2015 Champions Cup (G1) - Profile of Japanese Horses
Copano Rickey, who demonstrated a sensational breakthrough last season, accomplished another outstanding feat this year. After securing the Tokai Stakes easily by four-lengths, the five-year-old was sent to Tokyo in aim to become the first to defend a February Stakes title, in which he did with style, as the heavy favorite pressed the pace and quickly inherited the lead two furlongs out for a half-length win. However, it was identified that he had sustained a minor fracture in his left foreleg during the race and was sidelined for seven and a half months. After marking a third in his come-back start in the Nippon TV Hai, he defended his JBC Classic title displaying an impeccable wire-to-wire win only allowing the closest pursuer to finish 2-1/2 lengths behind.
Raced exclusively on dirt since his two-year-old debut, Copano Rickey kicked off his three-year-old season with his first win, and scored two wins and a third before landing his first graded-stakes victory in the Hyogo Championship—a wire-to-wire win, finishing six lengths in front of subsequent multiple-G1 winner Best Warrior. However, he was diagnosed with a radial fracture in his right foreleg, and his two starts after a six-month recovery period at the end of the season were not as encouraging as hoped.
Nevertheless, he kicked off the 2014 season with a most stunning triumph in the February Stakes, where although sent off the longest shot on the board, he inherited the lead from the tiring leader after pressing the pace, and tenaciously ran the remaining two furlongs holding off a persistent challenge from Hokko Tarumae to register a half-length win. He landed two wins out of three starts that followed, which included the JBC Classic where he set a new race record on a track rated muddy. Although sent off favorite in the Champions Cup, a poor break and a dismal stretch run had him suffer a 12th-place finish, while in the Tokyo Daishoten that followed, he was outdueled by Hokko Tarumae in upper stretch to finish second.
Corin Berry is coming off her first G1 title in the JBC Sprint where the filly led wire to wire and held off dirt sprint specialists of the opposite gender that included multiple grade-race winners for a 3/4-length victory. While all her seven career victories are won over less than 1,400 meters, she will make use of her bursting speed in her second attempt over 1,800 meters in the coming Champions Cup.
Finishing 11th in her only race as a two-year-old on turf, the South Vigorous filly was tested on dirt from her three-year-old campaign in January where she immediately broke her maiden and registered three consecutive victories, all with wire-to-wire wins. Her first G1 challenge over turf in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) resulted in a disappointing last-place finish. Back on dirt in her following start, she marked two runner-up efforts, the latter being the Unicorn Stakes where she immediately took command and held on well through the long stretch at Tokyo Racecourse but was outdueled by Red Alvis in the last 200 meters. While finishing ninth in her first two graded-races against older company, she concluded her three-year-old season with a win in the open class Final Stakes with a 3-1/2-length margin over veteran male horses.
After finishing 10th in her kick-off start this year in the G1 February Stakes due to a slow break, Corin Berry scored her fifth career win in the Coral Stakes then registered her first NAR grade-race win in the Kakitsubata Kinen where the odds-on-favorite led wire to wire for a 1-1/2-length victory. The chestnut filly scored a runner-up effort in the following Procyon Stakes where she again led the field but was nailed by multiple-G1 winner Best Warrior in the straight, then marked a third in the Tokyo Hai before registering her first G1 title.
Danon Liberty is a three-year-old aspiring colt who was transferred to dirt racing this summer and demonstrated his liking for the surface straight away by landing a win and two runner-up efforts in his four dirt starts so far. With prominent results over the same left-handed 1,800 meters as in the Champions Cup, he stands an excellent chance in staging his potential in his first outing at the highest level over dirt.
Debuting on turf last year, the King Kamehameha colt promptly broke his maiden in his first race but was sidelined for four months due to a clip fracture in his left fore-leg, and was heavily defeated in his comeback start at the end of the year. He gradually picked up his form from the beginning of this season, registering a fifth in his first graded challenge in the G3 Keisei Hai and a second in the G3 Mainichi Hai which earned him a ticket to his first G1 and classics race, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), where he finished eighth.
After a couple of mundane starts in May, he made his dirt debut in the G3 Leopard Stakes in August where he improved position from mid-field and closed well in the stretch pinning all but the leader for a 3/4-length second. He faced older rivals for the first time in his next start as the only three-year-old in the field where he took a wide trip in sixth before taking the lead in the last half-furlong and drew away to a 1-1/2-length victory. The bay colt registered a runner-up finish in the following G3 Sirius Stakes in which he entered the straight in second but was overtaken by the fast driven winner at the furlong marker while picking off the tiring leader for a three-length second. He remained a factor up to mid-stretch in his recent G3 Miyako Stakes start but gave way to his strong closing rivals to cross the wire in sixth.
Grand City makes his second challenge in the Autumn International G1 dirt race after finishing a respectable sixth in the 2013 Japan Cup Dirt. He comes off a 10th-place finish in the JBC Classic, his second start of this fall, and has registered a runner-up effort in the Tokai Stakes early this year. With the renewed version of the dirt G1 being held at Chukyo Racecourse where the son of King Kamehameha has scored two seconds out of three starts, the eight-year-old bay is hopeful of turning in another fine performance in the Champions Cup in his bid to capture his first G1 title.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Grand City won his first race on dirt after a heavily defeated turf-race debut in 2010 and progressed well during 2011, registering 4-1-2 out of nine starts. While flunking his first grade-race test in January of his five-year-old season, and finishing fifth in his next start at Hanshin, he scored two runner-up efforts before his second grade-race attempt, the Mercury Cup, in which he was beaten by Civil War by four lengths but bested the rest by eight for second place. After a third in the Elm Stakes, he concluded another consistent season with two wins over the 1,800-meter track at Nakayama.
He exerted another fine turn of speed from way back to finish fifth in his first start of 2013, the Tokai Stakes, in which the bay registered the fastest over the last three furlongs and was less than a length behind the runner-up. Then, coming off a third in the Nigawa Stakes, Grand City finally captured his first grade-race victory in the G3 March Stakes. He was raced throughout the summer but maintained his form leading up to his first G1 challenge in the 2013 Japan Cup Dirt, in which he loomed to contention from racing well back early and finished sixth.
He kicked off his seven-year-old campaign with a runner-up effort in the Tokai Stakes, but was heavily defeated to 11th in the February Stakes and was unable to put in enough effort to qualify for the inaugural running of the Champions Cup.
Two-time G1 winner Grape Brandy, though winless for over two and a half years, finished within the top five in five out of six starts this year including a neck second in the G3 Elms Stakes in August and a fourth-place effort in the G1 February Stakes where the 11th pick son of Manhattan Cafe sustained bid from 4-5th position to cross the wire 1-3/4 lengths behind multiple-G1 winner Copano Rickey. He is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Musashino Stakes where he held on well after being rated fifth from the front.
Making a comeback in May 2012, the dark bay gradually picked up his form, winning the Aso Stakes in August and scoring a third in the following G3 Sirius Stakes before displaying a good effort of finishing fifth in the Japan Cup Dirt. His five-year-old season started with a win in the G2 Tokai Stakes where he scored a three-length victory, followed by his second G1 title in the February Stakes, in which he beat 2009 Japan Cup winner Espoir City just before the wire for a 3/4-length victory.
He was, however, forced to miss the rest of the spring campaign again with a minor fracture in his right pastern and, while finishing fourth in his comeback start in the 2013 Mile Championship Nambu Hai in October, he was below his form thereafter and throughout the 2014 season though showing a third-place effort in the G3 Musashino Stakes. While his kick-off start this season resulted in a 10th-place finish, he has been consistent since, raising hopes for his fourth autumn international G1 dirt challenge.
Hokko Tarumae, last year’s victor in the Champions Cup, launched this year’s season by defending his Kawasaki Kinen title in January before heading for his second attempt in the Dubai World Cup in March. Though finishing fifth, he showed good effort in leading the field up to the last 300 meters. Back in Japan, he regained his form, winning the Teio Sho by assuming command after traveling wide in fifth and leading the field in the last 200 meters for a 3/4-length victory. The six-year-old bay is coming off a third-place finish in the JBC Classic, in which the race favorite was forwardly placed and advanced to second at the top of the homestretch but was unable to close the gap between defending champion Copano Rickey while overtaken at the last moment by Sound True for a third.
The King Kamehameha colt was unraced as a two-year-old and broke his maiden in his second start in January of his three-year-old season. After landing another two wins, he registered his first graded victory in the Leopard Stakes where he rushed out from striking position to a neck victory. While winless during his fall campaign, he fared well against older dirt specialists such as in the 2012 Japan Cup Dirt where he took command at the top of the stretch and, although nailed by Nihonpiro Ours with 200 meters to go and then by Wonder Acute in the last strides, held on well to finish third.
Kicking off his four-year-old season with a third in the Tokai Stakes, Hokko Tarumae enjoyed his best season yet, as he continued to display an impressive burst of speed to win all but two out of his following nine graded starts, which included four NAR-G1 titles. He was posted race favorite in the Japan Cup Dirt that year but finished a close third as the bay colt, while assuming command 300 meters out, yielded to Belshazzar and Wonder Acute before the wire.
He kicked off his five-year-old season with another G1 win in the Kawasaki Kinen then landed a runner-up effort in the following February Stakes before heading for his first overseas challenge in the Dubai World Cup, where he was heavily defeated to 16th and had to be treated for stress-induced colitis before flying back to Japan. Back from a seven-month break, Hokko Tarumae finished fourth before heading for the Champions Cup where the dirt specialist pressed the pace in second and, once taking the front, fended off subsequent challenges for his first JRA-G1 victory.
Kurino Star O
Five-year-old Kurino Star O kicked off this season in the G3 Antares Stakes where he dueled well with 2013 Best Two-Year-Old Colt Asia Express to claim his third grade-race victory by half a length. He registered a second in his attempt to defend his title in the Heian Stakes, and went on to turn in a sixth after weakening from his earlier pacesetting effort in the NAR-G1 Teio Sho in June. He is coming off his second Miyako Stakes challenge in which he remained a factor into the last furlong but was unable to rally for a fifth.
Third in his debut race over turf as a two-year-old, the Admire Boss colt claimed his first career win immediately after switching to dirt in his second start. With just one start in his three-year-old spring campaign, he scored three consecutive wins in the fall, the last being the Golden Bridle Trophy of the World Super Jockeys Series, in which the black colt, under Britain’s Ryan Moore, powered to a wire-to-wire 1-1/4-length win.
He marked a fifth in his first graded challenge in the March Stakes in 2014, and after a disappointing last-place finish in the Antares Stakes where his outside draw hindered his usual force, the horse bounced back immediately to show a good stretch run after inheriting the lead at upper stretch to mark his first graded stakes win in the G3 Heian Stakes. Following another graded win in the Sirius Stakes, in which he jumped out of a three-horse-battle in the last half furlong for a 3/4-length win, his first G1 challenge in the Champions Cup ended in an eighth-place finish where he was unable to maintain his lead after setting the early pace.
Namura Victor showed a remarkable runner-up effort in last year’s Champions Cup, in which the eighth favorite dislodged an impressive late charge after waiting patiently around fifth position and closed in on the winner Hokko Tarumae, narrowing the gap to 1/2 length at the wire. Though 11th in his first start of this season in the Tokai Stakes, he has been consistent since, scoring two thirds and a fourth out of three G3 races—running the last three furlongs the fastest or second fastest in all three—including his latest start in the Sirius Stakes where he finished three lengths behind the winner in third, despite having a 3kg disadvantage to the top two finishers.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Namura Victor was heavily defeated in his debut race on turf and was switched to dirt in his second career start, where he immediately broke his maiden. He registered two more wins, a second and a third, including his runner-up effort to Hokko Tarumae in his first grade-race challenge in the Leopard Stakes, before being tested on turf once again and finishing last. He promptly won his next start on dirt with a five-length victory but sustained a fractured leg after his big defeat in the last start of his three-year-old season, which ruled him out of racing for over ten months. Making a comeback in September of his four-year-old season, the son of Zenno Rob Roy was raced three times during that season, which resulted in a win and two fourth-place finishes.
Transferred to the Nobuharu Fukushima stable in February 2014 following the retirement of Akihiko Nomura, Namura Victor won his first start under his new trainer and went on to register his first graded victory in the following G3 Antares Stakes with the fastest final three furlongs. While his temperamental side got the better of him in the following Heian Stakes, in which he finished fifth, he marked two runner-up efforts and a third out of three starts in his fall campaign, which included the Champions Cup.
The 2012 Japan Cup Dirt winner Nihonpiro Ours is a winner of seven grade-race titles. He comes off an eighth-place finish over a considerably muddy track in the JBC Classics and has yet to show his best in his eight-year-old season.
The son of White Muzzle registered 4-2-2 out of eight starts after his career debut as a three-year-old and finished within the money after joining grade-race company in the fall of his four-year-old campaign prior to his first G1 challenge in the 2011 Japan Cup Dirt—he finished a respectable ninth, four lengths behind multiple-G1 winner Transcend. He then capped off the season with his first grade-race victory in the Nagoya Grand Prix, easily picking off the tiring leader at the top of the stretch after chasing the pace in second.
In 2012, Nihonpiro Ours added two grade-race wins to his record in the Nagoya Daishoten and the Hakusan Daishoten, both claimed by emphatic margins. Coming off a runner-up effort by a neck in the Miyako Stakes, he was rated close to the pace in the Japan Cup Dirt and pulled away to a 3-1/2-length victory from 200-meters out, setting a new race record of 1:48.8 over 1,800 meters. His achievement earned him the JRA Award for Best Dirt Horse of 2012.
He continued to be consistent during 2013, finishing within the money in all but the Japan Cup Dirt in which he finished fifth—he also scored his fifth grade-race victory in the Heian Stakes. He added two more grade-race wins in the Tokai Stakes and the Diolite Kinen in 2014 and finished within the first five in all but three out of 33 career starts leading up to the 2014 Champions Cup. However, he was heavily defeated in the autumn dirt G1 which had changed its venue from Hanshin to Chukyo Racecourse and although he capped off the season with a runner-up effort in the following Nagoya Grand Prix, he has not been able to show his usual form this season.
Three-year-old Nonkono Yume is coming off his first autumn start and thrilling victory against older competition in the Musashino Stakes. Unhurried and settled in a rearward position, the dark chestnut colt hit the stretch second from last and although faced with a huge amount of ground to make up, he powered past his rivals with intimidating speed for a breathtaking photo finish to land his fourth consecutive and third graded win. Registering the fastest last three-furlong drive in all of his nine career-starts verifies that his outstanding stretch kick is an unquestionable advantage for him over the 410-meter dirt stretch at Chukyo Racecourse.
The son of Twining made his debut in November last season and immediately claimed a half-length win, closing strongly from the latter half of the field, and capped off his two-year-old campaign with a runner-up effort where he dug in well from the far rear. The same strategy did not work in his first three-year-old start, finishing three lengths from the winner for third, however he was able to notch his second win in the following race where he gradually improved position from the third corner to secure a two-length victory. Given the green light to step up in class, he made his bid sitting in second from the rear, but was only able to pass tired rivals to finish fifth in the open-class Fukuryu Stakes.
With newly licensed JRA jockey Christophe Lemaire taking the reins, the chestnut colt has been consistent in claiming three consecutive wins beginning with the Seiryu Stakes in May, where he dug in gamely right before the wire after traveling in second from the rear. His next start and first grade-race attempt in the Unicorn Stakes once again saw him spurting well after racing near the rear to grasp the lead half a furlong out for a convincing 2-1/2-length win, while UAE Derby third-place finisher and race favorite Golden Barows was a distant five-lengths behind in fourth. In the following Japan Dirt Derby, the muddy track did not hinder his performance as he easily nailed grade-race winner Cross Krieger 100 meters out, bursting from a wide mid-field position for another 2-1/2-length victory.
Roi Jardin makes his first G1 challenge in this year’s Champions Cup, coming off his first grade-race victory in as many grade-race starts in the Miyako Stakes. A progressing King Kamehameha colt, who scored two wins and a second out of five starts up to July, finished fourth in his fall debut and then upset a field of multiple grade-race winners, earning a ticket to run against the top G1 dirt runners.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Roi Jardin won his three-year-old debut over 1,800 meters but was ninth in a field of 16 in his next start on turf. He bounced back to register his second win when returned to dirt racing for his third career start and finished second against open-class company in April but was sidelined from racing with a leg fracture.
Despite coming off a ten-month break, the talented colt was sent to post race-favorite in his four-year-old comeback start and first race against his seniors. The quick starter secured a good position in third and easily drew away when asked to a 1-1/2-length victory. He missed the money for the first time on dirt in the Kintei Stakes while staying on gamely after racing in front of a considerably strong pace but bounced back to score two wins and a second before his summer break.
He finished fourth in the Brazil Cup, running out of gas after chasing the pace in his first start of the fall season and was sent to post seventh pick in the Miyako Stakes. Under Suguru Hamanaka, who partnered the colt for the first time in the race, Roi Jardin showed versatility in settling further back in mid-division along the rails while saving plenty of energy behind a solid pace, loomed to contention down the homestretch from the inside as the front runners began to tire, then held off a powerful late charge from his outside for a head victory against a quality field. Raced between 1,700 and 2,100 meters, he has three wins and a second out of four starts over 1,800 meters.
Roman Legend, coming back from a five-month break due to a chip fracture sustained in his left foreleg after his third-place effort in the Heian Stakes in May, finished a close third in the Miyako Stakes, where he dueled strongly with Roi Jardin up to the 100-meter marker and held on well though outrun by the winner then by Kazenoko in the last strides. While without a win for nearly a year and a half since his Elm Stakes victory last year, his legendary kick is still in good condition and competitive against graded runners as seen in this year’s February Stakes.
Unsuccessful in his first two career starts on turf as a three-year-old, Roman Legend was tested on dirt where he immediately succeeded in landing his first victory with an overwhelming six-length margin. He added another win and a runner-up effort before accomplishing a six-race winning streak which included his first two graded victories, the Elm Stakes and the Miyako Stakes. His first Japan Cup Dirt challenge resulted in a credible fourth followed by another win in the Tokyo Daishoten where he won over a heated rally with Hatano Vainqueur and Wonder Acute for a 1/2-length victory.
Roman Legend was below form and winless in his five-year-old season, and while marking two third-place efforts in the Kashiwa Kinen and the Miyako Stakes, he finished a disappointing 13th in his second Japan Cup Dirt challenge and fractured his left hind leg in his attempt to defend his title in the year-end Tokyo Daishoten. He claimed his comeback start after a seven-month break in the 2014 Elm Stakes, where he won over a strong duel with Kurino Star O by a head margin. Refreshed from another four-month spell, the dark bay finished a close third in the Champions Cup in December, dueling with Hokko Tarumae along the stretch but gradually lagging behind and overtaken by Namura Victor before the wire.
Six-year-old mare Sambista continues to maintain her good form this season. While finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in the February Stakes and the Kashiwa Kinen against G1 company of the opposite gender, she has scored three wins, two seconds and a third out of six NAR-graded races limited to fillies and mares so far this year. She was the winner of the 2014 JBC Ladies’ Classics but was unable to defend her title this year, despite briefly taking the lead from racing around fourth along the rails, overtaken by fourth-pick White Fugue who then drew away with tremendous speed to open the margin to five lengths.
Debuting in March of her three-year-old season, Sambista broke her maiden in her third career start and capped off the season with two wins and a third out of five starts. The Suzuka Mambo filly continued to show steady progress in her four-year-old season with two wins and two thirds out of five starts.
Stepping up to open-class competition after marking her fifth career win in the third start of her five-year-old season in 2014, she was third in her first graded challenge in the Empress Hai and finished a close second in the following Marine Stakes before registering her first graded victory in the Breeders’ Gold Cup, in which she drew even with race favorite Wild Flapper in the last furlong and accelerated powerfully for a three-length victory.
Finishing 1-3/4-length short of Wild Flapper in the following Ladies’ Prelude, Sambista captured her first G1 title in the JBC Ladies’ Classic where the second favorite was rated in good striking position, surged out behind Wild Flapper at the homestretch and overtook the race favorite in the last 100 meters while fending off Trois Bonheur’s late charge before the wire for a 1-1/4-length victory with record time over muddy track conditions. While yet to demonstrate her ability against male dirt specialists, she fared well in last year’s Champions Cup where she was posted 15th favorite but ran gamely at the stretch to finish fourth.
The up-and-coming dirt specialist Sound True is coming off a runner-up effort in his first G1 challenge, the JBC Classic, in which he demonstrated a powerful late kick that marked the fastest last three furlongs and, though finishing two and a half lengths behind two-time February Stakes winner Copano Rickey, overtook nine-time G1 winner Hokko Tarumae in the closing strides to cross the wire half a length in front. He has finished within the money—three wins, a second and three thirds— in all his seven starts over 1,800 meters on dirt.
The son of French Deputy broke his maiden in his second start as a two-year-old and kicked off his three-year-old season with three consecutive runner-up efforts before adding another win. His first grade-race challenge in the following Unicorn Stakes resulted in a third, 3-1/4 lengths behind two-time G1 winner Best Warrior. Though unable to mark any win in the rest of his three-year-old season and scoring only one during his four-year-old campaign, he was consistent with 2-5-7 out of 18 starts between 2013 and 2014.
The chestnut kicked off this season with a runner-up effort then stepped up in class after scoring two consecutive wins. He was a close sixth in his second grade-race attempt in the Heian Stakes in which he threatened grade-race winners with his strong late charge. After claiming the following July Stakes over the same distance and course as the Champions Cup, he was sidelined for two and a half months but came back to achieve his first graded title in the Nippon TV Haiovertaking G1 winners, Copano Rickey and Chrysolite, in the last 300 meters for a three-length victory, which earned him a ticket to the JBC Classic.
Multiple-G1 winner and three-time Japan Cup Dirt runner-up Wonder Acute comes off a third-place finish in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai and appears to be in good form to be a threat in this year’s Champions Cup.
The son of Charismatic won his career debut as a three-year-old and scored six wins out of 12 starts including two G3 titles. He also made his first Japan Cup Dirt challenge that season, finishing sixth to Espoir City. Wonder Acute’s career was put to a hold after sustaining a minor fracture during training towards his 2010 spring campaign, and the bay won one out of just three starts in 2010. He then registered 2-5-0 out of eight starts which included a G2 victory, won in record time over track condition rated sloppy in the Tokai Stakes and two runner-up efforts in two G1 events, the Japan Cup Dirt and the Tokyo Daishoten during 2011.
He was given a lengthy break again in 2012 to rest a popped splint before landing his first G1 victory in the JBC Classic by an astounding five-length margin against a strong field that included the 2010 and 2011 Japan Cup Dirt champion Transcend and the year’s February Stakes winner Testa Matta. While rallying impressively in the closing stages in the Japan Cup Dirt, he was runner-up again in the international G1.
Healthy throughout his seven-year-old season, Wonder Acute won his fall debut, the Nippon TV Hai to capture his fifth career grade-race win. However, the perennial runner-up missed again—this time by a mere neck—for the third time in four tries in the Japan Cup Dirt. He concluded the season with another second in the Tokyo Daishoten, finishing within the money in all seven starts.
Raced at G1 level in six starts during 2014, Wonder Acute scored another G1 win and two thirds. He showed good effort from racing well behind and circling wide around the final turn to finish fifth in the renewed Champions Cup. Lightly raced in his nine-year-old season, he has added yet another G1 victory in the Kashiwa Kinen with a sharp turn of speed which enabled him to pull away and win by a comfortable margin.