The Group 1 Japan Cup enters its fifth decade this year, and this autumn’s showpiece will once again take place on Sunday at the Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, home to many of Japan’s best horse races, including the Oaks and the Japanese Derby. over 2,400 meters.
Once again, unfortunately, the number of participants on the course (usually somewhere around 100,000) will be drastically reduced to around 10,000, the number indicated at the time of writing. Only pre-booked online tickets will allow racing guests to watch the action live on the day, and for those who have not already done so, it will not be able to access the track without a reserved ticket on race day.
Established back in 1981 (the first Japan Cup winner was the American mare Mairzy Doates), the race was largely set up to allow Japanese horses to compete with their overseas counterparts, and in order to get some of the foreign horses. horses to stay in the country after they withdrew to improve the quality of Japanese blood strain. Some might argue that the weight has been tilted too far in Japan’s favor now that the home team has won 26 times in the 40-year history of the Japan Cup. The last foreign winner of the race was Alkaased in 2005. Just a year later, the Ouija Board became the last overseas runner to achieve a top three ranking by placing in third place. This year there have been 11 nominations from other countries for their horses to run in the race and it looks like there may be three runners from abroad in the final line-up, namely Japan and Broome from Ireland, and the Grand Glory from France. They will definitely have their work cut in accepting the best Japanese horses, but that’s what the race is about.
A look through the history of the Japan Cup is like a roll call for some of the biggest names, whether they are horses or people who have ever been associated with the world of horse racing. Here are just a few of the highlights: The American great player and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens rode the Golden Pheasant to victory in 1991. One of England’s best coaches ever, Sir Michael Stoute, won the race two years in a row with Singspiel in 1996 and Pilsudski in 1997, and Japan’s very own legend, Yutaka Take, who recently rode his 4,300. JRA winner, won the Japan Cup at Special Week in 1999 and aboard the great Deep Impact in 2006, and most recently at Kitasan Black in 2016.
Christophe Lemaire, who is the leading jockey in Japan for the last four years (as well as the leading jockey table so far this year), Christophe Lemaire has won the Japan Cup three times and I recently asked him what he thought made the race especially.
“It’s one of the world’s excellent races, up there with the Arc de Triomphe, the Breeders’ Cup and the Hong Kong International Races. Open to foreign horses, it’s a great way for Japanese runners to compete worldwide. You need a horse with endurance, but “Also one with speed, as races in Japan tend to be run at a fast pace. It is also important to get a good position into the first turn of the race,” he said.
The charismatic Frenchman was in recent years associated with the class mare Almond Eye, of which the quote “Some are born great” comes to mind easily. Asked what made the two-time winner of the Japan Cup such a strength in the race, the rider said: “She just had everything: ability, speed and endurance. She invariably broke away from the gate and she had such a big one “It was also the incredible acceleration she had at the end of a race that really gave her the advantage over other horses.”
Another man who also knows a little about the Japan Cup is the leader of Paca Paca Farm and Darley Japan, Harry Sweeney. His experience in the industry in Japan counts a lot and he gave me his thoughts on the race.
“It is a fantastic international race at the highest level, and it is a true test of a horse to be able to ride over one and a half kilometers on good ground. I especially like the time of year when the race is run where the proven 3-year-olds can take on the older competition in the race. As a breeder, looking at a horse that can win the Japan Cup would be a real sign of a horse’s abilities, and it would definitely put more emphasis on its prospects for stud breeding, ”said the head of the breeding farms in Hokkaido.
The maximum field size for Sunday’s big race is 18, and it is still unknown how many runners will go to the starting line on the day. Four-year-olds and up carry 57 kg, with a 2 kg supplement for 3-year-olds as well as fillies and mares.
For the home team, a likely 3-year-old candidate is this year’s Derby winner Shahryar, who has just risen to win it by a few pixels. After that race, his jockey Yuichi Fukunaga said, “We were in a tight spot, but he finally produced a terrific late charge just to win.” At the receiving end of that knockout battle, Efforia, a colt that recently won the Autumn Tenno Sho (Emperor’s Cup) and is unlikely to run on Sunday, was given the quick turnaround since it ran. Not to be forgotten is last year’s Triple Crown winner Contrail, who has not yet won as a 4-year-old, but who could be considered a bit unlucky in only his two races this year, where he has become number three and number two, with one of these races are run on heavy ground.
The 41st Japan Cup is scheduled to start at 3.40pm on Sunday and the stage looks set for another fascinating race in the history of one of Japan’s biggest horse races.
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