The 28th Running Of The Japan Cup

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 30, 2008 in General Discussion, News | 1 Comment >>

This year’s Japan Cup on Nov. 30th, will host four horses from abroad, but the host will be anything but kind as a spectacular group of domestic runners have been entered for the 28th edition of Japan’s international showpiece at Tokyo Racecourse.

The Japanese horses have dominated the race over the last decade, winning eight of 10, although the foreign entries still hold the edge with a total of 14 victories in the past 27 Japan Cups. The race was founded in 1981, amid a movement that began in the late 1970s to try to breed horses good enough to compete at the world level.

The inaugural Japan Cup was opened to entries from North America and Asia (seven appeared, one injury scratch), with Mairzy Doates of the U.S. winning in a record time of 2 minutes, 25.3 seconds. Europe and Oceania were invited for the second running, and the race was anointed the country’s first international Grade 1 race in 1992. From 1999 to 2005, the Japan Cup was part of the Emirates World Racing Championship series.

Apart from 2002, when it was held at Nakayama Racecourse over 2,200 meters due to the renovation work at Tokyo, the terms for the Japan Cup have been maintained – 12 furlongs at Tokyo Racecourse. The 2,400 meters at Tokyo starts on the home stretch, with a run of 400 meters to the first turn which bends left-handed for 550 meters and into the back straight. Following another run of 400 meters, the course curves for two furlongs before leading into the final straight of 525 meters, which slopes upward for the first 225 meters.

The Japan Cup has been home to some of the Japan Racing Association’s biggest stars of all time, from Deep Impact to T.M. Opera O to El Condor Pasa to Symboli Rudolf (to name a few). And this year’s field features several names who have already carved out their names in history, and could add the Japan Cup – now the richest race in the country and the third leg of the new, 1.2 billion yen Japan Autumn International series – to their list of honors.

The four 5-year-olds who have made the trip overseas are the Britain-based trio of Sixties Icon, Purple Moon and Papal Bull, and American horse Marsh Side. Papal Bull, who was second in this year’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, is back for a second serving after finishing seventh in the 2007 Japan Cup. Marsh Side is trained by Neil Drysdale, who came within a hair of winning the 2002 race with Sarafan. Yet for all their quality, this year’s Japanese competition could be too much for them, which includes the Japanese Derby champions of the past three years.

Some runners to mention that could find their way to winners circle:

Vodka – a 4 year-old filly who became the first gal to win the Japanese Derby.

Meisho Samson – Disappointed in the Arc, but looks to regain his form.

Deep Sky – Four-year-old who had a four race winning streak snapped in the Autumn in the Tenno Sho. No three-year-old has won the Japan Cup since 2001.