2015 Champions Cup (G1) - Preview
The first weekend of December has excitement in store as racing returns to Nagoya’s Chukyo Racecourse for the first time since July. With it comes top-level international action – the G1 Champions Cup.
The Champions Cup, this year on Sunday, Dec. 6, is one of only two G1 events staged at Chukyo and one of only two top-level Japan Racing Association-hosted races run over dirt. The 1,800-meter race brings together top jockeys and top dirt runners from not only the JRA’s training centers, but from the municipal-government-run tracks throughout Japan, as well as from overseas. Runners that have won selected races in the U.S. and Dubai are also eligible for a bonus of up to 50 million yen.
The Champions Cup sees one foreign raider in the lineup this year, a 5-year-old gelding from Hong Kong named Gun Pit. He will be competing amid a full gate of 16 horses for a shot at a share of the total purse of over 196 million yen and 94 million yen to the winner.
The anticipation this year centers on 2014 champion Hokko Tarumae and the question of whether he can make it two in a row. Last year he improved dramatically from his fourth-place run in the JBC Classic to nab the Champions Cup and then continued his roll with victory in the Tokyo Daishoten and the Kawasaki Kinen. He then took flight for a run in the Dubai World Cup and crossed the finish line an admirable fifth. Back home he returned to the winner’s circle in topping the field of the Teio Sho, then ran third in this year’s JBC Classic Nov. 3 at Ohi Racecourse behind Copano Rickey. If Hokko Tarumae can roll like last year, the now 6-year-old may be back in form for the Champions Cup with the sharpener. Trainer Katsuichi Nishiura says, “In the JBC Classic, he was returning to the track from a layoff, but he had gotten a lot of work and was in good shape. But maybe his responses weren’t as sharp as they could be. I think he needs a little help after all and that last run should have done him good.”
Last time out, the 5-year-old Copano Rickey landed his second JBC Classic in a row going wire to wire once again. Last year’s Champions Cup saw the son of Gold Allure miss the break and unable to give it his all but he’s a proven consistent runner and Copano Rickey should prove a fine and formidable rival for Hokko Tarumae if he jumps well and, as trainer Akira Murayama explains, doesn’t get sand in his face. “He went to the top of the pack last race and it was good he could run his own race. It’s no good if he gets any kickback and if he can jump well and take the lead he should surely be able to give us a good race this time too.”
Hot on the heels of Hokko Tarumae and Copano Rickey in the JBC Classic was eventual runnerup Sound True, who was just off a win of the Nippon TV Hai at Funabashi. In the JBC Classic he turned in the fastest time of the field over the final three furlongs. Into the straight in sixth position, he rocketed toward home and passed Hokko Tarumae but wasn’t able to catch Copano Rickey. Trainer Noboru Takagi says, “Copano Rickey had an advantageous trip in the JBC Classic, but Sound True really accelerated well to make second. Ideally, he’ll be able to get a more forward position and make his move from there this time. The Chukyo dirt tends to favor the frontrunners, so that’s a concern.”
Nonkono Yume is a 3-year-old colt that is on a four-race winning streak and has, in nine starts, finished only one race any further down the board than the top three spots. His powerful late kick has brought him down the straight and home a winner in three top-level races in a row -- the G3 Unicorn Stakes and the Listed Japan Dirt Derby with other 3-year-olds, and the G3 Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino Stakes up against older horses. With that rotation he looks set for another big victory. Last time out he was asked to shoulder 58 kg but this time he’ll have the advantage of carrying only 56 kg and likely will have Frenchman Christophe Lemaire in the saddle. It’ll be his first G1 and trainer Yukihiro Kato is upbeat, saying, “This time he’ll be up against top-level older horses. I’m looking forward to seeing just how well he can do.”
Others to watch are Roi Jardin, just off victory in the G3 Miyako Stakes. His tenacious advance up the inside in the sloppy stretch was the stuff of goosebumps. But his trainer Hirofumi Toda is making no boastful claims. “He had the weight advantage and he got a nice ground-saving trip. This time out the competition will be stronger. Still, he came out of that race well despite having run his heart out in the muck.” It’ll be his third race after a layoff and Toda’s hoping for a charm.
Last year’s second and third-place finishers are also back. Namura Victor ran second in 2014 and has had no wins since, but he has notched two races in the money in his four starts this year. Roman Legend was overtaken by Namura Victor last year in the final strides and is back for revenge. Third in the Miyako Stakes in his last race he hasn’t had a win since July of last year, but he’s still raring to go at the age of seven. Assistant trainer Nobuyuki Tashiro has his heart set on a G1 title for Roman Legend. “He was only 0.2 seconds off the winner in this race last year. And one thing he’s got going for him is his stubbornness. He holds his ground well.”
The Champions Cup will be the 11th race on the Sunday, Dec. 6 card of 12 at Chukyo. Post time is set for 3:30 p.m.
Source (comments): Keiba Book