Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Cups overflowing with more Group 1 action to come

Adrian Webber had a prime view of the Japan Cup from the commentary box at Tokyo last weekend and the JRA broadcaster is now looking ahead to this Sunday’s Champions Cup at Chukyo and beyond to Hong Kong.

It might not have been a vintage Japan Cup last weekend in terms of the quality of the horses involved but the usual thrills and excitement were still there. In fact, the final run to the line was quite a white-knuckle ride for a number of the runners and their jockeys. It was unusual to see so many horses in an area the size of a postage stamp, but keeping his cool amidst the chaos was Ryan Moore, who managed to thread his way to the front and claim a famous victory. 

Vela Azul’s win under the Englishman meant it was another one for the home-trained team, but it was good to see the return of runners from overseas and the sound of different languages and accents in the Foreign Press Room, which has remained mostly shuttered these past three years.

Tokyo hogged the weekend spotlight but down at Hanshin on Saturday, Gruner Green stuck on to win the G3 Radio Nikkei Hai Kyoto Nisai Stakes over 2000 metres. Mirco Demuro gave the colt by Lovely Day an enterprising ride and was almost never headed in the race. The Italian just needed to give his mount a reminder in the closing stages to keep a straight course and narrowly deny the late challenge of Top Knife.


The talented two-year-old has won his last two starts, having shown promise when third on debut over 2000 metres at Tokyo in early October.

Ton Up

Christophe Lemaire might not be champion jockey this year – the first time since Keita Tosaki took the title in 2016 – but the Frenchman brought up another 100 JRA winners for the year last Sunday, making it the eighth time he has done so and in consecutive years to boot. 

“I’m pleased to have brought up the 100 on Japan Cup day. It hasn’t been my best year with only two Group 1 wins but thanks to everyone’s support I can feel happy about things,” the rider said.

Anyone for another Cup?

There is yet more Group 1 action this coming Sunday but with a very different flavour to last weekend. The Champions Cup at Chukyo used to be known as the Japan Cup Dirt and while the international interest is always limited, the race is a big feature for the local dirt track specialists. 

This year’s contest is shaping up to be an interesting affair. T O Keynes is looking to follow up his win in the race last year and shapes as the horse to beat after demolishing his rivals when he tuned-up in the JBC Classic at Morioka in early November. 

Standing in opposition, the Yasuo Tomomichi-trained Jun Light Bolt has shades of Vela Azul about him, only he’s done it the other way, having switched from turf to dirt, and he looks as if he can strike at any time on his now-preferred surface.

He only tried dirt for the first time in July when second in a Listed race and he followed that with a Listed score next-up before a last-start win in the G3 Sirius Stakes over 1900 metres at Chukyo.

The day before the Champions Cup, racing returns to Nakayama and the big race is the G2 Stayers Stakes, Japan’s longest flat race at 3600 metres. The first three from last year, Divine Force, Iron Barows and Silver Sonic, will all re-oppose each other again this year. 

Silver Sonic’s appearance is eagerly-awaited, with the horse having his first run since the G2 Hanshin Daishoten in March, and Damian Lane has been booked to ride the lively six-year-old by Orfevre.

All right, Jack

When jockey Yutaka Take, 53, got the call-up recently to ride Jack d’Or at the upcoming Hong Kong International Races, the rider was taken back 25 years to a fifth-place finish in the G1 Hong Kong Cup. 

“When I got the news, my mind quickly shifted to the day I rode Silence Suzuka in Hong Kong, and of course subsequent winners there. I hope to ride a good race on Jack d’Or and continue to partner the horse from now on,” Take commented on the new partnership. 

Big race wins for Japan’s star jockey in Hong Kong have been Stay Gold in the 2001 G1 Hong Kong Vase and A Shin Hikari in the G1 Hong Kong Cup of 2015. Domestically, Take seems to spurn a day off, as seen just last week when he won the Urawa Kinen on Kurino Dragon, on what was a national holiday in Japan, the aptly named Labour Thanksgiving Day.


Jack D'Or wins the G2 Kinko Sho. (Photo by JRA)

Go easy, Tiger

The 297 million yen purchase of Danon the Tiger at the 2020 Select Sale could yet work out to be money well spent with connections aiming for the big time with him in the future. The Heart’s Cry colt lost nothing in defeat in his last race, the G2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes in November, when he finished second, just a neck behind the winner. He still looked a little green that day, hanging to the right before jockey Yuga Kawada could straighten him up. Trainer Sakae Kunieda wants to nurse the horse along.

“He didn’t run a bad race last time and we do have this dream with him for next year’s Derby, so we have to think of what to do for the best. We won’t rush things with him,” says Kunieda. 

Danon The Tiger – bred at Northern Farm, out of the mare She’s a Tiger – won’t run again this year and will be taking things easy at the farm for the time being. But the ‘Tiger’ could well be back on the prowl in next February’s G3 Kyodo Tsushin Hai at Tokyo over 1800 metres, a race being considered as the starting point for his Classic campaign. 



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