Shadow is gunning for his first G1 win after barely missing the winner's circle in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) on Oct. 30. Last race out, the G2 Kyoto Kinen, also saw him come up just a bit too short, 2 lengths off the winner in second place. Dark Shadow has raced predominately in the 2,000-2,200-meter range, but has won at 1,800 meters as well, at Tokyo in the G2 Mainichi Okan on Oct. 9. The 44-year-old Hori has enjoyed continued success since opening his stable in 2003 and has picked up two G1 wins in both 2010 and last year, his best year yet with a total of 43 wins.
Genten, trained by Yoshito Yahagi, is aimed for the UAE Derby, a G2 over 1,900 meters on the all-weather Tapeta surface. $2 million is the purse and $1.2 mil. goes to the winner alone. The 3-year-old, American-bred son of Bernardini has won two of his six starts so far. Immediately following his debut, Genten jumped to a G2, the Daily Hai Nisai Stakes, where he finished third. This year he has had two runs in lower-class races, where he picked up another win and a second. All his starts to date have been at distances of a mile or less.
Also from the Yahagi stable comes the 5-year-old Makani Bisty, who will be running in the Dubai Gold Cup, a G3 race over 3,200 meters of turf with a hefty $600,000 for the winner. Makani Bisty, by Zenno Rob Roy, is 4 for 22. An open-class runner, he has yet to win a graded stakes race but looks to be on the up and up. This year, he started out with a second in a 3,000-meter open class race, then a third amid strong competition in the G2 Nikkei Shinshun Hai. He followed that with a fourth-place finish in an open-class at 2,000 meters. His best result over distances 3,000 meters were the second this year and a fourth in last year's Tenno Sho (Spring)(G1).
Until Japan's victory last year, American horses had 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 2010 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. In addition to the fabulous one-two last year, Japanese runners took a second in 2001 with To the Victory, fourth in 2006 with Kane Hekili and fourth in 2007 with Vermilion.
Japan racing fans can catch the Dubai action in Japan on the JRA racing channel Green Channel. Broadcasts will begin at 11 p.m. March 31 and continue until 3 a.m. The World Cup post time is set for 2:40 a.m., early in the morning of Sunday, April 1 Japan time. Public viewings will also be held on Saturday night from 10:45 p.m. at Wald9 Cinema in Tokyo's Shinjuku and Burg7 Theater in Osaka's Umeda.
* Please visit the following websites for more information.
Dubai World Cup: http://www.dubairacingclub.com/dubai-world-cup
Dubai Racing Club: http://www.dubairacingclub.com/
Emirates Racing Authority: http://www.emiratesracing.com/