12/04/2014 1:24PM

Imperative invades Japan for Champions Cup

Shigeki Kikkawa
Imperative, seen here with trainer George Papaprodromou, is aiming for his first victory since winning the Charles Town Classic in April.

Imperative, the former claimer who won the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April, is the lone foreign runner in Sunday’s $1,665,172 Champions Cup on dirt at Chukyo Racecourse in Nagoya, Japan.

The Champions Cup, previously known as the Japan Cup Dirt, will be the first start for Imperative since a ninth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. Imperative had a troubled start in the BC Classic and finished 9 3/4 lengths behind the winner, Bayern.

Claimed for $50,000 at Hollywood Park in December 2013, Imperative is winless in five starts since the Charles Town Classic. During that span, he was third in both the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June and the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.

Imperative, who races for Southern California resident Kenji Morinari, is part of a field expected to include Best Warrior, a Kentucky-bred by Majestic Warrior who has won three stakes in Japan this year; Nihonpiro Ours, who won the 2012 Japan Cup Dirt; Copano Ricky and Chrysolite, who were first and second in the JCB Classic on dirt at Monoka Racecourse on Nov. 3; and Wonder Acute and Hokko Tarumae, who were second and third in both the 2012 and 2013 Japan Cup Dirt. Wonder Acute also was second in the 2011 Japan Cup Dirt.

Imperative will be ridden by Southern California-based jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Trainer George Papaprodromou told the Japan Racing Association that Imperative has gained weight since arriving in Japan in late November.

“He’s kept his normal weight,” Papaprodromou said Thursday. “We’ve been weighing him every day. Actually, he’s put on a few more pounds now, which is good.”

The Champions Cup is run over 1 1/8 miles on a left-handed track. Papaprodromou said he would like to see Imperative in midpack early.

“The track is a bit sandy and deep,” Papaprodromou said. “I wouldn’t want him to be out there too soon, but I don’t want to be too far back. He’s got a good turn of foot, and he’s an honest horse.”