2022 News

November 29, 2022


Champions Cup (G1) - Preview
Heian Stakes (G3)
T O Keynes

Sirius Stakes (G3)
Jun Light Bolt

Miyako Stakes (G3)
Sunrise Hope

Crown Pride
Crown Pride

Gloria Mundi
Gloria Mundi



The Grade 1 Champions Cup takes place on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Chukyo Racecourse, just outside of Nagoya in central Japan. It will be the 23rd running of the race, which was previously known as the Japan Cup Dirt. First run in 2000 at Tokyo over 2,100 meters, the race has had a number of different venues (including Hanshin) and distances, but since 2014 it has been run at Chukyo over 1,800 meters, which was when it also got its current name. It is the fourth and final leg of the Japan Autumn International Series of races, which also includes last week’s Grade 1 Japan Cup. There will be no overseas runners in this week’s race.

The Grade 1 Champions Cup is a race for 3-year-olds and up, with 4-year-olds and above to carry 57kg, and a 1kg allowance for 3-year-olds, with a further 2kg weight pull for fillies and mares. There have been 18 nominations for the race, but a maximum of 16 runners will get a start. This year’s race looks interesting from the point of view that there are a number of emerging dirt horses expected to be in the lineup, and that quite a few of them have pedigrees that wouldn’t necessarily give them strong claims in dirt races.

A couple of JRA races leading into Sunday’s big race have been the Grade 3 Sirius Stakes run at Chukyo over 1,900 meters in October, and the Grade 3 Miyako Stakes run over 1,800 meters at Hanshin in November. In the last 10 years, just two favorites have won the Champions Cup and 5-year-olds have won it four times during that same period. Ritto-trained horses have won eight times in the past decade, making them quite a force in the race. Record time is held by Chrysoberyl, winning in a time of 1:48.5 in 2019, and he was the last 3-year-old winner of the race. This year’s winner’s check is JPY120 million (approximately USD1 million).

The Grade 1 Champions Cup will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Chukyo, with a post time of 15.30 local time. Final declarations and barrier draw will come out later in the week.

Here’s a look at some of this year’s top dirt horses expected to be in the race:

T O Keynes: Winner of the race last year, the 5-year-old by Sinister Minister will probably be a short-priced favorite to defend his title successfully this year. Although he could only finish eighth in this year’s Grade 1 Saudi Cup in February, he recently blew away the opposition in the JBC Classic at Morioka over 2,000 meters in November. Assistant trainer Juntaro Taira said: “He took a very wide position in his last race and I did wonder about that, but at the end he showed how much power he has. He’s been at the stable since and he’s a lot more relaxed than he was previously.”

Jun Light Bolt: Living up to his name latterly, Jun Light Bolt has only had three starts on dirt, but has won two of them, the latest being the Grade 3 Sirius Stakes at Chukyo in October. The son of King Kamehameha has got his trainer Yasuo Tomomichi quite excited about his prospects from now. “I’ve always thought a lot of him, and in his first start on dirt at Fukushima he lost a shoe, but still managed to finish second. In his two wins since, he’s picked up well between the third and fourth corners, and he just seems a different horse on dirt as opposed to turf,” Tomomichi said. The trainer has never won a JRA dirt Grade 1 race, despite having 16 top-level wins to his name overall.

Sunrise Hope: Causing an upset last time in the Grade 3 Miyako Stakes in November, Sunrise Hope will be trying for a repeat performance at Chukyo, where he has won twice, but has also finished unplaced four times. Usually well up with the pace, things turned out a bit different when he won last time, as trainer Tomohiko Hatsuki explained: “He swerved a bit leaving the stalls, so it meant he had to settle for an outside position in his last race. The jockey did a great job though, to get the best out of him throughout the race and at the finish. The horse was a bit tired after the race, but we’ve taken care of him and all is well with him.”

Crown Pride: The 3-year-old colt by Reach the Crown has only had seven starts (all on dirt) and has won three times, including the prestigious Grade 2 UAE Derby at Meydan in March. Despite finishing second to T O Keynes last time, trainer Koichi Shintani still thinks there’s more to come from the colt. “The winner last time was able to catch him, but he ran a strong race, cutting out what was a good pace for him. I think that was good experience for him and I’m pleased with how he’s progressing,” the trainer said. Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga will take the ride once more on Crown Pride.

Gloria Mundi: One of two possible runners for trainer Ryuji Okubo, Gloria Mundi last ran in the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen in June, when he finished well down the field. Back on dirt, however, he’s a different prospect, having won four times from five starts, including two wins at Chukyo. The trainer said: “He was in among some famous horses in his last race and it was his first run on turf in a long time. He was tired after the race, but has had time to recover, and since being back at the stable, things have been fine with him. There’s still more to come from him in dirt races.” Adding to Gloria Mundi’s chances is the booking of Ryan Moore for the ride, and he showed just what he’s capable of in last week’s Japan Cup.

Hapi: The 3-year-old colt by Kizuna has a similar profile to Crown Pride, in that he has had the same number of races and the same number of wins. He’s only been unplaced twice in his career and that includes last time when he narrowly missed out behind Sunrise Hope in the Grade 3 Miyako Stakes. Also trained by Ryuji Okubo, the trainer recently commented: “It got a bit tight on the inside in his last race and he didn’t get such a smooth run. The good thing is he came out of it well and wasn’t tired, so he would seem ready to run again.” The trainer won the Champions Cup in 2020 with Chuwa Wizard.

Notturno: Another 3-year-old entry, the colt by Heart’s Cry has been guided nicely by jockey Yutaka Take in seven of his eight starts, which have included three wins all with Take aboard. The colt’s last race was at Funabashi in September, when he finished seventh in the Nippon TV Hai over 1,800 meters. An assistant trainer commented: “With an inside gate last time, he had to go forward and things didn’t work out for him, being unable to catch the frontrunner, and then other horses running on at the end. He also probably prefers the ground wet, as it was when he won two starts ago.”
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