Deep Brillante set for King George VI bid
Deep Brillante, this year's winner of Japan's top 3-year-old classic race, the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), is set to take on the competition in Britain's most prestigious open-age race on the flat – the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Deep Brillante, by Japan Triple Crown winner Deep Impact out of the Loup Sauvage mare Love And Bubbles, will race at Ascot in the 2,400-meter King George on July 21. The colt's regular partner Yasunari Iwata has the ride.
Ascot's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, currently sponsored by Betfair, was first run in 1951. In the early '70s, the name included the word "Diamond" after the start of De Beers' sponsorship. The race boasts a 1 million pound sterling purse (approx. 123 million yen), with 567,100 pounds going to the winner and payouts made through sixth place. Current leaders for wins of the race are Frankie Dettori with four wins, while trainers Saeed bin Suroor and Sir Michael Stoute tie for five victories each. The Ascot course, where races are run to the right, dates back some 300 years to the days of Queen Anne, and is located just a few kilometers from Windsor Castle. The King George is traditionally the first opportunity for the middle distance 3-year-olds to take on the older crowd.
This year's running, the 62nd, is looking to boast its usual marquis of big names. Though the final lineup is not in, last year's champion, the John Gosden-trained Nathaniel, is in top form to make it two in a row after winning the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. He has been dubbed the neck-in-neck favorite along with the 5-year-old St Nicholas Abbey. Stoute's Royal Ascot winner Sea Moon is the early third pick, with Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden next in line. Gosden's Masked Marvel, winner of last year's St. Leger may run, and Dunaden heads the strong challenge from France that includes 2011 French Derby winner Reliable Man and stablemate Shareta. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream, though disappointing of late, is still a possible, and Aidan O'Brien will be fielding what may be a five-strong battalion headed by St Nicholas Abbey. Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso is still a possible, and Red Cadeaux is also in the mix. Brown Panther, runnerup to Masked Marvel at Doncaster, is still a candidate, as is Light Heavy, who finished behind Camelot in the Irish Derby.
It is, to say the least, a formidable challenge for the Yoshito Yahagi-trained 3-year-old, already settled in at the Newmarket stable of trainer Clive Brittain. Deep Brillante, one of only a possible three 3-year-olds in the King George field along with Imperial Monarch and Light Heavy, arrived safely at his stabling ground on the evening of July 6 (4 a.m. July 7 Japan time) after a 28-hour journey from Japan. According to assistant trainer Yasuhiro Shibuta, "Everything went smoothly. There was no hitch at Amsterdam airport when we reloaded. We took a charter plane from Amsterdam and I think that really helped everything go smoothly." A day after arriving, Shibuta reported that the colt was "as lively as he normally is at Ritto." After leaving his stall that morning "he didn't spook at anything and walked well. He's in good health. I don't see any fatigue from the journey," Shibuta reported. Shibuta said Deep Brillante, who weighed in at 506 kg when he returned from Northern Farm to Ritto the other day, was at 505 kg. "He didn't lose anything during the trip and I think it'll be good if we can maintain this weight as we head into the race," Shibuta said, and indicated that the only training the colt would receive would be light.
Deep Brillante has had only six races in his career and has finished in the money in all. Following his winning debut at Hanshin last October in a 1,800-meter race, he jumped immediately to the G3 level the following month with a run in the 1,800-meter Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes. He won handily, showing he could handle both a sloppy track and racing to the left. His next outing came in February with the G3 Kyodo News Service Hai at Tokyo over 1,800 meters in which he was beaten by Gold Ship. The next month at Nakayama in the G2 Spring Stakes over yielding going Deep Brillante took the lead and held it until 200 meters out to again finish in second place. Next up was the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), giving Deep Brillante not only his first chance at a G1 but an extra furlong. He finished third, but the next month showed he could handle 2 extra furlongs when he claimed the 2,400-meter Derby at Tokyo by a nose. The colt has carried a top weight of 57 kg in three races, which included one win, that of the Derby.
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes has, throughout its history, been dominated by England-based horses. Since the race's inauguration in 1951, 34 horses from the host country have won. Ireland claimed the race 12 times, France eight, the UAE five times and Italy once. Japan has only fielded a total four horses in the race. The first was in 1969 with Speed Symboli, whom Yuji Nohira rode to a fifth-place finish. Yukio Okabe was partnered with Sirius Symboli in 1985 and turned in an eighth-place performance, while Yutaka Take rode Air Shakur to a fifth-place finish in 2000. Japan's best result thus far was a third scored by Heart's Cry in 2006 with Christophe Lemaire up. The closest a Japanese rider aboard a non-Japan-based horse has come to winning was Yutaka Take in 1994 on runnerup White Muzzle. Masato Shibata also rode Assatis to a third in 1990.
Pegged for the ride aboard Deep Brillante is Japan's Yasunari Iwata, who on June 30 passed the 900 mark for wins of JRA races. The 38-year-old Iwata is a Ritto-based rider who made his way into the national circuit from the local Hyogo Prefecture racing, where he rode predominately at Sonoda Racecourse. After acquiring his JRA license in 2006, he has captured top-level races every year since 2007, and already has three to his name this year -- the Japanese Derby with Deep Brillante, the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) with Gentildonna, and the February Stakes aboard Testa Matta. Since joining the JRA riders, Iwata has won 46 graded stakes races, 15 of them Grade 1s. This year sees him tied for the top with 69 wins.
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes will be run on Saturday, July 21 at Ascot. The first race of the day, which also includes the Summer Double First Leg International Handicap and the Group 2 Summer Mile, starts at 1:35 p.m., the last is run at 5:10 p.m. The King George post time is 4:35 p.m. local time (00:35 Sunday morning in Japan).
Weights are as follows: 55 kg for 3-year-old colts and geldings, 53.5 kg for 3-year-old fillies; 60.5 kg for colts and geldings 4 years olds and up; 59 kg for fillies and mares 4 years old and up. Southern Hemisphere runners 4 and above have a 1.75 kg allowance.
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