Training Report of Foreign Entries
Japan Autumn International
The 36th Japan Cup (G1)
November 24, 2016 (Thursday)
Today, the Joint Press Conference, attended by the connections of foreign horses, was held at Tokyo Racecourse after the morning workout. Questions and answers are as follows:
<At Tokyo Racecourse>
Going: Muddy (dirt course)
Erupt (IRE, C4, by bay)
- jogged 1/4 lap, cantered lightly 3/4 lap, fast canter 1-1/4 laps (dirt course)
(exercised from 7:45 to 8:04, ridden by Aurelien Bellei)
Owner (O): Alan Cooper
Trainer (T): Francis-Henri Graffard
Q: This is your second challenge in the Japan Cup following last year. Did you decide to come back because you have confidence in doing better than last year with the chance of winning this year?
O: Good morning. Thank you for your welcome. Yes, it is the second time we’re running Erupt who is now four-year-old. Last year, he had a three-year-old classic campaign and a run in the Arc de Triomphe. This year, his racing has been more spaced out. He has traveled internationally to Canada and now here. I think, with the agreement of Mr. Graffard and his staff, it’s very fair to say that Erupt is a more mature horse physically and mentally, and Mr. Graffard has brought him here in very good condition.
Q: How do you rate Erupt’s performance in last year’s Japan Cup?
T: Good morning, everybody. I was delighted with his run last year. I thought it was a very good performance for a three-year-old. It was a big challenge to come with a three-year-old here. We saw that Erupt handled the track really well; he progressed really nicely in the straight and finished very close to the winner. So, it was a very good first experience and we were very proud of the horse last year.
Q: How was his condition after winning his last race, the Canadian International?
T: He came back really well from Canada. It was a very good performance. I was very happy with his condition. I think he progressed for the season, he found a ground he really liked in Canada and when he has that, he can really quicken. After Canada, we brought him back home; we freshened him up and we decided to come back here. So, he worked nicely before coming to Japan. My traveling staff who knows the horse well, having traveled with him a lot, are happy with his condition and I was happy with his performance.
Q: How would you assess him in terms of his suitability to the ground at Tokyo Racecourse and the 2,400-meter distance?
T: Last year, he improved at the end of the track here. I think this track suits him. He likes the big galloping racecourse like that; he likes the firm galloping ground —the long straight helps him. Last year, he went straight into the race and managed to get a good position. I think, with the experience now of the horse, he likes the left-handed track and he proved it again in Canada. It’s the second time he is going to run here and we know he didn’t mind the track last year so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he does it again this year.
Q: Has he improved or changed since last year?
T: Definitely. He is stronger and more mature. Last year, he was only three and he was a heavy top horse. I think at four this year, has really blossomed physically, he looks more mature. Yes, I think he has improved from three to four physically.
Q: What stall would you like to draw and what is your ideal race development?
T: Can I choose my draw? We will do with the draw we get, I don’ want to put any pressure on us with the draw. We have no choice so I don’t mind. My horse knows his job; he’s very quick out of the stalls. In Canada, we had an outside draw, which is normally a bad draw but he managed to get a good position. I think we don’t want to put any pressure on us with the draw. The horse is well; this is my job to bring him in top form for the race. He will break well and, hopefully, we can manage to get a good position and I’m sure he will accelerate really nicely in the straight. I can manage a lot of things coming into the race but I can’t plan how it will run.
Q: Do you think that this year’s Japanese horses are stronger than last year?
O: Going into Group 1, you know you got the top competition. Once again, it’s a very competitive race. Erupt has an international rating of 117 and there are horses rated higher than him and horses rated lower than him. As Francis said earlier, you need the luck in the running to find out who’s the best on the day.
Q: Are you planning to race him in Hong Kong after this?
O: Everything is in place for Erupt to go from here to Hong Kong during the week with the reservation that we will discuss the horse’s participation after Sunday’s race. The Hong Kong Jockey Club issued the invited field yesterday and we have noted that.
Q: Are you planning to continue training him next year?
O: As for staying in training next year, at the moment that will appear the likelihood.
Q: It was snowing today and the weather forecast for Sunday is rain. The horse has won and lost over heavy going but if the pace is slow on Sunday, how do you think he will handle the sloppy ground?
T: This morning, I was quite surprised to see so much snow. But the grass under the snow looked quite firm. Hopefully, we won’t have too much rain for Sunday. For the race, I think it’s important that the going is fair for everybody. Obviously, my horse prefers it good to firm, but heavy here is not as heavy as it is in France or in Europe. Obviously, we don’t want too much rain but I think for everybody fair is on good ground.
Q:Iquitos has been especially impressive going left-handed and over 2,400 meters in the past, so how do you judge his suitability to Tokyo Racecourse?
J: Definitely. The track would suit him—not because it's left-handed—he ran a great race in Hamburg, a right-handed track, where he finished second in a Group 2 behind Protectionist. But the track will definitely suit him—big, long-galloping track and, of course again, especially the pace they go, that will be to his advantage.
Iquitos (GER, C4, bay)
- jogged 1 lap, cantered 1-1/4 lap (dirt course)
(exercised from 7:37 to 8:00, ridden by Ian Ferguson)
Owner (O): Werner Gerhold
Trainer (T): Hans-Jurgen Groschel
Jockey (J): Ian Ferguson
Q: When did you decide on running your horse in the Japan Cup?
O: We were given an invitation to run after his victory in the Grosser Preis von Baden and were very excited about the opportunity. We discussed the possibility with our trainer and decided to enter him.
Q: What is your impression on horse racing in Japan?
O: I’m greatly impressed by the track and how well organized it is.
Q: His last race was only this month with a little less than three weeks in between. With that and having to deal with the long trip here, how is his condition?
T: The spacing is not that short and being a small horse, he is easy to handle and an easy ride, so he is taking it in his stride and in good form.
Q: Since there is another German runner, Nightflower, taking part for the second time this year in the Japan Cup, were you given any information about the race by the Nightflower’s connections?
T: Since they are to be our rivals in the race, no, we were not given any information. But we have been training together since arriving here in Tokyo, so we do get along in that sense.
Q: Where would you prefer to start from? And what kind of race development would work best to your advantage?
T: You have no choice as the barrier is determined by a draw, but of course I would prefer an inside draw and definitely not the outside, as it would give us a better chance to finish closer up front.
Q: What is Iquitos’s most outstanding points?
J: His advantage would be, if it keeps raining like this, but I heard that the drainage system here in Tokyo is very good and the ground never gets too soft, so that would of course be his advantage. It’s going to be a quick race—this is good for him—it’s just getting the clear run when he comes into the straight. That is the most difficult thing.
Q: Iquitos has been especially impressive going left-handed and over 2,400 meters in the past, so how do you judge his suitability to Tokyo Racecourse?
J: Definitely. The track would suit him—not because it’s left-handed—he ran a great race in Hamburg, a right-handed track, where he finished second in a Group 2 behind Protectionist. But the track will definitely suit him—big long galloping track and of course again, especially the pace they go, that will be to his advantage.
Q: What kind of race do you imagine yourself riding in the coming race?
J: It’s going to be a fast race like it always is—that’s going to be our advantage. Of course I would love it if they are going to split in the straight and I’m going to have a gap to come up the middle to show his speed. Like I say, that’s going to be the most difficult part—finding the right lane in the straight.
Q: It’s your first time here in Japan. What is your impression of Japanese racing in general as well as the Japan Cup race?
J: Like you say, it’s my first time here in Japan. I’ve never really dealt with racing here or showed much interest, but it’s an honor to be here to see this, especially at my age, this is probably the last time or getting to the end of my career, so to have something like this come for me, I’m so thankful—it’s just great.
Q: Andrasch Starke is a well-known German jockey in Japan. Have you had the chance to hear something about racing in Japan from him?
J: When Andrasch found out that I was coming to Japan—we were talking before the starting machine and he was telling me about it—Andrash won the Arc de Triomphe with Danedream—and he says, even this event, you cannot compare it to Japan, it’s just another world completely against Paris, even, you know, so looking forward to it.
Q: Can you describe how you felt, riding your horse this morning over this course?
J: I was happy with the horse this morning. If I’d ridden before on the track, I wouldn’t have stayed on this sand track because it’s very deep—as we were walking back I’ve seen that the middle of the track and towards the outside of the track is better ground. You need soft ground, but this sand… it’s pretty hard work for them if they stay in the inside. But still, I was very happy with the horse—it was OK.
Q: This horse made a relatively late three-year-old debut in April last year and was given a long spell, about half a year after his race in August. Can you explain the reason for this? And another question, don’t you weigh your horses in Germany?
T: This colt suffered from colic in September which had to be treated surgically. The surgery was successful but we had to continue to make visits to the clinic for treatment and it took us quite a lot of time to get him back to where he was fit for training. As for his weight, no we judge the horse’s condition from how they appear to our eyes, and in fact, he looks as though he’s put on some after coming to Japan.
Q: Protectionist is a horse we know well in Australia, obviously a Melbourne Cup winner. Can you take us through the performance of Iquitos in the Hamburg race when he raced against Protectionist—as to whether that race was actually run tempo-wise to suit him, and secondly, how do you think Iquitos will go in Sunday’s field of 18 runners where most of his forms have been against smaller fields?
J: The race in Hamburg was actually perfect for him. He had his ground, it wasn’t too big of a field and our advantage was, they all stayed out towards the middle of the track the whole race to look for better ground, and before entering the straight I could make little bit of ground up in the inside like he did in Baden-Baden where he won. And of course, turning into the straight, I had the right horse in front of me, Protectionist, and he was cantering, so I just followed him in the straight—perfect race—and it wasn’t a hard race for him. I could see I couldn’t beat the winner but we had all the other ones easily beat so it wasn’t such a tough race for him, it was more just with the hands and heels. The advantage is going to be the pace with a big field like this. The disadvantage is going to be getting the right gap when we need it, you know, with 18 runners.
Q: Can you see yourself going forward on Sunday to race with the pace?
J: Oh no no, definitely not. First of all, he’s not fast enough. And secondly, he’s a speed horse, so we chase them in the beginning then we’re going to use his speed up of course. He’ll be coming from behind. Hopefully not too far behind, but from behind.
Nightflower (IRE, F4, chestnut)
- jogged 1 lap, cantered 1-1/4 laps (dirt course)
(exercised from 7:37 to 8:00, ridden by Patrick Gibson)
Owner’s connection (O): Hilda Guriry
Trainer (T): Peter Schiergen
Q: What was behind your decision to race her in the Japan Cup again this year after your 11th-place finish last year? How do you think she will fare this time and what do you think her odds of winning will be?
O: First of all, as I said we weren't 100 percent pleased with her running last year. We felt she didn't run to her optimum performance, and that's the reason we've decided to come back again this year. We would hope to finish better than last year, and as to winning, I'm afraid I can't answer that question.
Q: How would you rate Nightflower’s performance in last year’s race?
T: She was trapped behind horses without any room and we’re hoping she doesn’t encounter the same situation this year.
Q: How has her training been and how is her condition so far?
T: Her condition is good; she seems happy and her work this morning was very satisfying.
Q: How would you assess her in terms of her suitability to the ground at Tokyo Racecourse and the 2,400-meter distance?
T. I think the distance and the atmosphere is just right for her and that she is suited to the course.
Q: In what area do you think she has developed and improved the most since last year?
T: There was nothing wrong with her last year and she is in very good form now so I’m not worried at all.
Q: What would be her ideal draw and racing pattern?
T: Since we were disappointed with drawing the widest stall last year, somewhere between one and 10 would be nice. As long as she can run in good rhythm behind someone, she will be able to run her race.
Q: Mr. Schiergen, you have challenged the Japan Cup with Tiger Hill, Danedream and Nightflower. What has the experience taught you and what are your hopes in your fourth attempt?
T: All three horses I’ve brought over here were magnificent runners and I’m well aware of how difficult it is to do well in Japan. But still, I’m just hoping Nightflower will be placed near the pace and be given the chance to show her best performance.
Q: What do you think about the snow and the surface that is bound to soften up?
T: She is suited to a faster track so I hope it’ll dry up as much as possible.