Preparations for the Champions Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m) at Chukyo Racecourse on December 1 are in full swing as Japan’s top dirt specialists get ready to kick off their fall season.
Chrysoberyl (JPN, C3, by Gold Allure), after winning this year’s Japan Dirt Derby (dirt, 2,000m) in July, faced his seniors for the first time in the Nippon TV Hai (dirt, 1,800m) at NAR’s Funabashi Racecourse on Sept. 23 and won dominantly by four lengths from racing close behind in fourth position. The Gold Allure colt, unbeaten in six starts since his two-year-old debut, is hoped to follow Le Vent Se Leve (JPN, C4, Symboli Kris S) as the second three-year-old Champions Cup champion.
The Mile Championship Nambu Hai (dirt, 1,600m) at NAR’s Morioka Racecourse on Oct. 14 was won by Sunrise Nova (JPN, H5, by Gold Allure). The son of Gold Allure won comfortably by 1-1/2 lengths after racing forwardly in fifth position and taking command with 200 meters to go. 2017 Best Dirt Horse Gold Dream (JPN, H6, by Gold Allure) finished three lengths behind in third. Further behind in fifth was two-time Korea Cup (dirt, 1,800m) winner London Town (JPN, H6, by Kane Hekili) and this year’s Kawasaki Kinen (dirt, 2,100m) champion Mitsuba (JPN, H7, by Kane Hekili) finished sixth.
Vengeance (JPN, H6, by Casino Drive) won the Miyako Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,800m) at Kyoto Racecourse on Nov. 3, coming from behind to outrun 2017 Procyon Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,400m) victor King’s Guard (JPN, H8, by Sinister Minister) by half a length for his first grade-race victory. Last year’s Champions Cup runner-up Westerlund (JPN, G7, by Neo Universe) followed in third while Wide Pharaoh (JPN, C3, by Henny Hughes), winner of the Unicorn Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,600m) in June, finished fifth. February Stakes (G1, dirt, 1,600m) winner Inti (JPN, H5, by Came Home), who carried 2kg more than the rest of the field, was unable to sustain his bid racing in second and dropped back to 15th.
Chuwa Wizard (JPN, C4, by King Kamehameha) took an early lead at the third corner after chasing the leaders in fourth and held off 2018 Tokyo Daishoten (G1, dirt, 2,000m) and 2019 Teio Sho (dirt, 2,000m) champion Omega Perfume (JPN, C4, by Swept Overboard) for a nose victory in the JBC Classic (dirt, 2,000m) at NAR’s Urawa Racecourse on Nov. 4. The King Kamehameha colt’s record of 8-3-2 in 13 career starts includes victories in the 2018 Nagoya Grand Prix (dirt, 2,500m), the 2019 Diolite Kinen (dirt, 2,400m) and the 2019 Heian Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,900m).
Wonder Lider (JPN, H6, by Statue of Liberty) earned his ticket to the Champions Cup with his first grade-race victory in the Musashino Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,600m) on Nov. 9. Moving into contention with a terrific burst of speed at the straight from a ground-saving trip in the rear, he continued to pull away for an upset victory by 1-1/4 lengths. 2017 Hopeful Stakes (G1, 2,000m) winner Time Flyer (JPN, C4, by Heart’s Cry) followed in second while Sunrise Nova finished fifth, four lengths from the winner.
As of Nov. 20, 11 horses have accepted invitations to run in the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin Racecourse on Dec. 8. Reigning Horse of the Year Almond Eye (JPN, F4, by Lord Kanaloa), coming off her victory in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1, 2,000m) on Oct. 27, will aim for her second overseas title in the Hong Kong Cup (G1, 2,000m) after her victory in the Dubai Turf (G1, 1,800m) in March. Win Bright (JPN, H5, by Stay Gold), winner of the Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,000m) last April, will head back to Hong Kong for the same race after an eighth-place finish in the Tenno Sho (Autumn).
Three-time sprint graded winner Danon Smash (JPN, C4, by Lord Kanaloa), after a third-place finish in the Sprinters Stakes (G1, 1,200m) on Sept. 29, will head for the Hong Kong Sprint (G1, 1,200m) and attempt to follow in the footsteps of his father, Lord Kanaloa, who won consecutive Hong Kong Sprint titles in 2012 and 2013.
Hong Kong Mile (G1, 1,600m) challengers will include Indy Champ (JPN, C4, by Stay Gold), who claimed the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1,600m)–Mile Championship (G1, 1,600m) double, Persian Knight (JPN, H5, by Harbinger), who won the 2017 Mile Championship and finished third in the fall mile G1 this year, Normcore (JPN, F4, by Harbinger) who claimed the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) and is coming off a win in the Fuji Stakes (G3, 1,600m) on Oct. 19, and Admire Mars (JPN, C3, by Daiwa Major), the 2017 Best Two-Year-Old Colt and winner of the NHK Mile Cup but ninth in the Fuji Stakes.
The Hong Kong Vase (G1, 2,400m) will be challenged by four Japanese runners: Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1, 3,200m) runner-up Glory Vase (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact), globetrotting mare Deirdre (JPN, M5, by Harbinger), whose last G1 title was in the Nassau Stakes (G1, 1,980m) in August, 2019 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) winner Lucky Lilac (JPN, F4, by Orfevre), and Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) winner Loves Only You (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact).
Japanese-trained horses have brought home 10 G1 titles in their Hong Kong International Races challenges: three Hong Kong Cup titles, by Agnes Digital (USA, by Crafty Prospector, 2001), A Shin Hikari (JPN, by Deep Impact, 2015) and Maurice (JPN, by Screen Hero, 2016); three Hong Kong Mile titles, by Eishin Preston (USA, by Green Dancer, 2001), Hat Trick (JPN, by Sunday Silence, 2005) and Maurice (2015); two Hong Kong Sprint titles, by Lord Kanaloa (JPN, by King Kamehameha, 2012-13); and two Hong Kong Vase titles, by Stay Gold (JPN, by Sunday Silence, 2001) and Satono Crown (JPN, by Marju, 2016).