2015 News

November 18, 2015


Exclusive Topics for JAPAN AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL 2015 - 3rd Edition -
Red Arion

2015 Japan Cup (G1) in association with Longines - Preview

Following the retirement of many of the JRA’s top middle-long distance turf runners from last year, including Epiphaneia (JPN, by Symboli Kris S), Just a Way (JPN, by Heart’s Cry), Gentildonna (JPN, by Deep Impact) and Harp Star (JPN, by Deep Impact), Lovely Day (JPN, H5, by King Kamehameha) has emerged as the new star of this category.

Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1)
Lovely Day in the 2015 Tenno Sho (Autumn)

Still an unknown at this point last year with no grade-race title to his name, the son of King Kamehameha landed his first grade-race victory in his 2015 debut, the Nakayama Kimpai (G3, 2,000m), which he accomplished against a rather dull field albeit in record time. He validated the win with another victory in his following race, the Kyoto Kinen (G2, 2,200m). He then extended his distances in his next two starts, the Hanshin Daishoten (G2, 3,000m) and the Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1, 3,200m), but was unsuccessful, finishing sixth and eighth, respectively.

Back to his best distance in the Naruo Kinen (G3, 2,000m) in June, which he won by a comfortable two-length margin, the dark bay was sent to post sixth choice in the Takarazuka Kinen (G1, 2,200m). Racing close to the pace early, Lovely Day made a bold mid-stretch move to take command, held off a strong challenge from the outside by Denim and Ruby (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact), also owned by Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co., Ltd., and prevailed for a neck victory to grab his first G1 title.

After a short break during the summer, Lovely Day continued his winning ways in the Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m), carrying a top weight of 58kg, which led to his pick as race favorite in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1, 2,000m). Demonstrating his staying power after taking the lead at the straight, he managed to book his second G1 victory and fourth consecutive grade-race win. Considering the six grade-race wins in just eight starts this year, trainer Yasutoshi Ikee marvels at his star horse for being able to achieve so much in such a hectic racing schedule, but he notes that the late-developing horse “has become stronger in build and tougher.” Whereas Japanese horses are generally said to be fragile, Lovely Day will attempt to show otherwise in the upcoming Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m).

2014 Shuka Sho (G1)
Shonan Pandora in the 2014 Shuka Sho

Among the rest of the top-five finishers of this year’s Tenno Sho (Autumn), Tomokazu Takano-trained Shonan Pandora (JPN, F4, by Deep Impact) is the only other Japan Cup entry. The 2014 Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m) winner turned in a third-place effort in this year’s Takarazuka Kinen in June and then dominated a mixed field of 15 runners in the All Comers (G2, 2,200m) in September. Racing wide throughout in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), she exerted a fine turn of speed from behind to close within 0.2 second of the leader, finishing fourth. She should be a threat if she puts her good closing speed to use in the Japan Cup, her first step-up in distance to 2,400 meters.

Among other Tenno Sho (Autumn) runners headed towards the Japan Cup is eight-year-old Pelusa (JPN, H8, by Zenno Rob Roy), who ended a prolonged slump by scoring his first win in five years this summer in an open-class start, despite being sent to post 15th choice. He then backed up the win by finishing a solid seventh in the Tenno Sho. Spielberg (JPN, H6, by Deep Impact), who last year won the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and placed third in the Japan Cup, was retired after finishing 10th in this year’s Tenno Sho (Autumn). Admire Deus (JPN, C4, by Admire Don) scored two G2 wins in the first half of this season, but in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) started from a wide stall and ultimately had too much ground to make up, finishing 11th, despite marking the fastest finish.

Pelusa in the 2010 Aoba Sho
2014 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1)
Spielberg in the 2014 Tenno Sho (Autumn)
Nikkei Sho (G2)
Admire Deus in the 2015 Nikkei Sho

Last Impact (JPN, H5, by Deep Impact) and Derby Fizz (JPN, H5, by Jungle Pocket), who finished 12th and 15th respectively in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), are hoping to bounce back to form in the Japan Cup. One and Only (JPN, C4, by Heart’s Cry) turned in his worst performance yet in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), finishing 16th, but as last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner he hopes to improve in the Japan Cup.

Kinko Sho (G2)
Last Impact in the 2014 Kinko Sho
Hakodate Kinen (G3)
Derby Fizz in the 2015 Hakodate Kinen
Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1)
One and Only in the 2014 Tokyo Yushun

Shuka Sho (G1)
Mikki Queen in the 2015 Shuka Sho
A three-year-old female, who will make her first Japan Cup challenge, is Mikki Queen (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), winner of the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) in May and the Shuka Sho in October. The talented filly passed up the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) for the bigger challenge in the Japan Cup. She was unable to run in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m), but she displayed a spectacular charge to claim the Oaks. She also did not disappoint as the post favorite when she won the Shuka Sho, her second start of the fall season. She has finished within the top two in all seven career starts, earning four wins and three seconds. With a weight advantage of 53 kilos, hopes are high for her to follow in the footsteps of Gentildonna, who became the first three-year-old filly to claim the Japan Cup title in 2012.

Meanwhile, the three-year-old colt group is running out of talent as two-time classic winner Duramente (JPN, C3, by King Kamehameha) is out of action with a fracture and Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m) victor Kitasan Black (JPN, C3, by Black Tide) will pass up the Japan Cup to run in the Arima Kinen (G1, 2,500m). Real Steel (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact) has been the most consistent runner in this group, finishing second in both the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) and the Kikuka Sho, as well as fourth in the Tokyo Yushun, but trainer Yoshito Yahagi has announced that he will take off the rest of the season. Kikuka Sho third-place finisher Lia Fail (JPN, C3, by Zenno Rob Roy) is aiming at the Arima Kinen.

Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1)
Kitasan Black in the 2015 Kikuka Sho
Kyodo News Service Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) (G3)
Real Steel in the 2015 Kyodo News Service Hai
Kobe Shimbun Hai (Japanese St. Leger Trial) (G2)
Lia Fail in the 2015 Kobe Shimbun Hai

Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1)
Gold Ship in the 2015 Tenno Sho (Spring)

Gold Ship (JPN, H6, by Stay Gold) has not run since his disappointing Takarazuka Kinen, but he will be one of the main attractions in the Japan Cup because his connections have announced that their six-time G1 winner will retire at the end of this season. The focus is on whether he can bounce back from his last start in June, when the even-money favorite reared inside the starting stall, missed his break and was unable to recover, finishing 15th. He kicked off his spring campaign well, claiming both the Hanshin Daishoten and the Tenno Sho (Spring), although in the latter he misbehaved and refused to load at the barrier, delaying the start. He returned to training after the summer break and passed his gate test, as instructed by JRA authorities, so he is currently being conditioned to give his best performance before retirement. His past performances at Tokyo Racecourse include a win in a G3 event when he was a three-year-old, but his other results there are not so encouraging, including being heavily defeated to 15th in his last Japan Cup start in 2013.

Other possible starters worth noting are Sounds of Earth (JPN, C4, by Neo Universe), who was runner-up to Lovely Day in the Kyoto Daishoten and placed second also in the Kikuka Sho as a three-year-old. Hit the Target (JPN, H7, by King Kamehameha), who was not in time to prepare for the Tenno Sho (Autumn) this fall, is expected to make his third Japan Cup challenge. Gold Actor (JPN, C4, by Screen Hero), who had just won his first grade-race victory in the Copa Republica Argentina (G2, 2,500m) at Tokyo on November 8 was another possibility in the Japan Cup. The four-year-old, who finished third in the Kikuka Sho in October last year, was given a long break to strengthen his hindquarters and then resumed racing in July this year. Carrying top weights, he won his comeback start easily by two lengths and then the October Stakes. His sire, Screen Hero (JPN, by Grass Wonder), also landed his first grade-race title in the 2008 edition of the same race before winning the Japan Cup in his following start. However, his connections appear to be interested in running him in the Arima Kinen instead.

2014 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1)
Sounds of Earth (right) in the 2014 Kikuka Sho
Meguro Kinen (G2)
Hit the Target in the 2015 Meguro Kinen
Copa Republica Argentina (G2)
Gold Actor in the 2015 Copa Republica


NOTE: The Invited Horses (as of Nov. 18) are the following;
Trained Country Horse Name Sex/Age trainer
FR ERUPT (IRE) C3 F. Graffard
GER ITO (GER) C4 J. Carvalho