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November 27, 2022


Vela Azul Shines in Japan Cup

Nov. 27, 2022
Japan Cup in association with LONGINES (International Invitational) (G1)

Nov. 27, 2022
Japan Cup in association with LONGINES (International Invitational) (G1)

Nov. 27, 2022
Japan Cup in association with LONGINES (International Invitational) (G1)

Third favorite Vela Azul captured his first G1 title in this year’s Japan Cup, giving his sire Eishin Flash his first G1 victory. Vela Azul had been raced on dirt since his debut as a three-year-old up to his first start of the current season in January. Switched to turf racing this March, the five-year-old marked two wins and two thirds before claiming his first graded victory in his latest Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m) challenge. For trainer Kunihiko Watanabe, this is his first G1 triumph after claiming three graded wins since opening his stables in 2016. British jockey Ryan Moore, who is racing under a short-term license, has scored his ninth JRA-G1 win and first since his Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes victory with Salios in 2019.

Vela Azul was forced to travel in a tight, two-wide and mid-field position up to the final corner behind a slow pace set by Unicorn Lion. Trapped behind a wall of horses, the son of Eishin Flash finally found room 300 meters out only to be forced to switch paths to avoid the tiring Danon Beluga just after passing the furlong pole, and dug in fiercely overtaking the dueling Shahryar and Weltreisende 50 meters to the wire for a 3/4-length win.  

“He broke OK. The pace was rather slow, but my horse has a good late charge and I trusted him to make a good run and. He was in good condition coming into this race but he exceeded our expectation. He is five years old but he gets better and better and still has room for improvement. The reason for racing him on dirt early in his career was because he had leg issues (fractures) as a young colt and in order to race him with less risk he was raced on dirt. However, I did think he had an aptitude to race well on turf and it was only a matter of timing as to when to shift to turf racing,” commented trainer Kunihiko Watanabe.

“I was very lucky to ride a talented horse. The pace was very steady for the Japan Cup. The horse never had much room, but when he did he quickened up very well so he was very impressive today. I had a good horse that got me out front and we had a nice spot--it wasn't too far off the pace and following a good horse, the horse in front was having to wait and I was having to wait (too), and when he found a bit of room he quickened up very well. I suppose for today being towards the inside wasn't a disadvantage,” said jockey Ryan Moore.

Breaking from stall 15, race favorite Shahryar was eased to a lower rearward position after sitting in mid-pack as the bunched-up field cruised down the backstretch. After meeting traffic then finding a clear path two furlongs out, the Sheema Dubai Classic victor kicked into gear and rallied with Danon Beluga and Weltreisende into the last furlong but was outrun by the strong-closing winner, while beating a stubborn Weltreisende and Danon Beluga who dropped behind earlier, and cleared the wire 3/4 lengths behind in second.

Fourth pick Weltreisende sat in fifth from the pace, was blocked in early stretch and after squeezing through a gap for clear sailing, briefly took over the lead at the furlong marker but was caught by the runner- up 100 meters out and then the hard-closing winner for a neck third.

14th favorite Grand Glory was settled in mid-pack, eased back a bit to run sixth to seventh from the rear, was checked at the early stretch behind horses and was then guided to an outer route for her stretch run. The six-year-old mare displayed her signature closing speed from there and, although unable to better her fifth-place finish in last year’s version, cleared the wire in sixth.

Trainer Gianluca Bietolini:
“The track condition suited her, but the path didn't open for her and she had no room to run at the stretch.”

Jockey Maxime Guyon:
“We got stuck behind horses from about the last corner and couldn't find room to run.”

Sent off sixth favorite, Onesto took a ground-saving trip in around sixth to seventh, found himself in tight quarters in early stretch but slipped into a narrow path next to the rails while overtaking fellow French contender Simca Mille 400 meters out. Still unable to find running space, the Grand Prix de Paris champion gradually shifted a few paths out and finally showed his best stride 200 meters to the wire but was too late and finished seventh.

Trainer Fabrice Chappet:
“The colt ran very well but, unfortunately, he had a wall of horses in front at the stretch.”

Jockey Christophe Lemaire:
“The pace was slow, and I tried to look for a space in the inside but there was no room for us. The horse ran well but we were unlucky.”

Representing Germany, seventh favorite Tunnes was reluctant to load and after a delayed start, was off slow before settling in third to fourth from the rear beside the race favorite. As the field turned for home, the Grosser Preis von Bayern victor, still near the rear, was one of the few to find an untroubled way home, however, the three-year-old colt had too much ground to make up and was ninth.

Trainer Peter Schiergen:
“He was unable to keep up with the fast pace on the firm track and couldn't make up ground from running behind.”

Jockey Bauyrzhan Murzabayev:
“His had a poor break and the race didn't work out as we had liked. A softer ground would have been better for this colt.”

11th favorite Simca Mille saved ground near the pace in third after breaking from the innermost stall. This year’s Prix Niel winner remained a factor up to the top of the stretch hill but weakened 300 meters out and retreated to 15th.

Trainer Stephane Wattel:
“He broke extremely well but he wasn't able to show his real form throughout the race.”

Jockey Gregory Benoist:
“He ran comfortably behind the pacesetter, but he couldn't find his speed at the end.”

Other Horses:
4th: (8) Daring Tact—rated in mid-field between rivals, quickly advanced through opening along uphill stretch behind winner
5th: (14) Danon Beluga—raced wide, made headway along outside at backstretch, made ground uphill while shifting in, soon joined by winner, tired 100 meters out but held on well
8th: (11) Karate—traveled 3-wide in mid-field, followed winner uphill stretch, even paced thereafter
10th: (17) Uberleben—near rear early, headway along backstretch, widest around final turn, made effort to follow winner but outrun 200m out
11th: (10) Heart's Histoire—chased leader in second, inherited brief lead within 400m before running out of gas and faded
12th: (12) Shadow Diva—saved ground third or fourth from rear, unable to find speed after angling out early stretch
13th: (4) Trust Kenshin—hugged rails off the pace, never a factor
14th: (13) T O Royal—prominent early, outrun and faded before 400m pole
16th: (9) Unicorn Lion—made pace up to 400m pole, came up empty and faded
17th: (18) Boccherini—traveled wide in mid-division, lacked response when asked early stretch
18th: (16) Ridge Man—trailed throughout

The 42nd Japan Cup (G1) in association with LONGINES – Japan Autumn International –
3-year-olds & up, 2,400 meters (about 12 furlongs), turf, left-handed
Sunday, November 27, 2022        Tokyo Racecourse        12th Race         Post Time: 15:40
Total prize money: ¥ 864,000,000 (about US$ 7,513,043 <US$1=¥115>)
3-y-o: 55 kg (about 121 lbs), 4-y-o & up: 57 kg (about 126 lbs)
2 kg allowance for Fillies & Mares, 2 kg allowance for Southern Hemisphere-bred born in 2019
Course Record: 2:20.6                Race Record: 2:20.6 [Almond Eye (JPN), 2018]
Safety factor: 18 runners     Going: Good to Firm           Weather: Fine

FP BK PP Horse
(Dam’s Sire)
1 3 6 Vela Azul (JPN)
Ryan Moore
Eishin Flash
Vela Blanca
Carrot Farm Co., Ltd.
Northern Farm
Kunihiko Watanabe
2 7 15 Shahryar (JPN)
Cristian Demuro
Deep Impact
Dubai Majesty
(Essence of Dubai)
Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.
Northern Farm
Hideaki Fujiwara
3 2 3 Weltreisende (JPN)
Damian Lane
Dream Journey
Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.
Northern Racing
Yasutoshi Ikee
4 4 8 Daring Tact (JPN)
Tom Marquand
Daring Bird
(King Kamehameha)
Normandy Thoroughbred Racing Co., Ltd.
Hasegawa Bokujo
Haruki Sugiyama
5 7 14 Danon Beluga (JPN)
Yuga Kawada
Heart's Cry
Danox Co., Ltd.
Northern Farm
Noriyuki Hori
6 3 5 Grand Glory (GB)*
Maxime Guyon
Olympic Glory
Madonna Lily
Haras De Hus
Elevage Haras de Bourgeauville
Gianluca Bietolini
7 1 2 Onesto (IRE)*
Christophe Lemaire
(Sea The Stars)
Gerard Augustin-Normand
Diamond Creek Farm
Fabrice Chappet
8 6 11 Karate (JPN)
Akira Sugawara
To the Glory
Lady no Punch
(French Deputy)
Hikaru Odagiri
Yuichi Odagiri
Yasuyuki Tsujino
9 4 7 Tunnes (GER)*
Bauyrzhan Murzabayev
Holger Renz
Paul H. Vandeberg
Peter Schiergen
10 8 17 Uberleben (JPN)
Mirco Demuro
Gold Ship
Meine Theresia
(Roses in May)
Thoroughbred Club Ruffian Co., Ltd.
Big Red Farm
Takahisa Tezuka
11 5 10 Heart's Histoire (JPN)
Yutaka Take
Heart's Cry
(Captain Steve)
Masaru Shimada
Northern Racing
Sakae Kunieda
12 6 12 Shadow Diva (JPN)
Kohei Matsuyama
Heart's Cry
Diamond Diva
Three H Racing Co., Ltd.
Northern Racing
Makoto Saito
13 2 4 Trust Kenshin (JPN)
Kyosuke Maruta
Heart's Cry
(El Condor Pasa)
Richiko Suganami
Kinya Murakami
Fumimasa Takahashi
14 7 13 T O Royal (JPN)
Yuji Hishida
Meisho Ohi
(Manhattan Cafe)
Tomoya Ozasa
Mishima Bokujo
Inao Okada
15 1 1 Simca Mille (IRE)*
Gregory Benoist
Haras De La Perelle
Haras de la Perelle
Stephane Wattel
16 5 9 Unicorn Lion (IRE)
Yusaku Kokubun
No Nay Never
(High Chaparral)
Lion Race Horse Co., Ltd.
Desert Star Phoenix Jvc
Yoshito Yahagi
17 8 18 Boccherini (JPN)
Suguru Hamanaka
King Kamehameha
Popcorn Jazz
(Dance in the Dark)
Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co., Ltd.
Kaneko Makoto Holdings Inc.
Yasutoshi Ikee
18 8 16 Ridge Man (JPN)
Yukito Ishikawa
Swept Overboard
Admire Monroe
Tsuji B.
Tsuji Bokujo
Koki Chiba
FP: Final Position / BK: Bracket Number / PP: Post Position / S&A: Sex & Age / Wgt: Weight (kg) / DH: Dead Heat / L3F: Time of Last 3 Furlongs (600m)
Color: b.=bay / bl.=black / br.=brown / ch.=chestnut / d.b.=dark bay / chestnut / g.=gray / w.=white
Note1: No Foreign Contenders
Note2: Figures quoted under Odds are shown in form of decimal odds (single unit is ¥100), and Fav indicates the order of favorites.

Turnover for the Race alone: ¥ 21,196,673,600       Turnover for the Day: ¥ 31,048,770,700       Attendance: 53,559

PAY-OFF (for ¥100)
Win No.6 ¥ 450 Bracket Quinella 3-7 ¥ 470 Quinella 6-15 ¥ 940
Place No.6 ¥ 160 Quinella Place 6-15 ¥ 380 Exacta 6-15 ¥ 1,920
No.15 ¥ 140 3-6 ¥ 560 Trio 3-6-15 ¥ 2,360
No.3 ¥ 240 3-15 ¥ 530 Trifecta 6-15-3 ¥ 9,850

Winner= 22 starts: 6 wins, 4 seconds, 5 thirds / Added money: ¥ 403,906,000 / Career earnings: ¥ 549,680,000

Fractional time (sec./furlong): 12.8 - 11.2 - 12.3 - 12.5 - 12.3 - 12.2 - 12.4 - 12.1 - 11.7 - 11.4 - 11.3 - 11.5
Last 4 furlongs: 45.9            Last 3 furlongs: 34.2

Positions at each corner: 1st corner (*9,10,13)1(3,11,18)(2,5,14)6(4,8,15)7(12,17)16
2nd corner (*9,10)(1,13)3(2,11,18)6(4,5,14)8,15(12,7)-17,16
3rd corner 9,10(1,13)(3,18)(2,11,17)(6,14)(4,5)(8,15)(12,7)-16
4th corner (*9,10)13(1,3,18)(11,14,17)(2,6)(5,15)(4,8)7,12-16

Note1: Underlined bold number indicates the winning horse.
Note2: Horse numbers are indicated in the order of their positions at each corner, with the first position listed first. Two or more horses inside the same parentheses indicate that they were positioned side by side. Hyphens between the horse numbers indicate that there is distance between the former and the latter. The asterisk indicates a slight lead.


* Japan Cup (G1)

The Japan Cup, in its 42nd year, continues to attract some of the top turf horses from around the world—67 runners from North America, 150 from Europe, 26 from Oceania and five from Asia—while a number of runners have made this race their starting point towards further international success in following years.
Last year, 2020 Triple Crown winner Contrail (JPN, by Deep Impact) capped off his stelar career with a Japan Cup victory, his fifth G1 title, followed by Authority (JPN, by Orfevre) in second and Shahryar in third. Grand Glory from France crossed the wire in fifth, 1-1/2 lengths behind Shahryar while two Irish contenders Japan (GB, by Galileo) and Broome (IRE, by Australia) were eighth and 11th, respectively.
This year, the Japan Cup welcomed four European contenders: from France, Grand Glory, last year’s winner of the Prix Jean Romanet (G1, 2,000m), along with Simca Mille and Onesto, respective victors of the Prix Niel (G2, 2,400m) and the Grand Prix de Paris (G1, 2,400m); and from Germany, Tunnes, who came off his Grosser Preis von Bayern (G1, 2,400m) victory.
The home team taking on the challenges included Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1, 2,000m; Oct.30) finishers; this year’s Kyodo News Hai (G3, 1,800m) winner Danon Beluga (3rd), 2021 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) and 2022 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1, 2,410m) champion Shahryar (5th), two-time graded winner Karate (6th) and last year’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) victor Uberleben (8th).
The top two finishers of the Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m, Oct.10) were at the gate as well; winner Vela Azul, who claimed his first graded title in the race, and runner-up Boccherini, this year’s Meguro Kinen (G2, 2,500m) victor.
Two runners coming off their Copa Republica Argentina (G2, 2,500m, Nov.6) endeavors were; runner-up Heart's Histoire, who marked 3-6-0 out of 10 starts at Tokyo racecourse, and this year’s Diamond Stakes (G3, 3,400m) champion T O Royal who was sixth.
Also among the field were; Weltreisende, this year’s Naruo Kinen (G3, 2,000m) winner who finished seventh in his latest All Comers (G2, 2,200m, Sep.25) start; Shadow Diva who failed to defend her Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2, 1,800m, Oct.15) title and was seventh; Trust Kenshin, who came off an eleventh in the October Stakes (Listed, 2,000m, Oct.16); Daring Tact, fillies’ Triple Crown winner of 2020 and who was sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m, Nov.13); Unicorn Lion who claimed his second grade-race title in the Fukushima Kinen (G3, 2,000m, Nov.13); and Ridge Man, a former JRA-based horse who won the 2018 Stayers Stakes (G2, 3,600m) before shifting to NAR’s Iwate this year.