The top-level races keep on coming and this Sunday (November 27) sees the international highlight of the year ― the Grade 1 Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse. A young team from overseas will take on the expected 14 runners from Japan in a bid to lay claim to the Tokyo 2,400-meter jewel. Three of the four horses that have flown in from Europe are 3-year-olds (three from France, one from Germany), and all but one have already pocketed a top-level competition.
For years now, the Japan Cup bar has been out of reach to the visitors. Japan-based horses have dominated the winner’s circle for the past 16 years. However, the upsets rocking the stands in Grade 1 action the past two weeks may be indicative of a similar outcome in the Japan Cup. The 42nd running of the iconic race and its first-place prize of ― ¥300 million JPY, or $2.1 million USD (matched only by the year-end Arima Kinen (Grand Prix) may be snatched up by one of the foreign raiders.
Getting to Know Grand Glory
A look at the visiting horses reveals one Japan Cup repeater ― Grand Glory. The now 6-year-old, English-bred mare just made the board last year (2021) with her fifth-place finish under Cristian Demuro and, this year, has had two wins from five starts, including a graded-stakes victory. She posted a third, seventh and fifth in her three Grade 1 bids, the best result coming at Ascot in the Prince of Wales, where her third topped fourth-place Shahryar, who is one of Japan's top players this week.
Grand Glory, fielded by French trainer Gianluca Bietolini, is coming off of the October 2 Prix de L'Arc Triomphe at Longchamp in early October, where she finished ahead of Japan’s four runners, none of whom are participating in the Japan Cup. Maxime Guyon, who last rode in Japan in 2014, is set for the ride on Sunday.
A Look at Onesto
Of the four challengers from overseas, gaining perhaps the most attention heading into the race is the Irish-bred, France-based Onesto. The Frankel-sired colt, trained by the Chantilly-based Fabrice Chappet, shares the top spot in the ratings with Germany’s Tunnes, both with 123 points, three more than Japan's top-rated Damon Beluga and Shahyrar, who each rate 120.
Onesto has raced in four Grade 1s this year, with a win and a runnerup effort. After a fifth in the French Derby at Chantilly in June, Onesto went on to capture the Grand Prix de Paris, which was run over slightly heavy ground over the Longchamp 2,400 meters. That was followed by a second in the 2,000-meter Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and his most recent start the Arc, where he posted a 10th over heavy ground. If the weather holds, the Japan Cup will be his first turf event on fast ground. Onesto is scheduled to be paired with one of Japan's best ― Frenchman Christophe Lemaire.
Background on Simca Mille
The Irish-bred Simca Mille, by Tamayuz, hails from the Deauville-based stable of Stephane Wattel. The colt has yet to win at the top level, but has come close. He took the lead in the Grand Prix de Paris and finished second to Onesto. Next out, Simca Mille nabbed his first Grade 2 in topping the Prix Niel field, which included fourth-place finisher Do Deuce from Japan. Rider Gregory Benoist, who rode the Prix Niel, is expected up on Sunday.
Not new to Japan, Benoist has ridden in Japan on a short-term license and already has 21 wins of JRA races to his name.
Details on Tunnes
Completing the roster is Tunnes. Partnered with Kazakhstan native Bauyrzhan Murzabayev, together they prove quite the accomplished pair. The Guiliani-sired colt was second in his debut and has gone on to sweep his next five starts, two wire-to-wire, including his first Grade 1 bid ― the 2,400-meter Grosser Preis von Bayern ― early this month in Munich. Murzabayev, who currently rides for the Cologne-based Peter Schiergen, has won the German flat racing jockey championship for the past three years. It is his first appearance in Japan.
The left-handed Tokyo Racecourse is known for its spaciousness, long homestretch, and the hill that starts soon after the field rounds the final bend usually separates the good from the better.
Read the rest of this article and learn more about how the race is run as well as about the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News, here.
Author: JRA News