The 41st Japan Cup will enjoy a quality international field for the first time in three years with a number of foreign contingents of G1 status as well as our own derby champions from four generations aiming for one of Japan’s most prestigious titles. This is hoped to be only the beginning of many more exciting international events to come in the future with more overseas contenders drawn to taking advantage of the new international stables, being constructed and due to be completed next year, within the Tokyo Racecourse premises which would allow our foreign visitors to travel direct to Tokyo for both the quarantine procedures as well as access to the training tracks where the actual races are held.
Japanese runners taking on the challenges from overseas this year include:
Contrail (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact) is the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) winner of 2020 who also became the Triple Crown winner, claiming all of the three-year-old classics, that year. While he has not yet scored a win this year, having finished third in the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m) and second in his latest start, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1, 2,000m), the reasons for his defeat were in no way due to lack of power—the track condition was not to his advantage in the former while the race development did not go his way in the latter—and with his retirement already announced to be at the end of this season, another G1 title in the Japan Cup would greatly compensate for his defeat to Almond Eye last year and add to his already impressive resume. His trainer Yoshito Yahagi has three G1 titles overseas including two in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. (Rated 121I as of his second place in the Tenno Sho (Autumn))
Shahryar (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), the derby champion of the current season, was unable to perform to his best on the heavy track under bad weather condition in his fall comeback, the Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2, 2,200m), and finished fourth. However, when winning the derby, he out-dueled Efforia, who would later beat her senior G1 runners including Contrail in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), for a nose victory. The Japan Cup which is held over the same course and distance would give him every reason to finish well up at the wire if the track condition is to work his way. The competition between the two derby colts is expected to draw much attention this year. (Rated 120L as of his victory in the Tokyo Yushun)
Uberleben (JPN, F3, by Gold Ship) is this year’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) champion. The Gold Ship filly came into her next big G1 challenge, the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m) direct from her summer break, but had not reached her best condition and was heavily beaten to 13th. However, provided that she has bounced back to form to run under the same race distance and course as the Oaks, she has a good chance in the Japan Cup, being a three-year-old filly and carrying the lightest weight of 53kg, in her competition against the derby winner of her generation. (Rated 113L as of her victory in the Yushun Himba)
Curren Bouquetd’or (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact) was fourth in the 2020 edition of the Japan Cup—just a neck and a nose behind Contrail—and her rating as of then was 119. While continued to be among the front finishers early this year, she has been short of reaching the same standard as last season and was surprisingly well beaten for the otherwise consistent runner in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), although the outside draw may have contributed to this result to a certain extent. If she is to pick a good draw and secure a good forward position and get into a good flow, the Deep Impact mare has a good chance to show her true form in the Japan Cup. (Rated 112E as of her third-place finish in the Tenno Sho (Spring))
Authority (JPN, C4, by Orfevre),while without a G1 victory, has still managed to notch three grade-two titles while hindered with leg injuries twice during his career. The talented Orfevre colt succeeded in winning back-to-back titles in the Copa Republica Argentina (G2, 2,500m) despite under top weight of 57.5kg., showing signs of having established himself as a prominent runner. JRA’s leading jockey, Christophe Lemaire, who rode Authority to victory in his last start, will be partnering him again in the coming race and the race will be his first G1 challenge over a left-handed course—his past G1 challenges have all been run clockwise—which is another favorable factor. (Rated 115L as of his victory in the Copa Republica Argentina)
Aristoteles (JPN, C4, by Epiphaneia) made a strong impression, especially in the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m), where the Epiphaneia colt kept pestering eventual winner Contrail right up to the wire before finishing a second. Under high expectations, Aristoteles kicked off his four-year-old campaign with a victory in the American Jockey Club Cup (G2, 2,200m) but was short of living up to the hype in his following four starts although he displayed a hint of returning to his best in his runner-up effort in the latest Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m) where he was beaten by a nose by 2016 derby champion, Makahiki (JPN, H8, by Deep Impact). He will be partnered by up-and-coming jockey, Takeshi Yokoyama, 22 years old, who has won three G1 titles this year including the Tenno Sho (Autumn) where the talented jockey guided Efforia to victory, beating Contrail. It will be of great interest as to what the pair has in store towards their G1 challenge. (Rated 116E as of his fourth-place finish in the Tenno Sho (Spring))
Kiseki (JPN, H7, by Rulership) has been winless since claiming the 2017 Kikuka Sho but has continued to make his presence be known in top events. He still has plenty of speed to place himself in the front of the field and, if there is no dispute for dictating the pace, the son of Rulership may decide to aim for a wire-to-wire victory as was the case in 2018 and last year—depending on how much advantage he may gain during the trip, he could remain a factor to the very end, adding much excitement for the spectators. (Rated 116I as of his fourth-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup).Other notable runners include, of course, the two derby champions Makahiki (Rated 114L as of his victory in the Kyoto Daishoten) and Wagnerian (JPN, H6, by Deep Impact) who won in 2018. Makahiki claimed his first win in five years in the Kyoto Daishoten while Wagnerian, third in the 2019 Japan Cup, is also hoped to turn in a good performance this year.