Welcome back to our annual series of newsletters leading up to the 2022 Japan Cup (G1, 2,400m). The fall racing season is heading towards the Japan Autumn International Series, which will be held over a period of four weekends between November 13 and December 4 and which comprises four prestigious G1 races: the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m), Mile Championship (G1, 1,600m), Japan Cup, and Champions Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m). Total prize money for the four G1 events will amount to JPY1.79 billion (USD16 million), with additional bonuses for winners of designated overseas G1 events who also finish within the Top 3 in any of the four races. Also, winners of designated overseas races who finish outside the Top 3 places in the Japan Cup will still be guaranteed an incentive of USD200,000.
New Quarantine Stable Completed at Tokyo Racecourse Available for Use from Fall
A new International Stable with quarantine facilities will open at Tokyo Racecourse this autumn to accommodate horses and their personnel from overseas. Arriving horses will be able to transfer directly from the airport to Tokyo Racecourse and stay there until the race without having to go through quarantine at the Horse Racing School in Shiroi (note: only those horses scheduled to run in races at Tokyo Racecourse can use the new International Stable). Each barn will have a dedicated grass paddock, air conditioning and remote monitoring system for the horses. This comfortable new stable and its facilities will enable overseas horses to settle into their temporary quarters quickly and smoothly. JRA’s skilled professional team, including veterinarians and farriers, also will be stationed on site to support overseas stable personnel during their stays.
Surrounded by a 300-meter dirt exercise track, the new International Stable features six barns that can house two horses each, accommodating up to 12 horses at the same time. There also is a grass-picking area, a monitoring system, a tack room, an area where stable personnel can relax and a club house where they can eat and drink. In addition to the new track encircling the International Stable, an existing dirt course as well as a turf course also can be used for training (depending on quarantine status and course availability). Exercise at the turf course and schooling on the racecourse (saddling enclosure, paddock, etc.) will be allowed after the import quarantine period has ended for foreign entrants.
Featured Runners in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), Japan Cup and Arima Kinen
Last year’s Japan Cup saw 2020 Triple Crown winner Contrail (JPN, by Deep Impact) conclude his racing career with a comfortable two-length victory. As the third unbeaten colt to sweep the Triple Crown—last accomplished by his sire Deep Impact 15 years ago—Contrail tasted defeat for the first time ever in the 2020 Japan Cup, beaten to second by legendary mare Almond Eye (JPN, by Lord Kanaloa) in a thrilling showcase featuring three Triple Crown winners. In the Osaka Hai the following season, Contrail made a strenuous trip over heavy going and ended in third. He struggled to recover from his first race as a four-year-old, so it was decided that he would skip the Takarazuka Kinen (G1, 2,200m) and aim for the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1, 2,000m), but this led to a surprising third consecutive setback, this time to three-year-old Efforia (JPN, C4, by Epiphaneia) by a length in second.
The colt’s only chance left to redeem his honor was the 2021 Japan Cup. Entered as the odds-on favorite, the colt broke sharply and excelled from mid-pack to easily overtake Authority (JPN, H5, by Orfevre) and Shahryar (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact) within a half stretch and then dominate the race by a strong two-length margin. Contrail stands at stud starting this year and is heavily sought after.
Authority, runner-up in last year’s Japan Cup, completed a stint in the Middle East earlier this year. He held off all competition in claiming Saudi Arabia’s Neom Turf Cup (G3, 2,100m) in February and then nabbed a third in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1, 2,410m) the next month. The son of Orfevre was supposed to make his first run on Japanese turf this season in the Takarazuka Kinen but was scratched at the last minute, diagnosed with a fracture in his right foreleg later on.
After registering a third in the 2021 Japan Cup, last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) champion Shahryar made a stunning overseas debut by winning this year’s Dubai Sheema Classic with Cristian Demuro taking the reins. The four-year-old colt burst out from an ideal striking position and held off a strong challenge by 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf victor Yibir to win by a neck. In June, the colt ran in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1, 1,990m) at Royal Ascot but was fourth among five runners, a defeat which forced his connections to reconsider another planned overseas campaign this fall. His main target now is most likely the Japan Cup following his first autumn start in the Tenno Sho (Autumn).
2021 Japan Cup finishers such as Sanrei Pocket (JPN, H7, by Jungle Pocket) (4th) and Uberleben (JPN, F4, by Gold Ship) (6th) have struggled to maintain their form. Sanrei Pocket has made five grade-race starts so far this year and a third has been his best outcome. 2021 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) winner Uberleben showed a good fifth-place effort in the Dubai Sheema Classic but still has not regained her strength; she never was a factor in her first start back on home soil, the Sapporo Kinen (G2, 2,000m) on August 21, finishing 11th. She will head for another Japan Cup endeavor this year following a bid in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) on October 30.
Key middle-distance runners, including those who did not run in the 2021 Japan Cup, have shifted in a major way this season. Efforia, after claiming the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix, G1, 2,500m) to be named 2021 Horse of the Year, struggled to live up to his reputation this past spring. Although heavily favored in the Osaka Hai, the colt’s trademark burst of speed was nowhere to be seen and was beaten to ninth. After a sixth in the following Takarazuka Kinen, he had trouble regaining his form, which led to a suspension of his initially announced plans to commence his fall campaign in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). His next probable target will be the Arima Kinen on December 25.
In the meantime, another four-year-old colt stole the spotlight. Titleholder (JPN, C4, by Duramente) scored a second in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m), a sixth in the Tokyo Yushun last season, and then a dramatic gate-to-wire victory in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m) to capture his first G1 title by an incredible five-length margin. Titleholder ran out of steam in the final furlong and finished fifth to Efforia in the yearend Arima Kinen. This year, however, Titleholder kicked off the season by holding off all rivals in the Nikkei Sho (G2, 2,500m) and gave another strong stayer performance to conquer the Tenno Sho (Spring) (3,200m) by an impressive seven lengths over runner-up Deep Bond (JPN, H5, by Kizuna). Next, in the Takarazuka Kinen, despite surrendering the lead to pacesetter Panthalassa (JPN, H5, by Lord Kanaloa), the Duramente colt eventually prevailed with record-breaking speed for a two-length win and his third G1 title. Along with Deep Bond and Stay Foolish (JPN, H7, by Stay Gold), Titleholder will make a bid in this fall’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1, 2,400m), where he is highly rated.
Among the three-year-olds, Tokyo Yushun victor Do Deuce (JPN, C3, by Heart’s Cry) is the only contender expected to challenge the Arc. The colt prepped in the Prix Niel (G2, 2,400m) on September 11 and was fourth in of a field of seven. This year’s Satsuki Sho winner Geoglyph (JPN, C3, by Drefong) and Equinox (JPN, C3, by Kitasan Black), who secured second in both Classics, will head for the Tenno Sho (Autumn). With only four weeks to prepare, the Japan Cup seems an unlikely option for their next challenges.
Stars on Earth (JPN, F3, by Duramente) stood out amongst a competitive group of three-year-old fillies by notching the first two gems of the fillies’ Triple Crown—the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, G1, 1,600m) and the Yushun Himba. The filly is recovering from a minor fracture but is expected to run in the third leg, the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m), on October 16 with hopes of a clean sweep. In November, she may appear in the Japan Cup, where fillies/mares have turned in solid performances to better their male opponents in recent years.
Other prominent runners who are pointed towards the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and/or the Japan Cup include three runners from the Sapporo Kinen: winner Jack d’Or (JPN, C4, by Maurice), who claimed his second graded title in the race and hopes to register his first G1 win in the Tenno Sho (Autumn); runner-up Panthalassa, who passed up the Arc to aim for a second G1 title in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) following his Dubai Turf (1,800m) victory this spring; and sixth-place finisher and two-time Hong Kong Vase (G1, 2,400m) victor Glory Vase (JPN, H7, by Deep Impact), who will likely target either the Japan Cup or the Hong Kong Vase on December 11. This year’s Osaka Hai victor Potager (JPN, H5, by Deep Impact) will proceed to the Tenno Sho (Autumn) after his first autumn start, the Mainichi Okan (G2, 1,800m) on October 9.
Another candidate for the Japan Cup is T O Royal (JPN, C4, by Leontes), whose first G1 test came in the Tenno Sho (Spring), where he finished third eight lengths behind Titleholder. The four-year-old colt had come off a Diamond Stakes (G3, 3,400m) victory in February, the last of a four-race winning streak. After looking strong before tiring at the last furlong and finishing fifth in the Sankei Sho All Comers (G2, 2,200m) on September 25, his main targets are now the Japan Cup and then the Arima Kinen on December 25.
Sprint, Older Fillies & Mares, Mile, Dirt, and Steeplechasing
The opening G1 event of the 2022 JRA fall season, the Sprinters Stakes (1,200m), will be held on October 2 without defending champion Pixie Knight (JPN, C4, by Maurice), who is still recovering from a fractured knee in his left foreleg, which he sustained in a tragic accident involving four horses in last year’s Hong Kong Sprint (G1, 1,200m). He is hoped to resume racing next year. Resistencia (JPN, M5, by Daiwa Major), runner-up in the Sprinters Stakes last year, will also miss the race this year due to a fractured first phalanx in her left foreleg, discovered after her 11th-place finish in June in the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1,600m) and taking her out of racing until November at the earliest.
The fall sprint G1 is now focused on last year’s NHK Mile Cup (1,600m) winner Schnell Meister (GER, C4, by Kingman) and this year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1,200m) champion Naran Huleg (JPN, H6, by Gold Allure). Inaugural G1 title hopefuls will include Namura Clair (JPN, F3, by Mikki Isle) and Meikei Yell (JPN, F4, by Mikki Isle), respective winners of the Hakodate Sprint Stakes (G3, 1,200m, June 12) and the Centaur Stakes (G2, 1,200m, September 11). Also in the field will be T M Spada (JPN, F3, by Red Spada) and Vento Voce (JPN, H5, by Turtle Bowl), respective winners of the CBC Sho (G3, 1,200m, July 3) and the Keeneland Cup (G3, 1,200m, August 28).
This year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup for three-year-old-and-up fillies/mares on November 13 will feature defending champion Akai Ito (JPN, M5, by Kizuna), even though the Kizuna mare was winless in three starts in spring, including third in the G2 Kinko Sho (2,000m, March 13). She will follow the same schedule as last year, kicking off her fall campaign with the Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2, 1,800m) on October 15 before aiming for a consecutive victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. 2020 fillies’ Triple Crown winner Daring Tact (JPN, M5, by Epiphaneia) returned from a long break exceeding 12 months to finish sixth in the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) in May, but she showed improved form in her following start, finishing third in the Takarazuka Kinen. The Epiphaneia mare was unable to perform on the hard surface and finished sixth again in her fall debut, the All Comers on September 25. The race was won by Geraldina (JPN, F4, by Maurice), creating a lane to the Queen Elizabeth II Cup for the filly, who is out of two-time Horse of the Year Gentildonna (JPN, by Deep Impact).
Win Marilyn (JPN, M5, by Screen Hero), three-time G2 winner and runner-up to Daring Tact in the Yushun Himba as a three-year-old, turned in an impressive performance against a mixed field in the Sapporo Kinen, finishing a close third. She appears to be in good form for an attempt to capture her first G1 title in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. Other probable starters in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup include back-to-back Queen Stakes (G3, 1,800m) winner Terzetto (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact), Mermaid Stakes (G3, 2,000m) victor Win Mighty (JPN, M5, by Gold Ship), who will begin her fall campaign with the Kyoto Daishoten (G2, 2,400m) on October 10, and runners coming off the Fuchu Himba Stakes. The three-year-old filly hopefuls will be challenging seniors coming off the October 16 Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m), the final leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown.
The Mile Championship on November 20 will feature Sodashi (JPN, F4, by Kurofune), the pure white filly who marked her third G1 title this spring in the Victoria Mile but was unable to defend her title most recently in the Sapporo Kinen, where she finished fifth. Sodashi will concentrate on racing over a mile and make the Fuchu Himba Stakes as her step race. Other Mile Championship hopefuls include 2019 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes champion Salios (JPN, H5, by Heart’s Cry) and 2020 Best Two-Year-Old Colt Danon the Kid (JPN, C4, by Just a Way), both of whom first will head to the Mainichi Okan, while this year’s NHK Mile Cup victor Danon Scorpion (JPN, C3, by Lord Kanaloa) has opted for the Fuji Stakes (G2, 1,600m) on October 22. Schnell Meister, who will start in the Sprinters Stakes, is also expected to join in the Mile Championship field.
Meanwhile, this year’s Yasuda Kinen champion Songline (JPN, F4, by Kizuna), who finished fifth in her first start at 1,200 meters in the Centaur Stakes this fall, will head to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1, 1,600m) on November 5, her second overseas endeavor after winning the 1351 Turf Sprint (G3) in Saudi Arabia. 2020 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes victor Grenadier Guards (JPN, C4, by Frankel), although unsuccessful in the Royal Ascot’s Platinum Jubilee Stakes (G1, 1,200m) this spring, finishing a disappointing 19th, will go overseas for the Hong Kong Mile (G1, 1,600m) on December 11 after commencing his fall campaign in the Swan Stakes (G2, 1,400m) on October 29.
2021 Best Dirt Horse and Champions Cup victor T O Keynes (JPN, H5, by Sinister Minister) began his 2022 campaign abroad in the Saudi Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m) in February but was defeated to eighth. The son of Sinister Minister bounced back upon returning to Japan to win the Heian Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,900m, May) but was unable to defend his Teio Sho (dirt, 2,000m, June 29) title, finishing fourth. He is expected to make his comeback in either the JBC Classic (dirt, 2,000m) on November 3 or the Champions Cup on December 4.
2020 Champions Cup champion Chuwa Wizard (JPN, H7, by King Kamehameha) was runner-up last year, but lost soundly by six lengths to winner T O Keynes. The son of King Kamehameha remains in good form at seven, winning the Kawasaki Kinen (dirt, 2,100m), finishing third in his second Dubai World Cup (G1, dirt, 2,000m) challenge and just missing by a neck in second in his latest start, the Teio Sho. Chuwa Wizard is expected to start in the JBC Classic prior to the Champions Cup.
Hopes are high for Meisho Hario (JPN, H5, by Pyro) towards the Champions Cup this year, having beaten both T O Keynes and Chuwa Wizard in the Teio Sho. Although seventh in the dirt G1 last year, the son of Pyro has improved significantly this season, landing his second grade-race title in the March Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,800m) and claiming one of the most prestigious NAR titles in the Teio Sho after being sent to post fifth favorite. Meisho Hario will also likely start in the JBC Classic (dirt, 2,000m) before his second Champions Cup challenge.
The three-year-old hopefuls expected to challenge their seniors in the Champions Cup include UAE Derby (G2, dirt, 1,900m, March) winner Crown Pride (JPN, C3, by Reach the Crown), Japan Dirt Derby (dirt, 2,000m, July) winner Notturno (JPN, C3, by Heart's Cry) and the same race’s runner-up, Peisha Es (JPN, C3, by Espoir City). All three ran in the Nippon TV Hai (dirt, 1,800m) on September 28 in which Crown Pride finished second, Peisha Es followed in fourth and Notturno in seventh. Kafuji Octagon (JPN, C3, by Maurice), who won the Leopard Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,800m) in August, will be facing older rivals for the first time in the Hakusan Daishoten (dirt, 2,100m) on October 4.
The Nakayama Daishogai (J-G1, 4,100m) on December 24 is the second of two steeplechase events graded at J-G1 to determine the season’s best jumper. Legendary jumper Oju Chosan (JPN, H11, by Stay Gold), who claimed his sixth Nakayama Grand Jump title in April, will likely make his comeback start on October 16 in the Tokyo High-Jump (J-G2, 3,110m) before heading for the Nakayama Daishogai. Hokko Mevius (JPN, G6, by Daiwa Major), back-to-back winner of the Niigata Jump Stakes (J-G3, 3,250m) and the Hanshin Jump Stakes (J-G3, 3,300m), will also start in the Tokyo High-Jump. This year’s Nakayama Daishogai will also include Asakusa Genki (USA, G7, by Stormy Atlantic), winner of the Kokura Summer Jump (J-G3, 3,390m) on August 27.
Towards the final legs of filly and colt Triple Crowns
One of the three-year-old fillies to watch this year is Stars on Earth, who won the spring Classics, emulating Triple Crown fillies such as Almond Eye and Daring Tact. She will head directly to the Shuka Sho, the last leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, as will Namur (JPN, F3, by Harbinger) and Presage Lift (JPN, F3, by Harbinger), who finished third and fifth respectively in the Yushun Himba.
Two trial races were held towards the Shuka Sho. One, the Shion Stakes (G3, 2,000m) on September 10, was claimed by Yushun Himba runner-up Stunning Rose (JPN, F3, by King Kamehameha), who captured her second graded victory following the Flower Cup (G3, 1,800m) in March. Runner-up Sound Vivace (JPN, F3, by Duramente) and Fairy Stakes (G3, 1,600m) victor Lilac (JPN, F3, by Orfevre), who finished third, also earned berths in the Shuka Sho. 2021 Best Two-Year-Old Filly Circle of Life (JPN, F3, by Epiphaneia), who finished fourth, was diagnosed with a tendon injury in her right foreleg after the race and is expected to be sidelined for more than nine months.
The other trial race, the Rose Stakes (G2, 2,000m) on September 18, saw race favorite Art House (JPN, F3, by Screen Hero) capture her first graded victory, with Saliera (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact) half a length behind in second and Eglantyne (JPN, F3, by Kizuna) another neck behind in third.
Turning to the Kikuka Sho, the last leg of the Triple Crown for colts, Tokyo Yushun winner Do Deuce has traveled to France to challenge the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 2. Further, Satsuki Sho winner Geoglyph and two-time spring Classics runner-up Equinox also will pass up the Kikuka Sho on October 23 and head for the Tenno Sho (Autumn), meaning that this year’s Kikuka Sho will lack the Top 2 finishers in each of the two spring Classics.
Two trial races were held towards the Kikuka Sho. The Top 3 finishers of the St. Lite Kinen (G2, 2,200m) held on September 19—Gaia Force (JPN, C3, by Kitasan Black), Tokyo Yushun third-place finisher Ask Victor More (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact) and Rousham Park (JPN, C3, by Harbinger), in that order—earned berths in the Kikuka Sho.
In a separate trial race, the Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2, 2,200m) on September 25, last year’s Hopeful Stakes (G1, 2,000m) runner-up Justin Palace (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact) won with a comfortable 3-1/2-length margin to earn a berth in the Kikuka Sho along with runner-up Yamanin Zest (JPN, C3, by Symboli Kris S) and third-place finisher Boldog Hos (JPN, C3, by Screen Hero).
This year’s Kikuka Sho field will also include Feengrotten (JPN, C3, by Black Tide), who won the Radio Nikkei Sho (G3, 1,800m) in July and then finished third in his first attempt against older foes, the Niigata Kinen (G3, 2,000m), on September 4.