Dubai World Cup Day - Japan team of 12 reaps four runners-up at Dubai, including World Cup
This year, Japan’s horsemen sent 12 runners to Dubai for the 25th Dubai World Cup Day, held on Saturday, March 27 and headlined by the USD12 million Dubai World Cup. The extravaganza, resuming after sitting 2020 out, carries a card of nine races and features five Grade 1 events at the left-handed Meydan Racecourse (at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse until 2010).
Though none of Japan’s participants were able to reach the winner’s circle this year, it was nonetheless an incredible day at Meydan. Five Japan-based horses made the top 3 (four runners-up and one third-place finisher) in the day’s big four Grade 1 races - the Dubai Golden Shaheen, Dubai Turf, Dubai Sheema Classic, and the Dubai World Cup.
On Saturday, from the Godolphin Mile with a local post time of 4:15 p.m. to the running of the World Cup at 8:50 p.m., racing fans in Japan (five hours ahead of Dubai) stayed up into the wee hours of Sunday to catch the event live.
The Dubai Golden Shaheen was the first of the four races open to betting in Japan and boasted four runners from the home base among a field of 13. The six-furlong dirt event, carrying a first-place prize of USD870,000, was won by the American raider Zenden, but tragedy struck just moments past the finish line.
Rider Antonio Fresu was able to leap uninjured to the ground as the 5-year-old Zenden went down with a leg injury to his left foreleg. He had to be euthanized later. Following Zenden home 3 1/4 lengths later in second place was Japan’s Red le Zele, a 5-year-old by Lord Kanaloa trained by Takayuki Yasuda. Ryan Moore had the ride and said “Red le Zele ran a lovely race. He ran super, but I think 1,200 meters was a bit sharp for him. He needs to step up in trip.”
Next best result was had by Copano Kicking, who had beat Justin and Matera Sky in his win at the Riyadh Dirt Sprint on Feb. 20. He notched a fifth place under William Buick. “He ran well and finished off really well,” said Buick. “He’s got no early speed though and this track is speed-favored. We couldn’t get into it, to be honest.”
Justin was 11th and Matera Sky, who finished second in the same race in 2019, followed only one off the rear.
“We brought him out to the track before the others and he was calm in the preliminaries,” said trainer Yoshito Yahagi of Justin. “He was better than he’d been in Saudi Arabia. We did what we could and this is the result of him chasing the win by staying close to the front. But it was a convincing race.”
Partnered with Justin was jockey Ryusei Sakai, who said, “He was in really good shape, but we ran the race we wanted to so it’s not frustrating. He broke well and we were able to keep our eye on the winner but this one faded early.”
Jockey Keita Tosaki on Matera Sky said, “I don’t think there was any problem with the horse’s condition. Those around him were fast and he was able to run his own race.”
The day’s No. 7 race, the Dubai Turf, is a turf competition over 1,800 meters. Only one runner from Japan was entered in the field of 12, Vin de Garde, a 5-year-old trained by trainer Hideaki Fujiwara.
Vin de Garde, ridden by French rider Mickael Barzalona, was able to finish second behind winner Lord North, who moved up from the rear from 600 meters out and led with 300 meters to go. Vin de Garde traveled from midfield and ran well over the final 300 meters but was no match for the winner.
“I had no orders from the trainer,” said Barzalona. “He had just asked me to ride where the horse was happy and suitable. I was relaxed where I was and had a lot of horse under me. It was a perfect race. But, in the stretch, things just wouldn’t open up.”
Next up on the card was the Dubai Sheema Classic, a race that easily was the most thrilling race of the day and the most frustrating for Japan. The team’s star mares Chrono Genesis and Loves Only You looked set for a win of the 2,410-meter turf race, but victory was to be snatched away by the Saudi Cup winner Mishriff, advancing swiftly on the outside under jockey David Egan. Mishriff was able to top Chrono Genesis by a neck, with Loves Only You finishing in third place another neck behind.
Egan acknowledged the tough competition. ”It was a strong battle inside the last two furlongs,” he said. “I was just glad I was able to do my job and get him to settle. We know he’s got an immense turn of foot. I thought he had to dig deep today in the final furlong. I thought he was going to curl up on me, but it just shows how good he is.”
Jockey Yuichi Kitamura on 5-year-old Chrono Genesis said, "She had a halfway decent start, I focused on letting her race at her own rhythm and letting her choose the spot she wanted to race from.
“When they picked up at the third bend, she was able to keep up but just after that she couldn’t respond immediately and she tired in the end. She wasn’t able to show her signature closing speed in the stretch."
The difference in prize money a neck made for Chrono Genesis was USD1.9 million.
Jockey Oisin Murphy on Loves Only You said her start had been a bit slow. “She had a tendency to lay out in the straight and she brushed another runner a few times.”
Loves Only You trainer Yoshito Yahagi said, “I would have liked to have just a bit more pace. But that’s the way races are run here. Things were standing still until the very end.
“She gave us a good race. There was nothing more we could have done. I’m looking forward to run her in Hong Kong as her next race.”
The main event saw hope for a Japan first shouldered by one horse alone, Chuwa Wizard, who was coming off a ninth-place finish amid 14 runners in the Saudi Cup on Feb. 20. The Dubai World Cup was delayed some 12 minutes, after Military Law got loose and proved hard to catch. He, along with Great Scott, were deemed non-runners. Horses had to be reloaded.
In the end, it was once again disappointment for Japan and Chuwa Wizard, with the Godolphin-owned Mystic Guide proving the more magical. The 4-year-old, ridden by Luis Saez, beat Japan’s runner home by a formidable 3 3/4 lengths, topping the field (reduced to 12) to land the USD6.96 million winner’s share.
The 6-year-old Chuwa Wizard, by King Kamehameha, was trained by Ryuji Okubo and piloted by Keita Tosaki, one of only three Japan-based jockeys who made the trip to Dubai. "He was more relaxed in his final fast work than he’d been before his last race,” said Tosaki. “He was relaxed here too while waiting for the race to start. He jumped well and could run his race.
“I knew the winner was traveling nicely on the final turn but my horse was also moving well. When the pace picked up, he showed his turn of foot. He was able to run his race.
“I’d like to be able to get our revenge sometime."
Japanese horses participated in two other events earlier in the day, the Godolphin Mile, a Grade 2 over dirt and the UAE Derby, a Grade 2 over 1,900 meters of dirt.
The mile event and second race of the day was won by the locally trained 8-year-old Secret Ambition. Japan’s only runner was the Miho-based 4-year-old Dieu du Vin. The colt started awkwardly and lost ground as, according to rider Lanfranco Dettori, he hung right throughout the race to finish 13th out of 15 runners.
Three Japan horses took on the UAE Derby, a race Japan has won only once before in 12 bids. The Yukihiro Kato-trained Takeru Pegasus, under jockey Ryan Moore, managed to best the trio with a fourth-place finish amid a field of 14. “He ran a good race. He just needed a bit further,” Moore said of the 3-year-old Takeru Pegasus. “He tried really hard. He’s brave and has a big heart.” France Go de Ina, trained by Hideyuki Mori, was bumped at the break and, slow to find his stride, came in in sixth place under the U.S.-based Joel Rosario. “He was nervous in the gate. I tried to calm him and he was OK, but then didn’t go forward,” said Rosario. “The break was definitely key.” Pink Kamehameha, also trained by Hideyuki Mori, tracked the leader Panadol but weakened over the final two furlongs to finish 10th under Keita Tosaki.
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