Horse Racing

Japanese Contingent In Fine Form Before The Saudi Cup


Japan’s Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach The Crown {Jpn}), a winner of the 2022 G2 UAE Derby and last year’s G3 Korea Cup, galloped over the dirt track in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in advance of a start in the $20-million G1 Saudi Cup on Saturday. He is one of five Japanese horses in the world’s richest race, which will go postward at 8:40 p.m. local time.

“We did a 1200m gallop on the dirt track today. He moved and accelerated well. We are happy,” Yohei Kotobuki, a stable representative, said of the G1 Champions Cup runner-up.

Also out for a spin, although in his case a canter, was 2023 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic second Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits) on Tuesday morning. The 2023 UAE Derby hero was just a length behind the re-opposing White Abarrio (Race Day) in that Santa Anita contest in November, his most recent race.

“He has recovered well from the travel and he is very fresh. Christophe Lemaire will ride his gallop tomorrow,” Masatoshi Segawa, a stable representative, said.

There was also a positive bulletin on 2023 Japanese Champion Dirt Horse Lemon Pop (Lemon Drop Kid), who stretched his legs and jogged one lap on the dirt. A winner of both the Listed Mile Championship Nambu Hai and the G1 Champions Cup in October and December, respectively, the 6-year-old entire represents Godolphin and trainer Hiroyasu Tanaka.

“He has been getting familiarised with the new surroundings here and has eaten up very well. He cantered nicely and has been the same as how he is at home,” assistant trainer Toshihiko Hokari said.

Only fifth to Lemon Pop in the Champions Cup, multiple group winner Meisho Hario (Jpn) (Pyro) has been twice placed at the highest level, to fellow Saudi Cup hopeful and 2023 G1 Dubai World Cup victor Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in the G1 Tokyo Daishoten, and to Lemon Pop once again in the G1 February S. last year. Connections reported he cantered 1 1/2 laps over the Riyadh dirt on Tuesday.

“He was a bit tired for a few days after his arrival but his condition has recovered a lot and he appears to be back to how he is. He will have a fast gallop on the dirt track tomorrow,” assistant trainer Atsushi Obayashi said.

The aforementioned Ushba Tesoro jogged a quarter mile and finished his training with a 1 1/4-mile canter on the dirt at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on Tuesday.

“He has been relaxed and getting used to the new surroundings since he has arrived. He has a great balance with his conformation and he looks great,” assistant trainer Masakazu Fukami said.

Besides the $20-million big dance, Japan is strongly represented in the undercard races, and GI Belmont S. winner Palace Malice’s half-brother Iron Barows (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) turned in a strong canter on Tuesday, as well. The 7-year-old will compete in Saturday’s G3 Longines Red Sea Turf H. over 3000 metres on the grass.

“He moved comfortably with lots left in his tank. He felt really good. He really enjoys his life here and he seems fit on the dirt surface even though he is a turf runner,” assistant trainer Shoritsu Kurono said.

A trio of Yoshito Yahagi runners were out for a gallop together on Tuesday: G2 Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint hopeful Bathrat Leon (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}), who is defending his title after taking the race in 2023; Red Sea Turf H. entrant Libyan Glass (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}); and undefeated G3 Saudi Derby runner Forever Young (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn}). Both Libyan Glass and Forever Young are first-time travelers.

“Libyan Glass travels overseas for the first time in his career and he has been settled because he is with other two horses,” assistant trainer Yusaku Oka said. “He is tuning up for the race and is very well.

“He [Bathrat Leon] showed great acceleration in the stretch. Hopefully he keeps good form until the race.”

Oka said of dual listed winner Forever Young, “As he did all he needed to before we brought him here, we had not asked him too much today.”

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