Japan Cup Picks and Analysis

The G1 Japan Cup takes place on Sunday, November 24, 2013 and is run over a mile and half on the turf at Tokyo Racecourse. Below, are my top three choices for the prestigious race:

As if Japan's reigning Horse of the Year and this race's defending champion needed any help, she'll get top jockey Ryan Moore, who recently had the winning mounts in both the Breeders' Cup Turf and Filly & Mare Turf, on board in hopes of a repeat performance. Although it's clear that she hasn't repeated the form of her remarkable three-year old season this year, her performances are much better than they appear on paper. In three races this year, she has a strong second place finish behind 2011 Breeders' Cup Turf winner St. Nicholas Abbey in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, a third place finish after coming off a nearly three month layoff in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin, and a runner-up finish in her most recent start, which was in the G1 Tenno Sho at Tokyo Racecourse. 

In the Tenno Sho, Gentildonna was overwhelmed by the late closing Just a Way after running close to a healthy pace up front. That start was her first off of a four month layoff and, in fact, it's worth noting that all three of her starts this season have come off of layoffs. She figures to improve in the Japan Cup, however, which will be her second start off of her most recent break. 

Gold Ship:
Gentildonna's biggest competition should come from her countryman Gold Ship, who defeated her earlier this year in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen. In four starts this season, the four-year old son of Stay Gold has alternated between victories and fifth place finishes. His most recent fifth place finish over a mile and a half in the G2 Kyoto Daishoten is a bit troubling, but it did come after a nearly four month layoff. He figures to improve here and if he can return to the form that won him last year's Arima Kinen, he'll be tough to beat. 

This year's crop of European challengers isn't the strongest, but I think Simenon provides the best chance of that group. The now six-year old gelding hasn't won this season, but his form coming in is still very nice. He has never finished outside the top four all year and he notched two runner-up finishes behind the likes of Estimate and the always consistent Ahzeemah in the G1 Ascot Gold Cup and G2 Lonsdale Cup, respectively.  

Simenon finished an impressive fourth in the G1 Melboune Cup earlier this month, so he'll be cutting back to a mile and a half here. The ground should be firm, which is a positive for him, and Richard Hughes retains the mount after their successful pairing at Flemington. 

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