Trainer Yoshito Yahagi
“I think the level of this year’s Tenno Sho (Autumn) was extremely high and that one mistake at the break or in the initial dash was the difference in the final outcome. But, unlike I’d imagined, Contrail was quite fresh, which was most important. Last year he went from the Kikuka Sho to the Japan Cup with only four full training weeks in between but he recovered unbelievably quickly and was actually very easy to get ready.
“Last week, his training partner started too far out in front of him so, in order to catch him, this horse had to move to the inside. So, his time doesn’t really reflect how hard a workout he got. I think it was more like a work of 78-79 seconds. Of course, his movement was good. It’s always good. Today’s work was almost too good to waste. I think he’s even a rank above what he was. He looks to have really come into his own.
“I have no concerns whatsoever regarding the venue. Rather, as long as the ground is fast, it’s good. With this horse it doesn’t make any sense to be worrying about the others, there are strong 3-year-olds, tough horses from overseas, there is lots to think about, but instead of that I only think about having Contrail in the very best condition.
“As for his behavior in the gate, I have done everything I could possibly do with him, including pool work. The only thing left is for me to say to him before the race, ‘I’m begging you. Please act like a grownup.'
“I want the fans, of course, to see just how strong this Triple Crown champion is, but I never dreamed that entry to the track would still be restricted for his retirement race. I truly wanted more fans to be able to see him. For better or for worse, this is his last race, and, for certain I’ll have him in the very best condition, so I’m asking you to please show your support for him in his last run.”
Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga
“I must say that his workout got a little faster than Mr. Yahagi wanted it to be, but the horse was running very relaxed and in no way did I overdo it. His time was very fast, but his breathing afterward was no different than if he’d just gone for a little jog. He has changed dramatically and that’s why the time was fast. He was in excellent condition for the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and he feels about the same. He’s a horse who’s always been better coming straight off a layoff, but this time, even with only three full training weeks in between, he’s as fresh as he would be coming straight back from time off. He’s also mentally very calm, and I think there should be no problems whatsoever.
“He won the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) with these conditions (Tokyo, 2,400 meters, turf) so there shouldn’t be any problems. Still, this year’s Derby winner is in the lineup as are many other horses that have competed at the Grade 1 level and I don’t think it will be an easy race.
“I haven’t really thought about tactics for the race too much yet, but this year, once he’s gotten gradually more unruly inside the gates, so it would be good if we drew an even-number gate (which will normally be loaded later into the gates). This year he’s gotten more unruly in the gate but it doesn’t seem to me that’s something external that is upsetting him. I think something inside him is getting him worked up. So, I don’t think that the race starting in front of the grandstand is going to have any effect on how he acts in the gate.
“I’m now over 40 and the final stage of my jockey career is drawing near. And this horse came along. He’s special and his presence, knowing him, is a treasure. To have been given the gift of winning the Triple Crown unbeaten, that makes him very special to me.
“All of his races have been very memorable to me, but with the overwhelming strength he showed in winning the Derby, I think that if I had to name one race up to this point, I’d have to say that that was his best. And, I will be doing my very best this time to bring out his best once again.
“I’ve ridden many horses that have gone on to stallion careers but this horse has special talent and feels special to ride. I’ve ridden many progeny of Deep Impact and though I myself never rode Deep Impact, I think this horse may be, in size, intelligence, and suppleness, the horse that most resembles him.
“A horse, born of a horse that won the Triple Crown unbeaten, that goes on to win the Triple Crown unbeaten, is not something you see very often in racing history. He’s that horse and for me to have known what it feels like to be on his back is like a fortune to me. In the future, with him most likely going on to a career as a stallion, I may one day ride one of his offspring, and surely I will be remembering with great pride how it felt to be riding their sire.
“It’s the last run of an unbeaten Triple Crown horse, so to protect his honor, I very much want to see him decorated with a final win that pays a fitting tribute to him as a champion. And I want to do that in front of his fans.
“He is a Triple Crown champion that emerged during a pandemic and I think he has been a presence that has shone light into a very dark world, a superhorse that gave me personally the present of the Triple Crown. A very important task awaits him on the next stage in his life. But, it is my mission to close out his stage as a racehorse, and to give him the very best ride I can give him.”
Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara
“After winning the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), we had planned to begin the autumn campaign from the Kobe Shimbun Hai. He ran well in the Kobe Shimbun Hai but the weather had been worse than I’d thought. I’d walked the track myself and it just did not suit Shahryar. I think he was exhausted during and after the race. It was a race that certainly didn’t meet expectations. If you look at the horses that went from the Kobe Shimbun Hai to the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger), you can tell that they weren’t totally recovered. It took a good two months to get Shahryar completely back on his feet and then we aimed him here. We took great care in his preparations and things have gone smoothly and according to plan.
“Last week I wanted to check how he was moving as well as give him a good solid workout, so I had jockey Mirai Iwata ride him. He worked in tandem with another horse and moved solidly and his time was good too. Iwata has ridden him all along in trackwork and, with a race under his belt, he felt that the horse was better than he’d been before the Kobe Shimbun Hai.
“Since he had a hard workout last week, today (Wednesday) we only fine-tuned him with a run up the hill course. It was the first time since the Mainichi Hai for jockey Yuga Kawada to have contact with him, so I also wanted him to check how the horse felt. His time was as directed and his footwork as expected. I wanted to hear what Kawada had to say and it was, ‘He feels much more solid now than he did in the spring and he can really move now.’
“He’s a really easy horse to ride and he has the strong kick that Deep Impact progeny have, so I think these conditions (Tokyo, 2,400 meters, turf) are right for him.
“It’s an international Grade 1 and, we have a Triple Crown winner, generations of Derby winners, and horses from abroad. Wanting to show my respect, I take on this race as a challenger.
“Because Derby runnerup Efforia won the Tenno Sho (Autumn), it reminds what a strong field the Derby was. And that, in turn, makes me want to race without being an embarrassment and to train without being an embarrassment.
“The Japan Cup is one of the world’s top international Grade 1 races. It ranks right up there with aiming for the Breeders Cup or the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It’s a race that motivates you and makes you want to rise to the challenge.
“There was no shame as a Derby winner to not have had things come together right in the Kobe Shimbun Hai, but this time it looks like the track will be fast and I want him to give a heartfelt performance and make the top.”
Trainer Tetsuya Kimura
“He ran a very good race last out in the Copa Republica Argentina. He ran strongly and won strongly and, with only two full training weeks in between races, I had to be very careful getting him ready for this race. But, thankfully, he wasn’t too tired out and I feel he has recovered well.
“He won the Copa Republica Argentina as a 3-year-old and won it again as a 4-year-old. It was a strong race and he ran really well and I think he has matured. He has had a number of weak points that required us to be careful, but most of those concerns are gone now. He has now become much easier to care for.
“This is the first time for me as a trainer to take on the Japan Cup and it’s a dream come true to have a runner in the field. I’d like to think I’ve been very thorough in my work, but when you actually face the reality that one your horses will be lined up for the Japan Cup, it hits you and it is simply a great joy.
“Jockey Christophe Lemaire has the ride, but it’s up to me to get the horse ready to be able to race with vigor. Lemaire has ridden lots of horses for us and he understands a lot, which allows me to feel like this time is no different at all, that it doesn’t matter that it’s a Grade 1, or that it’s the Tokyo 2,400.
“Even if my horse wasn’t racing, I’d be excited just looking at this lineup. There are a number of Derby winners and a Triple Crown champion. But, with all that, I just want to be able to say that it was a great race when it is all over. It’s not much I have to offer, but I want to be able to play a small role in being able to see a healthy, happy Authority do his best.”
Sources: NIKKEI RADIO BROADCASTING CORPORATION