12/04/2009 12:00AM

Tizway faces tough task in Dirt


What had promised to be a most revealing international contest, the $2.8 million Japan Cup Dirt lost much of its flavor when Summer Bird fractured his right foreleg in training last week. As a result, Tizway, whose best effort was a distant third behind Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, will fly the Stars and Stripes as the lone foreign entry in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 event at Nakayama on Sunday.

On the face of it, the James Bond-trained Tizway appears to have little chance against the always difficult-to-beat locals, but the lightly raced 4-year-old is still eligible to improve. But improve he must if Tizway is to have any chance of victory.

At Nakayama to supervise his penultimate bit of exercise, Bond appeared satisfied with Tizway's preparation.

"He looks the same as he did when he left New York and is in good condition," the trainer said. "He moved well and is eating well too. Just as I wished, he's breaking from post 7, an ideal number in the middle of the field, so we're hoping he'll get a good start and race up front."

Rajiv Maragh will be aboard for his first ride in Japan.

Many in the crowd at Nakayama will be on the favorite Vermilion, the still-sharp 7-year-old who is coming off big wins in the JBC Classic and the Teio Sho, a pair of 1 1/4-mile dirt races that rate as the best of their kind on the National Association of Racing circuit. But Vermilion is no stranger to international competition. He was fourth in the 2007 Dubai World Cup and won this race that same year. Vermilion will break from post 4 with Yutaka Take aboard.

A large horse with a long stride, Vermilion may not be suited to Nakayama's relatively tight right-hand turns and its short, 1 1/2-furlong stretch. Last year he failed to make up the needed ground when a half-length third to Kane Hekili.

Espoir City is just as much in form as Vermilion and will prove better value. He has won three in a row, and trainer Akio Adachi says that Espoir City is working better than ever. Last time out, he won the Mile Championship at Morioka, beating Grade 1 February Stakes winner Success Brocken by four lengths.

Success Brocken tries him again, but a stronger challenge may come from Wonder Acute. A 3-year-old son of 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic, who stands at Iburi Stallion Station in Hokkaido, Wonder Acute goes in search of his fourth straight victory, his last three having come at a mile against older horses, 1 1/4 miles at the Grade 3 level, and 1 1/8 miles. But the improving Wonder Acute has drawn widest of all in post 16, which means rider Ryuji Wada will have his work cut out for him.