The most prestigious prep race towards the Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m), the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1, 2,000m), was held on Oct. 27 at Tokyo Racecourse and won by 2018 Japan Cup victor Almond Eye (JPN, F4, by Lord Kanaloa). The four-year-old Lord Kanaloa filly, who competed against a quality field that included 10 G1 winners, quickly secured a forward position along the rails from an inside draw (No.2) and easily drew away at the stretch to score a three-length victory.
Almond Eye’s connections, however, wanting to be sure that the filly has plenty of time to recover, have chosen the Hong Kong Cup (G1, 2,000m) on Dec. 8 as her next target upon returning from Northern Farm Ten-ei in Fukushima Prefecture, where she is on a short break. The filly, who puts her full effort into each race and usually pulls up exhausted, was not present for the photo session at the winners’ ceremony.
In the Tenno Sho (Autumn), Danon Premium (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact) was runner-up and Aerolithe (JPN, M5, by Kurofune) was third, but neither will start in the Japan Cup because they are not suited to the 2,400-meter distance. You Can Smile (JPN, C4, by King Kamehameha), Wagnerian (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact) and Makahiki (JPN, H6, by Deep Impact), all trained by Yasuo Tomomichi (Ritto Training Center), finished fourth, fifth and tenth, respectively, and will run in the Japan Cup.
You Can Smile finished third in last year’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m) and then continued to race at 3,000 meters or longer in his following three starts. After stepping down to 2,000 meters and winning the Niigata Kinen (G3) on Sept. 1, he finished best among the non-G1 winners in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) by closing impressively from behind. The extra distance in the Japan Cup could work to his advantage.
Wagnerian, after his victory in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) last year, had two starts this season prior to the Tenno Sho – the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m, April) and the Sapporo Kinen (G2, 2,000m, August), finishing third and fourth, respectively. Although winless this year, he has remained consistent and was also unlucky in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), where he was forced to race further behind than ideal. He will have a good chance in the Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse, which is the same distance as the Derby.
Makahiki, also a Derby winner in 2016, has not been up to his best form since finishing fourth in the Osaka Hai, turning in double-digit finishes in his other two G1 starts – an 11th in the Takarazuka Kinen (G1, 2,200m) in June and 10th in the Tenno Sho (Autumn).
Talented colt World Premiere (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), who claimed this year’s Kikuka Sho title, will not be running in the Japan Cup, but his trainer, Yasuo Tomomichi, who has managed many outstanding middle-long distance runners, is slated to have two more horses in the Japan Cup – Cheval Grand (JPN, H7, by Heart’s Cry) and Etario (JPN, C4, by Stay Gold), neither of whom started in the Tenno Sho. If they all run, Tomomichi would be the first trainer to saddle five Japan Cup starters in the same year.
Cheval Grand, the 2017 Japan Cup victor, was runner-up in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1, 2,410m) in March and continued to race overseas after a short break back home. During the summer, he finished sixth and eighth respectively in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1, 2,390m) and the International Stakes (G1, 2,050m). The son of Heart’s Cry is looking for his second Japan Cup victory before retiring to stud as of the end of this season.
Etario has just one win out of 13 starts since his debut as a two-year-old, but the colt has proven competitive with four runner-up efforts at the grade-race level, including last year’s Kikuka Sho, where he just missed by a nose to Fierement (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact).
Meanwhile, Suave Richard (JPN, H5, by Heart’s Cry), winner of the 2018 Osaka Hai, finished third in both the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Takarazuka Kinen. Although defeated to seventh in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), he has proved consistent going left-handed, registering 3-2-3 out of 10 starts including a third in last year’s Japan Cup. He is not to be taken lightly.
Rey de Oro (JPN, H5, by King Kamehameha), who finished second to Cheval Grand in the 2017 Japan Cup, returned from his summer break for training at Miho Training Center from the end of October. The son of King Kamehameha has been below form since finishing sixth in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March. He was heavily beaten to fifth by 7-3/4 lengths in his comeback start in Japan, the Takarazuka Kinen, and disappointed to fourth in the All Comers (G2, 2,200m) in September. He needs to bounce back to form to score a win at Tokyo Racecourse, where he has claimed two G1 titles.
Curren Bouquetd’or (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), a stablemate of Almond Eye, was runner-up in two of this year’s three-year-old fillies Triple Crown races – the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) and the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m). The Deep Impact filly passed up the Queen Elizabeth II Cup to contest the Japan Cup in hope of following Gentildonna (JPN, by Deep Impact) and Almond Eye to become the third three-year-old filly to claim the title. Three-year-old fillies have turned in impressive results in the past 10 years, accounting for two wins by the aforementioned fillies as well as runner-up and third-place finishes.
Danburite (JPN, H5, by Rulership) finished third in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) as a three-year-old and registered a G2 title in both his four and five-year-old seasons. Although his best score at the G1 level since the Satsuki Sho was a fifth in the 2018 Takarazuka Kinen, he gave an impressive performance in the Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m) on October 6, making pace and staying well to finish second. If the same tactics are applied in the Japan Cup, he could be a key factor in the race’s outcome.
Muito Obrigado (JPN, H5, by Rulership) is coming off a 1-1/4-length victory in the Copa Republica Argentina (G2, 2,500m) on Nov. 3. The son of Rulership, who landed his first grade-race title with notable speed from traveling in third position early, has four wins and a second out of six starts over distances between 2,400 and 2,500 meters at Tokyo Racecourse. His next target is to become the third horse to come off the same win and claim the Japan Cup after Screen Hero (JPN, by Grass Wonder) in 2008 and Cheval Grand. Taisei Trail (JPN, C4, by Heart's Cry) and Look Twice (JPN, H6, by Stay Gold), who scored a record-breaking victory in the Meguro Kinen (G2, 2,500m) in May, will come off their respective second and fourth place finishes in the Copa Republica Argentina.
Japanese entries eligible to run in the field of 18 as of Nov. 10 also include:
- This year’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) victor Loves Only You (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), who was third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Nov. 10, her first defeat in five career starts
- Daiwa Cagney (JPN, H5, by King Kamehameha), coming off a win in the listed October Stakes (2,000m)
- This year's Niigata Kinen runner-up Jinambo (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact)
- 2018 Meguro Kinen winner Win Tenderness (JPN, H6, by Company)