2015 Dubai World Cup Day - Japan seven set sights on Meydan three
Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia will lead a party of seven from the JRA on Dubai World Cup Day at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
The 5-year-old Epiphaneia, along with Champions Cup holder Hokko Tarumae, has thrown his hat into the signature in the US $10 million Dubai World Cup, while Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner One and Only and star filly Harp Star will run in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Golden Barows, Tap That and Dear Domus are in the UAE Derby at 1,900 meters, one of three Grade 2 events on the cards. Japan sent eight horses to the world's richest meet last year; its biggest team was nine in 2006.
Two Japanese jockeys will have a ride this weekend - Hideaki Miyuki aboard Hokko Tarumae, and Kosei Miura in the saddle for Dear Domus. Christophe Soumillon will reteam with Epiphaneia after leading him to the Japan Cup title, Ryan Moore will ride Harp Star and Golden Barows, and Cristian Demuro will be handed the reins to One and Only. Joao Moreira will partner Tap That.
Epiphaneia and Hokko Tarumae, the 6-year-old named the JRA's top dirt horse last season, will try to bring home Japan's second Dubai World Cup, the first since 2011 when the Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Victoire Pisa and Transcend capped a one-two.
Sumii was also considering the Dubai Sheema Classic for Epiphaneia but chose the Dubai World Cup after consulting Soumillon, who felt the makeup of the field including prohibitive favorite California Chrome would suit Sumii's horse. The Dubai World Cup is also changing surfaces this year from the all-weather purpose Tapeta to dirt.
"I brought the strongest dirt horse from Japan in Kane Hekili (in 2006)," Sumii said. "This time, I like to think I brought the strongest horse on turf from Japan.
"He’s acclimatized to his surroundings since coming over and is in very good condition. There’s a lot we can’t tell with the race switching to dirt from Tapeta, but we took Soumillon’s advice and decided to run him here in the end. From what I felt, the dirt here isn’t quite like the dirt in America – it’s fast but you still need power to get by.
"We chose the Dubai World Cup on dirt at 2,000 meters and not the Dubai Sheema Classic on turf at 2,410 meters, because Epiphaneia has a hard time settling and we thought, with the fast American horses in the field, the pace will suit him better. I think he’s due for a good race."
Hokko Tarumae finished 16th in the Dubai World Cup last year and was out for seven following months after being diagnosed with stress-induced colitis. But he came back to win the inaugural Champions Cup for his first G1 victory in the JRA and added the Tokyo Daishoten title in December. The King Kamehameha son started this season by capturing the Kawasaki Kinen and passed up the February Stakes to ensure himself of enough rest for Dubai
"He was perfect last year going into the last turn, but he just couldn't keep up in the end," said trainer Katsuichi Nishiura. "We focused on getting him fit since the race here last year, and we feel like we’re ready to take another shot at Dubai. We’ve kept him loose since January before bringing him to Dubai and it seems like he’s raring to go now."
One and Only hopes to get back on the winning track after missing out on the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger), Japan Cup and Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) last fall. Trainer Kojiro Hashiguchi's colt certainly has the pedigree to run well in Dubai as his sire, Heart's Cry, is a former Dubai Sheema Classic winner.
"I was mostly worried about how he would adapt to his new surroundings, but as it turns out I didn’t need to. He's been calm as if nothing has changed," Hashiguchi said. "His daddy ran a strong race here so I’m counting on that he’ll do the same."
The younger Demuro will ride the 4-year-old for his first time. In the brief time they've spent together, he has been impressed by his new partner.
"Rode One and Only for the first time but he felt good," the Italian said. "The track here is well kept – and soft, too. I get the feeling the course suits One and Only. I’m grateful to his team and the fans for giving me the opportunity to ride him. I hope I can get the job done."
Harp Star will be plying her trade abroad for a second time following her trip to France in October for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, where she came in a Japanese best sixth as the first 3-year-old filly from the JRA to run in the coveted race. Trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda is banking on new jockey Moore to get more out of the Deep Impact daughter who has not won since last August.
"She's in good condition. She's as steady as she can be," Matsuda said.