Horses for the G1 Japan Cup (2400m) this Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse were given their final fast workouts Wednesday morning at Ritto and Miho training centres, while the three foreign raiders – Erupt from France, Iquitos and Nightflower from Germany – who were moved from the jockey school quarantine facilities to the racetrack on Tuesday, met with thickly falling snow on Thursday morning as they headed onto to the track for their morning exercise after 7:30 a.m.
Erupt was given a fast gallop over a lap and a quarter under the watchful eyes of trainer Francis-Henri Graffard. “He had a nice run in the Japan Cup last year,” Graffard said. “It was a good performance for a 3-year-old. I’m satisfied with this morning’s work and I think he’s well-suited to the Tokyo track. He likes a long stretch and likes racing to the left. I believe there is absolutely no problem with the distance. Last year, he was a little heavy,” Graffard admitted, “but he’s more toned this year.”
Germany’s Iquitos had an easy gallop over a lap and a quarter under Ian Ferguson, who said, “If this horse gets room in the stretch I think he’ll be able to show the best racing of them all. A fast pace will be most welcome for him. It’s my first time to ride in Japan,” Ferguson said, “and it’s a great honour. I have heard from Andrasch Starke that Japan’s horses are some of the best in the world and I’m very much looking forward to the race.”
The 4-year-old filly Nightflower was also galloped lightly around a lap and a quarter. Trainer Peter Schiergen was on hand to comment. “She was in good shape for last year’s race but she couldn’t get a clear run. It was an unfortunate result. This year, she’s looking good again and all has gone well so far. I think she’s suited to the venue and the distance.”
From the home team, the focus remains on a handful of runners, with the trio of Kitasan Black, Real Steel and Gold Actor expected to be neck and neck for favourite status on raceday.
Kitasan Black was ridden over a heavy woodchip course at Ritto on Wednesday, working in tandem over 6 furlongs. The two lined up halfway down the stretch, with Kitasan Black easily reaching the finish line ahead of the other. Kitasan Black clocked 85 seconds and a final furlong in 12 seconds with no urging.
“We worked him hard last week and so we just breezed him this week. I have no complaints about his movement and his time is just right,” said jockey Yu Kuroiwa, who regularly rides work. Kitasan Black will be paired in the race, however, with Yutaka Take.
Real Steel was given three runs under an assistant trainer this week, all up the Ritto hill course over heavy and slightly heavy ground. Though the colt was under the whip in none, his fastest time came Wednesday with a 4-furlong time on heavy ground in 54.1 seconds wrapping up with an 11.9-second final furlong. Ryan Moore once again takes the reins on Sunday following his first pairing with the son of Deep Impact in the Dubai Turf win at the end of March.
Gold Actor received his final bit of work before the race with jockey Hayato Yoshida taking the reins for the third week in a row. Yoshida rode the Screen Hero-sired 5-year-old in tandem over Miho’s woodchip course. Gold Actor started behind his running partner. The latter put up a good fight before being passed in the stretch. Gold Actor clocked 85.9 seconds over 6 furlongs, with Yoshida urging him on just before the finish line for a 12.09-second final furlong.
“Last week, we pushed him hard, so this week I went a little easier,” Yoshida said. This will be the first Japan Cup for Yoshida, who talked about his raceday strategy. “There’s no definite frontrunner in this lineup, but if someone does decide to take the lead, we’ll hold back. If not, I’ll probably send him forward.”