Horse racing preview - 2018 Japan Cup
 Japan Cup 2018

2018 Japan Cup

November 25, 2018 - 1 ½ miles (2,400 meters), Tokyo, Japan

  Possible field: Age Kg Trainer  
  Almond Eye 3 53,0 S. Kunieda  
  Capri 4 57,0 A. O'Brien  
  Ganko 5 57,0 S. Matsumoto  
  Happy Grin 3 55,0 J. Tanaka  
  Kiseki 4 57,0 K. Nakatake
  Makahiki 5 57,0 Y. Tomomichi

Mikki Rocket 5 57,0 H. Otonashi

Mikki Swallow 4 57,0 T. Kikuzawa

Noble Mars 5 57,0 H. Miyamoto

Satono Crown 6 57,0 N. Hori

Satono Diamond 5 57,0 Y. Ikee

Sounds Of Earth 7 57,0 K.Fujioka

Suave Richard 4 57,0 Y. Shono

Thundering Blue 5 57,0 D. Menuisier

Win Tenderness 5 57,0 H. Sugiyama

Preview: November 14, 2018

There hasn't been too much glamour around Japanese horse racing lately, but that might change now, as Triple-Crown winning Almond Eye could follow former great Japanese fillies. The opposition she will face in the 2018 Japan Cup certainly is not the top of the international horse racing elite, still horses like title holder Cheval Grand or former Arima Kinen winner Satono Diamond have to be beaten. Last year's Irish Derby winners Capri will arrive from Europe.

Almond Eye won the Japanese 1000 Guineas over a mile in record time on April 8. Six weeks later she triumphed in the Oaks (2,400 m) in the second-fastest time in the race’s 79-year history. She then also managed the third part of the Triple Crown by winning the Shuka Sho (2.000 m) on October 14. Only four horses had won the Fillies’ Triple before, most recently Gentildonna, who is still the only horse to win the Japan Cup twice. Almond Eyes father Lord Kanaloa won six times on Group 1 level over sprint distances. The stamina comes from her mother Fusaichi Pandora, who was placed four times in G1 stayers races. Almond Eye will be competing against older and male horses for the first time in the 2018 Japan Cup.

Cheval Grand will obviously be among the favourites as he is the defending champion. The son of Heart's Cry had won the 2017 Japan Cup as a 12:1 outsider, he then came third in the 2017 Arima Kinen and took the same route as he did last year. Like 2017 he gave a great performance in the Tenno Sho (Spring) in April, got only beaten by a neck by Rainbow Line. After the summer break he finished fourth in the Kyoto Daishoten on October 8, but we can expect a different Cheval Grand at the Japan Cup again. He already proved that he likes the race when came third in the 2016 Japan Cup.

Satono Diamond had been Japan's big hope in last year's Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after he had won the 2016 Arima Kinen. It took him a long time to recover from his heavy defeat in France though. Most recently the son of Deep Impact caught attention again by winning the Kyoto Daishoten on October 8. In that form the former St Leger winner and Derby runner-up could become a danger in the 2018 Japan Cup.

Kiseki won the Japanese St Leger (3,000 m) last year, but disappointed in the following races. After a 105 days break he displayed rising form with a third place in the Mainichi Okan in October and confirmed that form with another third place in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). Considering the weak quality in this year's Japan Cup, he should be able to get placed again.

Suave Richard displayed strong form at the beginning of the year when won the Kinko Sho (G2) and Osaka Hai (G1), both over 2,000 meters. He then disappointed in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) after a four-month break. Will he find back to form, last year's Copa Republica Argentina winner might also make an impact.

Mikki Rocket had won only one of his 15 starts until he triumphed in the Takarazuka Kinen on June 24. At Hanshin he did not only beat the multiple Group 1-winner Werther, he also defeated Vivlos, who had won the Dubai Turf last year. However, the son of King Kamehameha finished only fifth in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) recently.

Satono Crown was amongst the Japan Cup favourites last year, after he had won the Takarazuka Kinen and was only narrowly beaten by Kitasan Black in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). He disappointed in the Japan Cup and has lost his form since. In normal form the former Hong Kong Vase-winner would be on this year's short list but at present not much speaks in his favour.

Capri won the Irish Derby and the St Leger Stakes last year. He got injured on his shoulder afterwards and could not start before September this year. He gained a strong fifth place in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but disappointed in the Champion Stakes afterwards. That is quite typical for the son of Galileo, who often alternates between good and bad performances. However, 2006 was the last year a foreign horse managed a place among the first three in the Japan Cup.

Thundering Blue got an invitation to the Japan Cup after he became runner-up in the Canadian International Stakes in October. The five years old England based gelding had finished third ahead of Saxon Warrior in the Juddmonte International Stakes in August.

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