Just days out from the 34th running of the G1 Japan Cup, this year’s hopefuls were given their final fast work at both JRA training centres – Miho in the east, Ritto in the west -- on Wednesday, while others were worked hard on Thursday.
On Wednesday, G1 Tenno Sho Autumn victor Spielberg worked in heavy rain up the hill course at Miho, then over the rain-soaked woodchips amid a trio – a style made popular by his trainer Kazuo Fujisawa. Spielberg started out 3 lengths behind another, lined up with 400m left and, with another horse quickly closing, easily stepped into the lead as he crossed the finish line. His time 56.6 seconds over 800m, with the final 200m in 14.5 seconds. The clocked time was nearly the same to that of his pre-Tenno Sho workout.
In the saddle was jockey Hiroshi Kitamura, who has ridden Spielberg for eight of his 13 races, including the past five. “The ground was heavy but I had a lot of horse under me. He ran well and all looks good. He has kept the condition he was in for the Tenno Sho Autumn,” Kitamura said.
Also at Miho, three-year-old Satsuki Sho winner Isla Bonita also took on the hill and the woodchips Wednesday. Trainer Hironori Kurita said, “He took on the older horses last time out in the Tenno Sho Autumn and did his best. I think he went to the front a bit early but this time out, he’ll have his regular jockey, who knows the horse well, so I’m not worried.” Kurita said Isla Bonita recovered well from his last outing and is “full of energy.”
Fenomeno, who was originally paired with Christophe Lemaire, but was switched to Yasunari Iwata after Lemaire was injured in a race fall on Monday at Kyoto, worked alone at Miho under Assistant trainer Yoshinori Saito on the woodchips and clocked 84 seconds over 1200m with a final 600m time of 40 seconds and the last 200m in 12.9 seconds in no urging.
Assistant trainer Yoshinori Saito said, “We pushed him hard last week, so this week we worked him alone as we usually do and checked his responses over the final 200m. He responded well and his movement was good.”
Also in the Japan Cup lineup was French jockey Gregory Benoist, who worked Decipher over 1000m of the turf course at Miho on Wednesday. Decipher clocked 67.4 seconds over the distance with a 12.3-second final 200m with no urging, “He’s a very easy horse to ride,” said Benoist. “He listened well to what I was saying and when I gave him the signal to quicken, he did. He was nice and relaxed too. I think he may be better suited to the 2400m than the distance he’s had before. His work was on heavy going. If the race were over the same kind of going, I think he’d do even better.”
At Ritto on Thursday, Gentildonna was given two laps up the hill course, also heavy with rain. Gentildonna easily climbed the hill with her long strides looking well toned and calm. Trainer Sei Ishizaka said, “We paid attention to the start and to keeping her in hand. The ground was slow but she ran well. I’d say she’s in the same shape she was for the Tenno Sho Autumn and perhaps the best for the Japan Cup yet.”
Also on Thursday, Harp Star, another three-year-old star this year, took a lap and a half over the woodchip course at Ritto and turned in a 12.3-second last 200m with urging. Trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda found her calm despite it being her first time out after some days off.
“It’s her first race since coming back from overseas so I can’t make any big claims, but her condition is the same,” Matsuda said. “It’s the fall of her three-year-old year and she’s already an adult. She has power, there’s no doubt about it.”
Just A Way was worked up the hill both Wednesday and Thursday, with his time better on Thursday despite sloppy going. Trainer Naosuke Sugai expressed his satisfaction with his work and added, “We worked him on Sunday over the woodchip course to the left and that was good for him. He’s light on his feet again and back to his prime form.”
Denim and Ruby looked good working over 1200m of a sloppy woodchip course at Ritto on Thursday. Despite the poor going, she quickened nicely at the finish with an 11.8-second final 200m with no urging.