Stepping out into Japanese racing this weekend for one of the biggest races on the international calendar. Established in 1960, the 18-horse field for the 2,200-metre race is chosen largely by fan ballot like the year-ending Arima Kinen (the Grand Prix) at Nakayama in December. The top 10 vote-getters receive an automatic place in the field; 17 horses had been nominated before Vincennes pulled out.
From the top 10, only four are set to run this year - the race's two-time defending champion Gold Ship (first), Lachesis (third), Toho Jackal (seventh) and One and Only (eighth).
Once again, casting an eye over the cream of international racing is racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.
G1 2200m Turf 3yo+
Race 11 Hanshin (Japan) G1
290,860,000 Yen (approx £1.5m)
1540 local time, 0740 BST
History and Trends
1 Shonan Pandora: Winner of one of Japan’s biggest 3YO Fillies events last year in the G1 Shuka Sho. Since then she’s run sixth in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup and ninth in the G2 Sankei Osaka Hai, both races won by rival today Lachesis. Finished eighth in the G1 Victoria Mile last time. Hardest test is today.
2 Tosen Stardom: Two runs this year have been in Australia running creditably with a second in the G1 Ranvet Stakes to Contributer and a fifth to Criterion in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. This looks even tougher however.
3 Neo Black Dia: Big run when fifth to Gold Ship in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) last time. Could surprise again but best form is over longer trips than this.
4 Admire Spica: Had been running in, and winning some, conditions races before last start when midfield in the G2 Meguro Kinen. Much tougher task today.
5 Curren Mirotic: Only had three runs since finishing 2nd in the race last year. They were a good fiftth to Flintshire in the G1 HK Vase, fourth in the G2 Hanshin Daishoten and third in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring), on both occasions behind Gold Ship. Will be in the shakeup.
6 Denim And Ruby: Hard horse to find. Used to miss the start and get well back in her 3YO days and that’s arguably what cost her the 2013 Japan Cup. Hasn’t run to that ever since however, but is consistent enough. Doubt it today however.
7 One And Only: Last year’s Japanese Derby winner who disappointed in the Japanese St. Leger and Japan Cup before getting no luck in the Arima Kinen. Run very well in his only run this year in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic when third to Dolniya and Flintshire. That pair were a little disappointing running only second and third in the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom off a false pace in a small field. Both run against Treve at Saint-Cloud later on Sunday. However this horse should acquit himself very well, especially if at his brilliant best.
8 Dia De La Madre: Third to Lachesis and Nuovo Record in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in November. She’s since won a G3 and seventh in a mile G2 and ran seventh to Straight Girl in the G1 Victoria Mile. Not the worst but would surprise.
9 Toshin Monstera: Won a conditions race four runs ago, has since run eighth in two G2s and sixth in a G2. They were good races but it would be a surprise if he was competitive.
10 Ocean Blue: Almost stole the 2012 Arima Kinen but was eaten up late by Gold Ship. Has finished well back in his last couple at big odds against similar opposition and he would shock.
11 Nuovo Record: Last year’s lucky Japanese Oaks winner, over Harp Star. Two narrow seconds against Shonan Pandora and Lachesis in the G1 Shuka Sho and G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup late last year. G2 winner on seasonal debut in the Nakayama Kinen, beating strong opposition and then the 1600m was too short for her in the G1 Victoria Mile. Good chance.
12 Red Davis: Has been quite lightly raced over the last couple of years, only five runs since April 2013. Hasn’t disgraced when running 4th and 6th in the G2 Kyoto Kinen and G3 Naruo Kinen behind Lovely Day in his last two runs. Would surprise
13 Lachesis: Been in absolutely brilliant form. A bit lucky when she won the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in November over Nuovo Record and Dia De La Madre but confirmed that was no fluke at all when a superb sixth in the Arima Kinen and resumed beating Kizuna in the G2 Sankei Osaka Hai, Spielberg in fourth. Has top form to be extremely hard to beat.
14 Toho Jackal: Hasn’t run, due to setbacks, since winning the Japanese St. Leger in October, beating some of today’s rivals. Third to One And Only prior to that over 2400m in a G2. Has the ability but there must be concerns as he’s going into an extremely strong race such as this first-up and will the trip be too short to see him at his brilliant best? For those reasons I’m prepared to take him on.
15 Gold Ship: This is his big goal for the first half of the year. Aiming for a third win in a row in this race (2014 replay). As we know he can sometimes put in the very ordinary run but he’s only ever been beaten once here at Hanshin, as a 2YO when second in a G3, so he usually runs brilliantly at this track. An extraordinary victory, for many many reasons, in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) last time when defying all odds. The one to beat.
16 Lovely Day: Five runs this year for three wins with a sixth and eighth in the G2 Hanshin Daishoten over 3000m and the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) over 3200m but his victories have been at G3 and G2 level over these types of trips. Has drawn pretty ordinary in 16 but with a bit of luck can make his presence felt.
Superb field for the Takarazuka Kinen with it being, as usual, one of the strongest races anywhere on the planet yearly. (15) Gold Ship was freakish when winning the Tenno Sho (Spring), if he runs to that again he’ll do the hat-trick. (7) One And Only is getting back to his best and was third in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic last time so he can run well obviously. (13) Lachesis has been in fantastic form of late and will certainly be in the finish. (5) Curren Mirotic ran secnd in the race last year and has been consistent since. (11) Nuovo Record and (16) Lovely Day have brilliant form, especially over these trips. (2) Tosen Stardom ran well in Australia but this is tougher. (8) Dia De La Madre usually runs honestly, it looks tough for (1) Shonan Pandora and (14) Toho Jackal has the ability but has some queries against him.
(15) Gold Ship - (7) One And Only - (13) Lachesis - (5) Curren Mirotic - (11) Nuovo Record - (16) Lovely Day (2) Tosen Stardom - (8) Dia De La Madre - (1) Shonan Pandora - (14) Toho Jackal.
It’s more than likely that (15) Gold Ship will bring his A-Game so just simply back him.