2018 News

April 2, 2018


Four Japan runners make top spots in Dubai, with Vivlos a best 2nd in Dubai Turf; Awardee runs 6th in World Cup
Osaka Hai(G1)

Osaka Hai(G1)
Rey de Oro

Osaka Hai(G1)
Mozu Katchan

Osaka Hai(G1)
Satono Crown

Osaka Hai(G1)

Osaka Hai(G1)
Real Steel

Osaka Hai(G1)

Osaka Hai(G1)

Osaka Hai(G1)

Osaka Hai(G1)
Matera Sky

Despite a huge show of force, no wins were to be had for Japan at Meydan Racecourse on the international gala that is Dubai World Cup Day. Four of Japan’s 14 total runners did make the top three spots, however, including a second by last year’s winner Vivlos in the Dubai Turf, and a Japanese dead heat for third in the same race between Deirdre and Real Steel. Adirato finished third in the G2 Godolphin Mile. Japan’s hopeful in the Dubai World Cup, Awardee, was one place behind his 2017 finishing order in sixth.

The entourage of 14 runners to Dubai this year was Japan’s biggest yet, since the country’s first and sole runner Lively Mount made the journey to the United Arab Emirates in 1996. Like last year, participants had berths in six of the eight Thoroughbred races scheduled on Saturday, March 31, two of them Grade 2 events, the rest top-level competitions. Japan had no runners in the G2 Gold Cup or the G1 Al Quoz Sprint.

Unlike last year, however, when four horses took on the Dubai World Cup and only one entered the Dubai Turf, this year only one Japan-based horse competed in the day’s headliner and five tried their luck in the Dubai Turf, a race Japan has won four times before. 

Unfortunately, numbers did not translate to more appearances in the winner’s circle and Japanese horsemen failed for the first time in five years to take home at least one or even two first-place trophies in a Grade 1 event.

Japan came closest in the seventh race on the card, the 1,800-meter Dubai Turf, which carried a first-place of $3.6 million and was won by over 3 lengths by the Godolphin-owned 4-year-old colt Benbatl in a time of 1 minute 46.02 seconds, over 4 seconds faster than last year’s winning time. Following him over the line a far second was last year’s Dubai Turf winner Vivlos. The 5-year-old mare by Deep Impact turned in her best result since last year’s race. Rider Cristian Demuro, who had not ridden since her debut, said, “I heard that recently, she hadn’t been using her speed to the best of her ability, but today she was very relaxed. I’d been instructed to hold back in the first half and race from behind. She tried her best but the winner was strong.” Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi acknowledged her effort. “She quickened well in the end. I’m satisfied. She did try her best.”

Just a neck behind her were two more from Japan, Real Steel and the 4-year-old filly Deirdre, who finished in a dead heat. Christophe Lemaire on Deirdre said, “I thought she was going to win. The pace wasn’t fast, it was just perfect for her. When we turned into the stretch, I really did think we were going to win.” Lemaire, who rode Deidre for her win of the Grade 1 Shuka Sho last year, said, ”The course really looks to suit her. But, the winner was strong.”

Trainer Mitsuru Hashida agreed, “She put up a good fight and the flat track suited her. She’s still only 4 years old and she’s had a good experience overseas with top-level competitors. She’s still maturing and I think we have something to look forward to.”

The 6-year-old Real Steel, who’d run fourth last out in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and had won the Dubai Turf in 2016 under Ryan Moore, was partnered this year with the French-born Mickael Barzalona, who said, “He turned in a good race, but he just didn’t have enough. I think he still has a lot in him though and hope he’ll try hard in his next race.”

“He had a clear run with no interference and he did try hard,” said trainer Yoshito Yahagi. “He was returning from time off and this year’s winning time was much faster than most years.”

Japan’s other two runners in the 15-strong Dubai Turf, Crocosmia under Yasunari Iwata and the Noriyuki Hori-trained Neorealism, with Joao Moreira up, finished in seventh and eighth place, respectively. Katsuichi Nishiura, who fielded the 5-year-old Stay Gold mare Crocosmia, said, “She was very relaxed and looking really good all the way up to the race. She was able to get a good position in third or fourth and things were unfolding as I’d imagined they would, but…she just didn’t have enough kick. I had thought she’d do at least a bit better, but that’s racing and she did try hard.”

Neorealism had last raced at Hong Kong in December for a third in the 2,000-meter Hong Kong Cup. Moreira found the 7-year-old son of Neo Universe “didn’t have the concentration he needed and his start wasn’t good. He was a bit keen under way and didn’t quicken in the finish. He was worked up and it was a shame he wasn’t able to give his best performance.”

Japan’s next best performance was to be had from the Grade 2 Godolphin Mile, the first race of the day and run over dirt. The top two spots went to Dubai-owned runners, Heavy Metal in the winner’s circle and Muntazah in second. Japan’s Adirato, a 4-year-old colt by Rulership, finished third 2.5 lengths off the winner, a huge improvement on last year’s 12th-place finish in the Grade 2 UAE Derby over 1,900 meters of dirt. Lemaire was up and happy with the results. “It was a good race. He was right behind the best horse and didn’t get too much of the kickback. Last year, his results weren’t very good, but this year they were. With a bit more experience, I think he’ll improve.”

Trainer Naosuke Sugai was upbeat was well. “One good thing he took from this race was being able to hold back and keep something in reserve. We didn’t win but he tried as best he could in an international race and I’m satisfied.”
Turning in a last-place finish in the field of 14 was Japan’s Akito Crescent, a 6-year-old with two wins at the open-class level. He had given rider Yutaka Take cause for concern before the race. “He had tripped in the preliminaries so I was on my toes. But then he stumbled coming out of the gate and that hurt.”
Trainer Hisashi Shimizu said, “He was racing from the rear, but even so, he lost by way too much.”

The 8-year-old Jungle Pocket-sired Awardee, fifth in last year’s World Cup, was the only runner from Japan entered in the day’s big event. The Dubai World Cup, the last race on the card of nine, was run over 2,000 meters of dirt and this year’s $6 million first-place prize went to the record-setting Thunder Snow, a 4-year-old, Godolphin-owned colt ridden by Christophe Soumillon. Last year, Thunder Snow had snatched the win away from Japan’s Epicharis in the UAE Derby, but this year the Japanese competition in the World Cup was some 10 lengths away in sixth place among a field of 10. “He broke really well and I think he turned in a good race,” said trainer Mikio Matsunaga, “but, the other horses were fast and the pace shot up turning out of the backstretch. He did quicken bit by bit in the end, but he needed a bit more to make last year’s finishing order. I knew it would be difficult being an overseas excursion, but I think he did well today.” Yutaka Take gave Awardee high marks for effort as well. “He broke well but the other horses were faster. After that, he did run well and he was in better condition than he’d been last year, but it was, after all, the Dubai World Cup. It’s not easy to win it. Still, he really did his best over a relatively unfamiliar course on an overseas trip. I think it was a nice try.”

Just prior to the World Cup was the Sheema Classic, a turf Grade 1 race over 2,410 meters. The race was won by the Godolphin-owned, 5-year-old Hawkbill. Japan fielded three runners, whose best was a fourth-place finish by Rey de Oro nearly 5 lengths off the winner. The 2017 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner was piloted by Christophe Lemaire. “The pace was slow and he was a bit keen. He did respond in the stretch, but there was no stopping those ahead of him. We had a lot of people rooting for us, so it’s a shame we couldn’t live up to expectations. I think he had improved.” Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa commented, “He was calm, but the pace was slow and he was keen to run. He ran well until the end and didn’t give up. I think it was a good experience for him.”

Finishing in sixth place was the 4-year-old filly Mozu Katchan, partnered with Cristian Demuro. The slow pace of the race played havoc with her as well, according to trainer Ippo Sameshima. “She couldn’t move with the slow pace and got stuck in with others. It would have been good if she couldn’t have moved out. She did try and I don’t think she lost for a lack of ability.” Demuro agreed. “She ran well but the pace was slower than I had anticipated. And perhaps the distance was a bit too far for her.”

And rounding up the Japan trio in seventh was the Noriyuki Hori-trained Satono Crown, who according to rider Joao Moreira, perhaps got the worst trip of the lot. “In the gate, the horse next to him reared up and tried to clamber up on this one,” explained Moreira. “Also, he got knocked around a bit under way and he simply didn’t get to run his race.”

Race No. 6 was the Golden Shaheen, a 1,200-meter sprint over dirt. The race was won by the U.S.-bred Mind Your Biscuits, a 5-year-old by Posse. Japan’s only runner was the 4-year-old American-bred colt Matera Sky, who was taking on his first Grade 1 event following a win of the Kashihara Stakes at Kyoto in February. Matera Sky finished fifth in the field of eight under Yutaka Take. “He didn’t lose for a lack of speed,” said Take, “and he didn’t feel bad under way and wasn’t at a loss in any way. I thought he would be able to gain a bit more ground in the end, but the others were strong.”

Trainer Hideyuki Mori was well aware the competition was a big leap up. “It would have been ideal if he’d been able to lead but he was up against competition like he’d never seen before. Still, from the turn home he was right up there on the pace. One thing we reaped from this race was that he was not bothered by the kickback.”

Taking on the Grade 2 UAE Derby for 3-year-olds this year were two runners from Japan, Taiki Ferveur by Furioso and the Kinshasha no Kiseki-sired Ruggero. Both horses had only notched wins at the lower levels, with Taiki Ferveur’s best a second in the open-class Hyacinth Stakes last out and Ruggero’s best a third in the same.

The competition of the UAE Derby was expectedly out of reach, though Taiki Ferveur did manage a sixth in the field of nine despite a difficult trip. “He was a bit slow out of the gate,” said Joao Moreira, “and though I did try to get into position, he was forced wide, which was unfortunate. In the end, he just didn’t have anything left.” Trainer Mitsunori Makiura saw the colt’s effort as a brave one. “Things were moving fast from the start and he used up a lot of what he had. He was racing on the outside the whole time and wasn’t able to get a breather. Considering how fast the time was, he did try hard and I’m hoping this will be a good experience for him.”

Ruggero beat only one horse over the line. “He wasn’t moving well from the start,” said Christophe Lemaire. “Things got busy in the backstretch and he couldn’t run well. The level of competition was too high for him.” Trainer Yuichi Shikato acknowledged he’d set his sights too high, but was not to be discouraged. “He didn’t break well, but the others were just too strong and it was a flat-out loss. I’m going to have to train him up again and I’d like to give it another try next year.”


 DUBAI WORLD CUP (G1, 2,000m Dirt, US$ 10 million, 20:50)

DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (G1, 2,410m Turf, US$ 6 million, 20:10)
REY DE ORO : 4th

DUBAI TURF (G1, 1,800m Turf, US$ 6 million, 19:35)
VIVLOS : 2nd

DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (G1, 1,200m Dirt, US$ 2 million, 18:40)

UAE DERBY (G2, 1,900m Dirt, US$ 2 million, 17:30)

GODOLPHIN MILE (G2, 1,600m Dirt, US$ 1 million, 15:45)

Please visit the following websites for more information.
Dubai Racing Club: http://www.dubairacingclub.com/
Dubai World Cup: http://www.dubaiworldcup.com/
Emirates Racing Authority: http://www.emiratesracing.com/

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