Open look to Japan's Champions Cup

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Alastair Bull

December 2nd, 2017

Japan’s leading dirt horses get two opportunities at grade one level in a year, and one of them is this weekend.

The Champions Cup (G1), formerly the Japan Cup Dirt, is held at Chukyo racecourse over 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) Dec. 3, and forms part of a top-level dirt season with the 1,600-meter (about one mile) February Stakes (G1) at Tokyo racecourse in late February.

With total prizemoney of 189,500,000 yen (about $1.69 million), the Champions Cup attracts good-quality fields, including some horses that then go on to the Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March. Indeed, of the four Japanese horses that ran in this year’s Dubai World Cup, three of them are in the Champions Cup field.

Awardee was the best of them in Dubai, finishing fifth, about 3 ¼ lengths behind third-place finisher Neolithic. An American-bred half-brother by Jungle Pocket to Belmont Stakes third-place finisher Lani, Awardee also finished second in this race last year. He’s had two lead-ins to the race, finishing fifth in the JBC Classic at Ohi racecourse his last start.

Last year’s winner Sound True (French Deputy) also returns. He comes into the race in good form, having won the JBC Classic by a length, and he’s won two of his three starts at Chukyo. JBC Classic runner-up K T Brave (Admire Max) should also be prominent.

Sound True is the early second favorite for the race behind T M Jinsoku (Kurofune). T M Jinsoku has won four of his past five starts, the most recent coming in the Miyako Stakes (G3) at Kyoto, and he will be a top chance at what is his first grade one race.

Gold Dream (Gold Allure), the 2017 February Stakes winner prior to finishing 14th in the Dubai World Cup, and Copano Rickey (Gold Allure), winner of the February Stakes in 2014 and 2015, seek more top-level success. Copano Rickey has been in the better lead-up form.

Apollo Kentucky (Langfuhr), ninth in the Dubai World Cup and a winner over Sound True in the Nippon Hai two starts back, should be respected, while Kafuji Take (Precise End), fifth in the Godolphin Mile (G2) at Dubai and second to Gold Allure in the February Stakes, has been running solid races and should be included in multiples. London Town (Kane Hekili), winner of the Korea Cup and the Elm Stakes, can’t be forgotten either.

Sound True and T M Jinsoku come in with the best form, but there is enough depth in the race to make it an open affair. The odds should be good.