The Japan Cup, in its 33rd year, continues to attract some of the top turf horses from around the world while a number of runners have made this race their starting point towards further international success in following years.
Ed Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux (GB, by Cadeaux Genereux) finished eighth bested the five foreign raiders which included the 2012 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1, 2,400m) champion Solemia (IRE, by Poliglote) last year. Red Cadeaux's overseas endeavors continued, as he claimed his first group-one title in the following Hong Kong Vase (G1, 2,400m), landed a second in the Dubai World Cup (G1, AW, 2,000m) and a third in his second challenge over Japanese turf in the Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1, 3,200m) this season. He was forced to decline the Japan Cup invitation this year due to a remarkable, however, exhausting runner-up effort in the Melbourne Cup (G1, 3,200m).
The winner of the 2012 edition of the Japan Cup was the season's fillies' Triple Crown winner Gentildonna, who claimed the title as a result of a fierce duel with Orfevre, and subsequently named Horse of the Year.
Melbourne Cup challenges this year; Simenon, second in the Gold Cup (G1, 4,000m) at Royal Ascot in June, finished fourth, while Dunaden, who grabbed the title in the 2011 version before claiming the Hong Kong Vase (G1, 2,400m) that year, and who also landed three G1 wins last season including the Caulfield Cup (G1, 2,400m), was 11th. Simenon is from the same Willie Mullins yard that stables 2013 Nakayama Grand Jump winner Blackstairmountain (IRE, by Imperial Ballet). Coming off his third Canadian International Stakes (G1, 2,400m) victory, Joshua Tree was back in Tokyo to avenge his 2010 Japan Cup 10th place finish under new trainer Ed Dunlop.
With Arc finishers Orfevre (JPN, by Stay Gold), Kizuna (JPN, by Deep Impact) and Tenno Sho (Autumm) (G1, 2,000m) winner Just A Way (JPN, by Heart's Cry) absent, rising to the challenge was defending champion Gentildonna, who stayed well after chasing a fast pace for a runner-up finish in her latest Tenno Sho (Autumn) start. Although she was 0-2-1 out of her three seasonal G1 starts, her two wins out of two arts over the same 2,400m test at Tokyo, boosted her undiminishing popularity to become first choice. Other Tenno Sho (Autumn) finishers were also among the line-up; third-place Eishin Flash, who registered eighth twice and a ninth in his previous three Japan Cup challenges and coming off a consistent 1-0-3 out of four races this season; Uncoiled, in his first G1 attempt, finished a close fourth behind Gentildonna; Nakayama Knight and Hit the Target, in sixth and seventh, respectively, were each consistent with three graded career wins and 2011 Japan Cup runner-up Tosen Jordan who was 11th in the Tenno Sho.
The race also included Copa Republica Argentina (G2, 2,500m) contenders; runner-up Admire Rakti, who is also the winner of the Diamond Stakes (G3, 3,400m) in February; 2012 Copa Republica Argentina victor Lelouch, who was third this year and Hokko Brave, who came off a fifth-place finish for his first G1 challenge. Denim and Ruby and Verxina who captured the Flora Stakes (G2, 2,000m) in April and the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m), respectively, at Tokyo Racecourse, were the two fillies coming off fifth and tenth-place finishes, respectively, in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) held two weeks before.
Second pick Gold Ship was last year's double-crown winner of the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) and Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m), and victor of the year-end Arima Kinen (G1, 2,500m). After marking his fourth G1 win in Takarazuka Kinen this year, the four-year-old finished fifth in the Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m), lacking the needed kick from racing prominently early, and skipped the Tenno Sho (Autum) to target the Japan Cup.
Cumani-trained Alkaased (USA, by Kingmambo), who won the race in 2005, is the record holder of this race at 2:22.1.
Gentildonna Rules Again after Stunning Photo Finish in the Japan Cup
Defending champion and race favorite Gentildonna became the first horse in its 33-year history to capture a second Japan Cup title let alone win consecutively, marking her fifth G1 victory after claiming the fillies' Triple Crown and the Japan Cup last year. Although winless this season, the brilliant filly had registered a second in the Dubai Sheema Classic, a third in the Takarazuka Kinen in June, and another second in her previous Tenno Sho (Autumn) start. She is now the third filly to exceed the billion yen mark in career earnings after Buena Vista and Vodka. This is trainer Sei Ishizaka's 11th G1 title and jockey Ryan Moore's third G1 win in Japan since his back-to-back Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup victory with Snow Fairy.
The race was on its way with Gentildonna sitting just off the pace in fourth to fifth, as Eishin Flash, with Tosen Jordan and Verxina close at his heels, set the early pace down the backstretch. As the frontrunners spread out for their final attack rounding the final turn, jockey Ryan Moore whisked Gentildonna through a narrow opening, letting her demonstrate her stupendous kick to take the lead right after the 400 meter mark. Although stretching her lead to a length in the last half-furlong, the Deep Impact filly gradually squandered her lead, however prevailed by a narrow but convincing nose victory.
Relaxed in fourth from the rear early, three-year-old filly Denim and Ruby attempted to angle out for a clear run and displayed a tremendous burst once the horses in front began to scatter, making most of her weight advantage to swoop pass all but the winner for a close second, being timed the fastest of the fieldin the last three furlongs. 11th pick Tosen Jordan pressed a relatively slow pace from the outside, and although allowing Gentildonna to take the lead, picked off the tiring pace setter at the furlong pole and held on well while surrendering the runner-up seat to Denim and Ruby in the final strides for a neck third.
Sent off second favorite, multiple G1winner Gold Ship was reserved in the far rear before making an effort to improve position rounding the last two corners, however was unable to demonstrate his trademark run to finish a disappointing 15th.
French raider Dunaden was held up behind the slow pace, but showed an impressive late drive under right-hand encouragement to dig in gamely for fifth, and bested his fellow foreign contenders. Jockey James Spencer commented after the race; “We were fine till we got to the mile, and then it was steady, steady, steady. The going was very firm, like hard.” Trainer Mikel Delzangles said, “The horse ran well. They didn't run in their regular pace, they pulled back a bit, and he wasn't in the front horses, and on the
firm ground, I think he ran a great race. He was very well-placed until they slowed down, but he finished very well.”
Simenon, also reserved near the rear, saved ground beside Dunaden down the backstretch and although showing efforts in his late drive, was unable to reach contention to finish 13th. Trainer William Mullins commented after the race: “I was surprised how slow it appeared to be early on. We thought it would be faster but that's racing. It didn't turn out as we hoped for the first half. I learned a lot and hopefully we'll
be back with the same horse or with a better one.”
Breaking from the farthest stall, Joshua Tree raced willingly in mid-field but after making his bid in upper stretch, lost momentum at the furlong pole to finish last. Trainer Edward Dunlop commented; “I think he got upset with all that razzmataaz and the build-up before the start. Johnny said that he lost the plot before the race and didn't want to run in the race. It's fantastic though, Gentildonna winning twice in a row, and we'll be back.”
4th: (6) Admire Rakti—rated mid-pack along the rails, met brief traffic, good speed up center lane
6th: (11) Lelouch—in striking position 3 wide, rallied but none left with 50 meters to go
7th: (1) Verxina—prominent early while saving ground, used up while holding seventh
8th: (3) Uncoiled—between rivals around eighth, angled out for space, best strides late
9th: (2) Nakayama Knight—hugged rails in seventh, even paced after uphill
10th: (4) Eishin Flash—set moderate pace until taken over by winner 300m out, faded
11th: (16) Hit the Target—early headway from mid-pack, up close to front at top of lane, ran out of steam in last furlong
12th: (12) Hokko Brave—traveled in mid-pack, two-wide, even paced
14th: (15) Smart Gear—second from rear, last to enter lane, never a factor
16th: (8) Fire—off slow, hugged rail in third from rear, never close to contention
Fractional Time (sec./furlong): 12.8 – 11.4 – 12.8 – 12.8 – 12.6 – 12.8 – 12.8 – 12.4 – 11.6 – 11.1 – 11.1 – 11.9
Last 4 furlongs: 45.7 Last 3 furlongs: 34.1
Post race interview of winning connections:
Trainer: Sei Ishizaka
“I've been conditioning her to win in every race but (though we hadn't won until now) I am so relieved that we have finally been able to meet the expectation of our staff and the fans that have kept their faith in her. I just asked my jockey (Ryan Moore) to keep her relaxed―if he could accomplish that, then we had more or less won the game. She gave me confidence seeing her settle in well before the race although she got a little keen and took the front a little earlier than expected. She was in good hands, and I was sure we had won although the win was a narrow one. The plan for her to reclaim her title has been successful, so I think she deserves a break―she will not race in the Arima Kinen―and continue to train next season. I have not mapped out a specific plan yet, but another race in Dubai is a possibility.”
Jockey: Ryan Moore
“Gentildonna has never run a bad race―in Dubai her run was top class, then the race after that unfortunately was over wet track (which is not to her liking)―last year, she beat Orfevre. Before the race Gold Ship could be the biggest threat but he probably didn't run his best today. Today, I just wanted to let her run as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately the race went very slow, and I had to let her take me into the race and we were a little more forward than what I had originally planned to have been―she was in a good position but when we started racing from the800 (meters) she picked up very well to get to the front by the furlong marker and on to that a little bit earlier than hoped―but she's just so honest, and being a top horse she just kept giving that little bit more and just had enough (to win). She has an awful lot of gears to hold her position, and when the leader was getting off the fence―I was always looking towards the inside with her―and it opened up nicely but I was having to ask her for some effort and she hung in there well. I thought I had won at the line but then Suguru Hamanaka (runner-up) was shouting so I wasn't sure if they were shouting because they'd won or not, and the results on the board had the third, fourth and fifth but not the first and second, so I was a little bit worried then, so I didn't want to get too excited. I got a call when I was in Santa Anita asking me to ride her and I was very happy to ride her. From an international point of view, you want be competing in as many big races around the world, and the Japan Cup is on the ranks of the Dubai World Cup, Kentucky Derby and the Melbourne Cup―it's right up there with the main races in the world―and you look down and see some really special horses that have won it, and it's just great to have your name on that board.”
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