Home Team Face Sneaky Euro Challenge in Japan Cup

In the first 11 runnings of the G1 Longines Japan Cup, foreign raiders were successful no fewer than nine times, with winners from America, Australia, France, Ireland and New Zealand. But not since Alkaased (Kingmambo) defeated Heart’s Cry (Jpn) (Sunday Silence) in 2005 for Frankie Dettori and Luca Cumani has any overseas-based galloper managed to land a winning blow. The locals will be favored to take that current streak to 17 when a full field loads the gate at Tokyo Sunday afternoon, but Europe has strength in numbers–and class–to make things at least a little bit interesting.

Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), winner of the 2021 G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) over Sunday’s course and 2400-metre trip, completed a 1-3 finish for his late sire behind fellow Derby winner Contrail (Jpn) last year and will have his fair share of backers. Winner of this year’s G1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic without the benefit of a tightener, the Sunday Racing runner failed to handle the challenges that Ascot brings when fourth of five in the G1 Prince of Wales’s S. in June. The dark bay prepped for this with a fifth in the Oct. 30 G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn), in which G1 Dubai Turf dead-heater Panthalassa (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) led by double digits into the final 600 metres, only to be run down by the G1 Arima Kinen-bound Equinox (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}). Shahryar ran home in :33.6 that day and should strip fitter over a more suitable distance Sunday.

“He’s come out of the race very well so we were able to have him back in training right away,” said assistant trainer Nobuyuki Tashiro. “His fast work of him was last week on Nov. 17 on the grass track. His weight hasn’t changed much but, having raced, he’s sharpened him up. He’s leaner, with good muscle tone, and everything is going smoothly.”

Danon Beluga (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}) is the lone Japanese-bred three-year-old in the field and–with just five starts under his belt–is one of the least experienced. He makes up for that with abundant talent, as he bested future G1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) hero Geoglyph (Jpn) (Drefong) in Group 3 company in February before finishing fourth in the Guineas and in the Derby. He closed off even more sharply than Shahryar in the Tenno Sho (:32.8) and he, too, can improve second-up.

Vela Azul (Jpn) (Eishin Flash {Jpn}) is very much the ‘now’ horse and a different proposition altogether since switching to the turf this year. A two-time winner from 16 tries on the dirt, he is three-for-five on the grass, including a fast-finishing defeat of Boccherini (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) in the 2400-metre G2 Kyoto Daishoten at Hanshin Oct. 10. The visiting Ryan Moore hops aboard.

Weltreisende (Jpn) (Dream Journey {Jpn}) accounted for recent G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup heroine Geraldina (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}) in Group 2 company in June, but disappointed when sixth behind that rival in the G2 All Comers S. Sept. 25. Damian Lane, in the irons for the five-year-old’s last win, has the call.

Can Team Europe Turn The Tide?

As he has been in almost every racing jurisdiction, frankel (GB) has proved an unqualified success in Japan, with 33 winners including dual-surface Group 1 winner Mozu Ascot, two-time champion Soul Stirring (Jpn) and top-level scorer Grenadier Guards (Jpn). A Japan Cup victory from Honest (Ire) could somehow manage to elevate the stallion’s profile further still.

The chestnut announced his arrival really and truly with a last-to-first tally over Simca Mille (Ire) (Tamayuz) in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris on Bastille Day and was exceptionally brave when just beaten by Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) in the G1 Irish Champion S. Sept. 10. The chestnut clearly hated the boggy underfoot conditions at ParisLongchamp in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Oct. 2 and his 10th-place effort to Alpinista (GB) (frankel {GB}) was achieved on heart alone. Christophe Lemaire takes the unusual decision to side with the foreigner over a local ride.

“The trip to Japan went very smoothly–it was a 24-hour trip from our stables at Chantilly to the quarantine stables here at Tokyo Racecourse,” trainer Fabrice Chappet said. “The staff is happy with the wonderful facility and the climate is great for the horse too.”

Simca Mille did his part to frank the Grand Prix de Paris form when finishing well to land the G2 Prix Niel on Arc Trials day Sept. 11, but swerved the Arc itself in favor of this spot. Gregory Benoist retains the ride.

Grand Glory (Ire) (Olympic Glory {Ire}) covered herself in glory when staying on into fifth in last year’s race and added this year’s G3 Prix Allex France. She ran on from the tail to be a highly creditable fifth in the Arc and was recently snapped up by Shadai as a future member of their powerful broodmare band.

Tunnes (Germany) (Guilani {Ger}) is the ultimate wildcard in Sunday’s test. Beaten just once in six career starts, the half-brother to Arc winner Torquator Tasso (Ger) (Adlerflug {Ger}) streaked home to win the G1 Grosser Preis von Bayern by 10 lengths Nov. 6. Most of his German form is over easy ground and he will have to cover with a much quicker surface this weekend. Lando (Germany) won the 1995 Japan Cup for Germany.

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