The Japan Cup is the top class premier middle distance race for older horses in Japan. It’s the east’s version of the King George or the Arc but wrapped into one. The early years of the race were dominated by international raiders whose superior breeding gave them a strong edge.
Not so now as Japan’s home breds are up there with the very best in the world. The king in the breeding barn is undoubtably Deep Impact the 2006 winner of the race. He’s represented by three offspring Verxina, Demon and Ruby and the likely favourite and defending champion Gentildonna who’ll be partnered by Ryan Moore.
Gentildonna beat Orfevre a nose in winning last year and has run three times since getting beat in all. In March she went down 2 1/4 L to St Nicholas Abbey in the Sheema Classic at Meydan. In June back on home turf at Hanshin she ran third off a wide draw going down to 3 1/2 L to Gold Ship in the Takarazuka Kinen and in October in prep for this over 10 f in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) she found Just A Way 4 L too good.
Her conquerer at Hanshin Gold Ship will rival her closley in the market. This colt last year as a three year old won the Japanese version of the the Guineas, the Satsuki Sho and also the St Leger, the Kikuka Sho.
Of the other home team Eishin Flash third in this year’s Tenno Sho (having previously beaten the winner) and the 2012 Tenno Sho winner Tosen Jordan need to be considered.
Three Europeans travel. Marco Botti sends Joshua Tree on the back of defending his Canadian International over this trip at Woodbine in October. With Ryan committed to Gentildonna this year’s Mr Confidence Johnny Murtagh comes in for the ride.
Dunaden and Simenon take the scenic route home from the Melbourne Cup.
Dunaden Melbourne Cup winner of 2011 looks to have had his best days behind him. His early season form was very promising, third at Epsom in the Coronation Cup behind St Nicholas Abbey. He followed that up with a second in the Grand Prix De Saint Cloud to the King George winner Novellist however his Prix Foy run and Melbourne Cup leave him wanting to find top level form again.
Simenson who again will have Richard Hughes in the plate has been a revelation this year running second in the Ascot Gold Cup and although the drop in trip here would suggest this would be too sharp he did run a cracker before the Melbourne Cup when running third to Sea Moon at Caufield over 12 f.
There’s negatives to all here. The top Japanese haven’t come with top recent form. That doesn’t mean that Gentildonna hasn’t been primed for this and next month’s equally important Arima Kinen. Gold Ship equally has been hit and miss this year. Two of the Europeans had as their primary season target their last race, the Melbourne Cup and while it would be unfair to say this is an after thought it is definitely a bonus.
The one coming here with the positive is Joshua Tree, a winner of his last race he has the benefit of Johnny Murtagh whose been riding big races like the best pound for pound boxer in the world.
One of those top flight successes was Chiquita in the Irish Oaks who went through the ring at Goff’s yesterday for a European record of €6 million. The seller Paul Makin should recall in gratitude how she violently veered to the left in the final furlong. That was no bother to the pilot who still saw her home in his ice cool manner. Don’t be surprised if he does it again on Joshua Tree whom incidentally he rode to win his first ever race back in the day when both were Ballydoyle inmates.
Recommendation: Joshua Tree 16/1 ew