12/15/2006 12:00AM

Court Masterpiece invades Japan


Court Masterpiece is the lone foreign challenger in the $1.1 million Hanshin Cup at Hanshin Racecourse near Osaka, Japan, on Sunday when he will meet 17 locally trained rivals.

Trained in England by Ed Dunlop (whose Ouija Board met an unhappy end to her glorious career last Sunday when she was scratched from the Hong Kong Vase), Court Masterpiece is a Polish Precedent 6-year-old who has won twice at the Group 1 level, having landed this year's one-mile Sussex Stakes and last year's Prix de la Foret over the Hanshin Cup's seven-furlong distance. He was, however, a disappointment in his Japanese debut at nearby Kyoto on Nov. 19, when he ran seventh in the Grade 1 Mile Championship. Court Masterpiece, though, is probably a bit more adept at seven furlongs than a mile, and his chances look improved with Olivier Peslier taking the ride.

Symboli Gran, third in the Mile Championship, was previously beaten by Precise Machine in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Swan Stakes in which Orewa Matteruze, winner of the six-furlong Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen, was fifth.

The sleeper is Daiwa Passion, the winner of the Grade 2 Japanese 1000 Guineas over the course and distance in March but unplaced in two starts since.

The Hanshin Cup is the second new $1 million race on the Japanese calendar this year. In May Dance in the Mood took the first running of the Grade 1 Victoria Cup before her victory in Hollywood Park's CashCall Mile.