David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Japan Cup success would redeem Shahryar’s standing

Japan’s 2021 Derby winner Shahryar goes into the big international feature as the home contingent’s star runner but he hasn’t sparkled since Dubai last spring.

Shahryar seemed to have the world at his feet after a gutsy G1 Dubai Sheema Classic victory at Meydan in March but last year’s Japanese Derby hero heads into Sunday’s G1 Japan Cup with a mission to redeem his reputation.

The Sunday Racing-owned colt rounded out his three-year-old campaign this time last year with a fine third behind Contrail in the Japan Cup and his high-profile win in Dubai four months later suggested 2022 would be his year. But, since then, his record reads two races for two underwhelming losses.

The four-year-old son of the great Deep Impact was a disappointing favourite when fourth of five in the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and then placed a fair fifth upon his return in the G1 Tenno Sho Autumn last month. Both of those races were over 2000 metres, though, and connections are expectant that a return to 2400 metres at Tokyo – the course and distance of his Derby victory – will enable the colt to showcase his best.

“I think we will see a horse that is ready for this race,” his jockey Cristian Demuro told Asian Racing Report.

The in-form Italian ace was not in the plate when Shahryar undertook fast work on the turf at Ritto last week; Derby-winning pilot Yuichi Fukunaga was holding the reins that morning as the Japan Cup favourite strode easily past his lead horse to clock a confidence-boosting 11.2 seconds for the final furlong of his workout. But Demuro was up top in Dubai, and at Ascot, and last time in the Tenno Sho Autumn, and he will be in the saddle again on Sunday.

Anyone watching the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes could see that Shahryar was too keen at Ascot in a field of only four rivals, yet that was only part of the tale as he faded out to be beaten three and a half lengths behind State Of Rest.

“He didn’t like Ascot, the track didn’t suit him, the uphill and downhill, and he didn’t like the softer ground he experienced there,” Demuro explained.

And in the Tenno Sho Autumn, after finishing three and a quarter-lengths behind the Arima Kinen-bound Equinox, the jockey felt his mount would benefit from the outing having gone four months between races.

“He was coming back after a long time since Ascot,” Demuro continued. “When he came back in the Tenno Sho, he wasn’t 100 per cent ready so I think he will improve from that race into the Japan Cup.”  


Shahryar just holds out Efforia (outside) in the Tokyo Yushun. (Photo by JRA)

Given this year’s Japan Cup make-up, a repeat of his third-place last year might even be enough to land the Cup this time around. Hideaki Fujiwara’s charge is set to face the three-year-old Danon Beluga, who placed ahead of him in the Tenno Sho Autumn, as well as a pair of classic-winning mares seeking their own redemption after long losing streaks, Daring Tact and Uberleben; and four raiders from Europe in Tunnes, Onesto, Grand Glory and Simca Mille.   

Contrail, last year, it should be noted, arrived at the Japan Cup as a four-year-old – the previous year’s Triple Crown winner, no less – off two defeats separated by a long summer break, with the latter of those being the Tenno Sho. That could yet be where the similarity ends but Demuro is at least confident that Shahryar, like Contrail, will be back to a peak for his second shot at Japan’s premier international feature.   




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