11/20/2007 1:00AM

Dylan Thomas out of Japan Cup due to virus

EmailDylan Thomas has been ruled out of Sunday's Japan Cup by the Japanese Agricultural Ministry after having tested positive for equine viral arteritis. The announcement came on Tuesday after routine tests taken upon his arrival at the Shiroi Quarantine Center near Tokyo on Nov. 16 revealed that his system had retained lingering traces from the vaccination he had received for EVA before traveling to Japan. As a result, the $4.8 million Japan Cup will be run without its strongest foreign entry.

EVA is a contagious disease characterized by flu-like symptoms.

The agricultural ministry and the Japan Racing Association have been on guard against EVA since an outbreak in Japan this summer.

The Japan Cup was to be the farewell to the races for Dylan Thomas, a six-time Group 1 winner. As the Arc winner, Dylan Thomas had been in line for a $1.1 million bonus if he had won the Japan Cup.

Dylan Thomas, 4, may not be heading home to stud, however, according to a statement by trainer Aidan O'Brien.

"The Hong Kong Jockey Club, aware of our problem, has extended an invitation to Dylan Thomas to run in the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase on Dec. 9," he said. "We hope that the Japan Racing Association will release him in time to run."

The horse would still face a rigorous testing procedure once in Hong Kong. In the meantime, he remains at the Shiroi Quarantine Center.

Artiste Royal, the Neil Drysdale-trained winner of the Clement L. Hirsch at Santa Anita on Oct. 6, has been in Japan since Nov. 6 for the race. The 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup will be only his third start of the year, but even with Dylan Thomas out of the race, the 6-year-old Artiste Royal faces a tough task.

He will have to deal with a strong team of locals, led by Spring Tenno Sho and Autumn Tenno Sho winner Meisho Samson; Dubai Duty Free winner Admire Moon; and Vodka, the filly who won this year's Japanese Derby.

Meanwhile, Student Council is in line for a $900,000 bonus if he wins the $2.5 million Japan Cup Dirt on Saturday. Student Council's victory in the Pacific Classic qualifies him for the 100 million yen award, courtesy of the Japan Racing Association, the backers of the big Japan Cup-Japan Cup Dirt extravaganza this weekend at Tokyo Racecourse.

Student Council, 5, is trained by Vladimir Cerin, who supervised Student Council's canter at Tokyo on Tuesday morning and was to be present for a more serious work on Wednesday. The lone American horse in the 1 5/16-mile Japan Cup Dirt, and the recent winner of the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Student Council will be trying to emulate the 2003 victory of the U.S.-based Fleetstreet Dancer in the world's third-richest dirt race.

Fleetstreet Dancer was a narrow winner over Admire Don on a sloppy track that year, the only time a foreign invader has been able to beat the locals in the race's seven runnings. Richard Migliore will be aboard Student Council on Saturday.

Japanese handicappers surely are having difficulty figuring out who might be able to beat Student Council, but there has been a swell of support for Vermillion. Fourth, beaten 15 lengths, in the Dubai World Cup, he returned with a victory in the JBC Classic at provincial Ohi on Oct. 31. Fourth in last year's Japan Cup Dirt, he is trained by Sei Ishizaka, the man who engineered Alondite's Japan Cup Dirt victory last year.

- additional reporting

by Glenye Cain Oakford