12/04/2008 1:00AM

Prado will ride Tin Cup Chalice in Japan


The three American challengers continued their preparations for Sunday's $2.5 million Japan Cup Dirt at Hanshin Racecourse on Thursday, prior to the draw for the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 contest that saw Frost Giant land in post 2, Tin Cup Chalice in 8, and Mast Track in 13 in the 16-runner field.

With his regular rider, Pedro Rodriguez, unable to receive a passport in time to make the trip to Japan, Tin Cup Chalice has lucked out in picking up the services of Edgar Prado, who is at Hanshin this weekend representing America in the World Super Jockeys Series.

"I've never teamed up with Tin Cup Chalice, but I've raced against him two or three times and have the impression that he's a very strong horse," Prado said. "He was very relaxed this morning [Thursday] during his exercise, the dirt feels good, and he seems to have recovered from the long trip."

Trainer Mike Lecesse confirmed Tin Cup Chalice's condition.

"He's gained eight or 10 pounds since he left the quarantine station," he said. "Since we found out he was going to race on a right-handed course, we breezed him a few times in that direction back home [at Finger Lakes], and every work has been better. Friday, he'll jog and gallop and stand in the gate, just to get him to relax. Saturday, he'll have a very light and easy day of training."

Lecesse had said he would prefer a post 4 draw, as Tin Cup Chalice does his running from the front end, so he cannot have been too pleased with gate 8.

Frost Giant, who will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, was schooled in the paddock before a canter around Hanshin. This will be the first time the Suburban Handicap winner will encounter a right-handed track, as his four outings in England and Ireland were all over either left-handed or straight courses.

"The surface is much sandier here at Hanshin," Rudy Rodriquez said after galloping the Rick Dutrow trainee. "We would have preferred a middle draw, but I don't see any problems with that or the surface."

Garrett Gomez will have to hustle Mast Track out of his 13 post, if the Bobby Frankel-trained son of Mizzen Mast is to take his customary place near the front. Mast Track breezed Wednesday and may have a blowout on the morning of the race.

The two likely favorites for the Japan Cup Dirt, Vermilion and Casino Drive, drew 6 and 11, respectively.

Prado will be joined in the World Super Jockeys Series by Alan Garcia. This will be the sixth consecutive year that Prado, a Peruvian rider, has competed in the event, and the seventh time overall. The series, which includes Ireland's Johnny Murtagh, France's Ioritz Mendizabal, and defending champ Craig Williams from Australia, as well as local riders Katsumi Ando and Yasunari Iwata, consists of two races on both Saturday and Sunday at Hanshin.