The biggest horse race in Japan, the Japan Cup takes place on Sunday at Toyko racecourse. This Group 1 contest was first run in 1981 and is an invitation-only event. Even though the race comes at the end of the flat season it generally attracts some leading talent from home and abroad.
This very valuable contest has proved elusive for Aidan O’Brien and he relies on Irish Derby winner Capri this year. He has only won once this season when taking a weak Group 3, but his standout piece of form is undoubtedly a fifth-place finish behind Enable in the Arc. If he can reproduce this form then he holds leading claims.
Race favourite and leading the home defence is Almond Eye, who became the first horse to complete the three-year-old fillies Triple Crown since Gentildonna back in 2012. She never really looked in danger in any these races and is one of the most exciting horses in Japanese racing since the great Deep Impact.
Ther raiding party hasn’t lifted the prize since Alkassed took it in 2005 for Luca Cumani and Frankie Dettori. The second European runner is Thundering Blue, who has shown improved form in recent times, by winning two Group races in his last four starts and he was a fine second in the Canadian International when last seen. Although he’s only won three times, he’s on an upward curve and should be taken very seriously.
Cheval Grand bids for back to back victories in the race and although he hasn’t won since he’s still shown a good level of form and must hold leading credentials.
Other of note include Suave Richard, Satono Diamond and Kiseki.
Selection: Thundering Blue