2015 Japan Cup Preview

The Japan Cup -- its native land's richest race -- will be run this weekend, and with the retirement of defending champion Epiphaneia, in addition to a slew of injuries and retirements among the highest rated Japanese middle distance horses, we are left with a fairly open race. 

Four overseas shippers have joined the fray, led by Melbourne Cup fourth Trip to Paris. While on paper he appears to be up to the best of these, overseas runners have a dismal record in this race in the last decade with the most recent top three finish coming via the great mare Ouija Board in 2006. This race, however, is likely an afterthought after big runs in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and, in reality, he's probably best over further.

German G1-winning colt Ito is probably more a pace presence than a winning chance as he is a free-running on-pace type. How fast he will go out front is one key to this contest. 

The lightly raced Erupt likely needs to improve to win this, but given his young age and relative inexperience, he has the potential to do so. Despite rain earlier in the week, he also appears likely to get the quick ground he needs. Another positive is his draw, which should allow him to be handy, but off the pace. 

Lovely Day enters here in the best form of the locals. A winner of four straight, and his last six in races between 2,000 meters and 2,400 meters, the five-year-old son of King Kamehameha has blossomed this season into the country's top middle distance runner. He's also won two of six at Tokyo Racecourse and barrier one makes him clearly the horse to beat. 

One would expect a few of those drawn wide to go forward with Ito on the front end, and should that scenario formalize, it would favor Gold Ship -- a stone cold closer who is known as much for his quirks as his talent. His two most races are a perfect example of his temperament with him having been every bit as lackluster last time out as he was spectacular two back when winning the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring). He has won one of three races at Tokyo and with this his penultimate start, the nation hopes their most popular grey maniac can get back on track before his swansong in the Arima Kinen.

The star of the three-year-old fillies this season, Mikki Queen, has tactical speed, which should allow her to get the first jump on the likes of Gold Ship. She is loaded with talent and a potent turn of foot, which was on display in both the Yushun Himba and Oka Sho. Whether or not it is wise to bet her in her first attempt versus older males, however, remains to be seen.

With no superstars in the field, this appears a race ripe for an upset and we will play it that way with Last Impact.

2014 was a breakout season for the five-year-old son of Deep Impact who won two G2s, one over 2,000m and the other over 2,400m in the autumn. Even his seventh place finish -- only 1 3/4 lengths behind superstar mare Gentildonna in her final race -- was admirable. His staying ability is among the best in the field, and it showed in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) when he finished within 1 1/4 lengths of Gold Ship when employing similar come from the back tactics.

His Sapporo Kinen run was much better than it looks on paper. He finished sixth, making an eye-catching outside move, circling the field into the far turn before flattening out a bit late -- yet still only finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind winner Decipher. He had substantial trouble last time out in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) including hitting the rail, so that run is best forgiven.

While he is effective over longer distances, Last Impact has the raw speed to compete over this trip particularly if he is placed further forward than he has been of late. He used to be more of a midpack runner, but has been pulled back over longer trips this season. With Ryan Moore aboard and drawn a good gate, however, one could expect him to sit midfield, from where he can be most effective over this trip.

Other longshots with a chance include One And Only, who loves Tokyo and on his best form would be right in the mix, but has unfortunately not performed up to par this season; Admire Deus, who won two G2s in good style this season, but needs to show he can do the same at Tokyo and from a bad gate, no less; and Hit The Target: the eye-catcher of the Sapporo Kinen. 

Japan Cup Top 4:
1. Last Impact
2. Gold Ship
3. Lovely Day
4. Hit The Target

1 comment:

  1. Via some friends in the u.k. I had Last Impact at 25-1 which was available through many channels of uk wagering even with Ryan aboard. Really tough beat for both of us.


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