Japan: TO Keynes targets repeat in Champions Cup On Dirt – Horse Racing News

The Grade 1 Champions Cup takes place on Sunday 4th December at Chukyo Racecourse, just outside Nagoya in central Japan. It will be the 23rd running of the race, which was previously known as the Japan Cup Dirt. First held in 2000 in Tokyo over 2,100 meters, the race has had a number of different locations (including Hanshin) and distances, but since 2014 it has been run at Chukyo over 1,800 meters, when it also received its current name. It is the fourth and final round of the Japan International Autumn Series, which also includes last week’s Grade 1 Japan Cup. There will be no overseas runners in this week’s race.

The Grade 1 Champions Cup is a race for 3-year-olds and over, with 4-year-olds and over carrying 57kg and a 1kg allowance for 3-year-olds, with an additional 2kg weight for fillies and hare. . There were 18 nominations for the race, but a maximum of 16 runners will be given the start. This year’s race looks interesting in that there are a number of up-and-coming dirt horses expected to line up, and many of them have pedigrees that wouldn’t necessarily give them strong claims in dirt racing.

The Grade 1 Champions Cup will be Race 11 on Sunday’s card at Chukyo, with a post from 3.30pm local time. The final statements and barrier draw will appear later in the week.

Here’s a look at some of this year’s top dirt horses that are expected to make the race:

TO Keynes: Winner of last year’s race, the 5-year-old by Sinister Ministry will likely be a short-priced favorite to successfully defend his title this year. Although he could only finish eighth in this year’s Grade 1 Saudi Cup in February, he recently crushed the opposition in the JBC Classic at Morioka over 2,000 meters in November.

Assistant trainer Juntaro Taira said: “He was very wide in his last race and I wondered about that, but at the end he showed how much power he has. He’s been in the stable ever since and is much more relaxed than before.”

June Light Bolt: In recent times, living up to his name, Jun Light Bolt has only had three starts on dirt but has won two of them, most recently the Grade 3 Sirius Stakes at Chukyo in October. The son of King Kamehameha has his trainer Yasuo Tomomichi quite excited about his prospects now.

“I’ve always thought highly of him, and in his first start on dirt in Fukushima he lost a shoe but still managed to finish second. In his two wins since then, he has managed well between the third and fourth turns and he seems a different horse on the dirt as opposed to the turf,” said Tomomichi. The trainer has never won a JRA dirt Grade 1 race despite having 16 top-level wins in total.

The hope of the sunrise: Causing an upset last time out in the Grade 3 Miyako Stakes in November, Sunrise Hope will look to repeat at Chukyo, where he won twice but also finished unplaced four times. Usually well on the pace, things proved a little different when he won last time.

Trainer Tomohiko Hatsuki explained: “He veered a bit leaving the blocks so it meant he had to settle for an outside position in his last race. The jockey did a great job though, to get the best out of him throughout the race and at the finish. The horse was a bit tired after the race, but I took care of him and everything is fine with him.”

Pride of the Crown: 3-year-old colt by Reach the Crown had just seven starts (all on dirt) and won three times, including the prestigious Grade 2 UAE Derby at Meydan in March. Despite finishing second to TO Keynes last time out, trainer Koichi Shintani still believes there is more to come from the colt.

“The winner last time was able to catch him but he ran a strong race, giving up what was a good pace for him. I think it was a good experience for him and I’m happy with the way he’s progressing,” the coach said. Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga will have another ride on Crown Pride.

Gloria Mundi: One of two possible runners for trainer Ryuji Okubo, Gloria Mundi last ran in the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen in June when she finished well off the field. Back on the ground, however, he is a different prospect, winning four times from five starts, including two wins at Chukyo.

The trainer said: “He was among some famous horses in his last race and it was his first run on turf for a long time. He was tired after the race but had time to recover and since returning to the stable things have gone well for him. There is still more to come from him in dirt racing.” Adding to Gloria Mundi’s chances is the booking of Ryan Moore for the trip, who showed exactly what he is capable of in last week’s Japan Cup.

Hapi: the 3-year-old colt by Kizuna has a similar profile to Crown Pride in that he has had the same number of races and the same number of wins. He has only been placed twice in his career and that includes last time out when he narrowly missed out behind Sunrise Hope in the Grade 3 Miyako Stakes.

Also trained by Ryuji Okubo, the trainer recently commented: “He was a bit tight on the inside in his last race and didn’t have such a smooth run. The good thing is he came out well and wasn’t tired so he would look ready to run again.” The coach won the Champions Cup in 2020 with Chuwa Wizard.

Nocturnal: Another 3-year-old entry, the colt by Heart’s Cry, was guided nicely by jockey Yutaka Take in seven of his eight starts, which included three wins, all with Take aboard. The colt’s last race was at Funabashi in September when he finished seventh in the Nippon TV Hai over 1,800m.

An assistant trainer commented: “With an inside gate last time he had to go forward and things didn’t go his way, unable to catch the favorite and then other horses running at the finish. He probably prefers the wet ground as he was when he won two starts ago.”

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