11/21/2013 1:40PM

Gentildonna tries for repeat in Japan Cup

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Gentildonna, the 2012 Japanese Horse of the Year, tries to become the first repeat winner of the Japan Cup, to be run at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday. If the 4-year-old Gentildonna accomplishes that milestone, the $4,713,337 Japan Cup will be her first win this year.

Gentildonna is winless in three starts in 2013 – a second-place finish in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic in the United Arab Emirates in March, a third in the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse in June, and a runner-up finish to Just a Way in the Tenno Sho Stakes in Tokyo on Oct. 27.

Gentildonna was beaten four lengths by Just a Way in the Tenno Sho over 1 1/4 miles. Just a Way is not part of the 17-horse field in the Japan Cup, run over 1 1/2 miles.

In 2012, Gentildonna overcame trouble in early stretch to beat even-money favorite Orfevre by a nose in the Japan Cup.

“I think if we get a run like we did last year, we’ll be in for a good race,” trainer Sei Ishizaka said earlier this week. “Recently, we’ve had a string of losses but she has run well.”

Gentildonna will be ridden by British-based rider Ryan Moore, his first mount on the six-time stakes winner. By Deep Impact, Gentildonna has won 7 of 12 starts, including the 2012 Triple Crown for Japanese 3-year-old fillies.

The expected favorite is Gold Ship, a 4-year-old colt who won the Takarazuka Kinen in June. Trained by Naosuke Sugai, Gold Ship was fifth in the Kyoto Saishoten over 1 1/2 miles at Kyoto on Oct. 6.

Sugai said earlier this week that Gold Ship has rebounded from that loss, and that the colt’s turn of foot is an asset.

“Gold Ship is totally switched on now, totally ready,” he said. “He’s the kind of horse that no matter what the distance, no matter what the course, he can always switch gears.”

The Japan Cup field has three foreign runners – Dunaden, Joshua Tree, and Simenon.

Dunaden, trained by Mikel Delzangles, was 11th in the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 5, a race he won in 2011. Dunaden is winless in eight starts since the Caulfield Cup in Australia in October 2012.

Joshua Tree, trained by Ed Dunlop, won the Canadian International at Woodbine on Oct. 27 for the third time in his career. The well-traveled 6-year-old Joshua Tree was 10th in the 2010 Japan Cup.

Simenon was fourth in the Melbourne Cup and second in the Ascot Gold Cup in England in June. As recently as the spring of 2012, the 6-year-old Simenon was running in top-class novice hurdle races over two miles in England and Ireland. Simenon is trained by Willie Mullins, the top steeplechase trainer in Ireland.