Spielberg and Super Moon take on Royal Ascot
On the eve of England’s Royal Ascot, racing fans around the world could be forgiven for thinking it is Christmas Eve, with so many glittering prizes, and surprises, waiting in store during the next five days of the Royal meeting. There has been racing at Ascot for over 300 years, and the long history and enduring heritage combine to give racing at the course that special atmosphere, particularly during Royal Ascot. This year sees no fewer than eight Grade 1 races, all of them included in the QIPCO British Champions Series, and some of the best prize money on offer during the British racing calendar.
Among the razzmatazz, two Japanese horses will be trying to slide under the radar and rise to the top to claim attention once more for Japan on the international stage. Agnes World has the best record for Japanese runners at the Royal meeting, finishing second in the King’s Stand Stakes in 2000. More recently, Grand Prix Boss finished eighth to the mighty Frankel in the St. James’s Palace Stakes in 2011. This year it’s the turn of Spielberg and Super Moon, both in the ownership of Hidetoshi Yamamoto, and both trained by Kazuo Fujisawa. The trainer has had a few more wins in Japan recently, bringing his tally for the year to thirteen, and giving him an 11% win strike rate overall.
Both horses arrived in England, May 28, and have been stabled at Lady Cecil’s Warren Place stables in Newmarket, from where many a Royal Ascot winner has been turned out. Connections will be hoping some of this good fortune will rub off onto them. Spielberg will run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, June 17, a race that has been run since 1862 (except for years when there was no Prince of Wales), and became a Grade 1 in 2000 for 4-year-olds and up. The 6-year-old Spielberg is by Deep Impact, and has six wins from a fifteen race career. He didn’t run for well over a year after the 2012 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), but he’s gotten better with age, as two races at the end of last year showed. He won last autumn’s Tenno Sho (Emperor’s Cup) over 2000 meters on a firm track, beating two time horse of the year, Gentildonna, in the process. Following that, he finished third to Epiphaneia in last year’s Japan Cup, which was certainly no disgrace. On his only run this year, he finished fourth in the Sankei Osaka Hai, over 2000 meters on a soft track at Hanshin in April, where he carried 58 kgs, giving weight to none other than 2013 Japanese Derby winner, Kizuna, who in turn was beaten by Lachesis.
Nobutaka Tada, racing manager to owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto, recently commented on Spielberg, saying: “The Japan Cup distance was a bit far for him, and the race at Ascot, although 2000 meters, is probably more like 2200 meters, as things are much tougher here. We have confidence he can manage it. As for him getting back in his races, Japanese horses are trained to go fast out of the gate, and while he’s not the quickest, I don’t think him getting a reasonable start is a problem. He’s entered in the Coral-Eclipse, but we haven’t decided yet what to do after Ascot.”
Spielberg finds himself being the only 6-year-old in the line-up, with plenty of talented looking 4-year-olds in the race, including a couple of other interesting challengers from Australia and America. Representing the latter, 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, finds himself having to run right-handed at Ascot, while trainer David Hayes’s Criterion, the Australian middle distance champion, also adds spice to what is going to be a really interesting race. In early betting markets, Free Eagle is favourite, with The Grey Gatsby second favourite, and Spielberg quoted at odds of 12/1. Adding another dimension to things is the booking of jockey Christophe Soumillon for the ride on Spielberg.
Later in the week on Saturday, June 20, the same light blue silks will be carried by Super Moon in the Grade 2 Hardwicke Stakes over 2400 meters, or the Wolferton Handicap Stakes, on what will be the final day of the meeting. Super Moon is a 6-year-old by Brian’s Time and was bred by his owner. The horse has five wins from twenty two starts, and finished third in last November’s Grade 2 Copa Republica Argentina, a staying contest over 2500 meters, where he was beaten by the very useful Fame Game. On his latest run, he was third in the Shirafuji Stakes over 2000 meters at Tokyo in January. Although the majority of Super Moon’s races have been on firm ground, he would appear to act on any going. At the time of writing, the Ascot going is good or good to firm. The Hardwicke Stakes is another race with a long history, and was introduced to attract the best older middle distance horses. Super Moon has to contend with leading trainer Sir Michael Stoute’s fine record in the race. He has won it eight times, and although Arab Spring will not be in the line-up, he still has another possible three runners.
The two Japanese runners have been working in tandem on the Al Bahatri all-weather gallops in Newmarket, and word is they’ve settled in well and have been training in a similar way to how they would be trained in Japan. It’s just a question of getting them to their peak when it comes to their respective race days this week.