11/24/2011 11:46AM

Tokyo: Danedream targets first Arc-Japan Cup double

Japan Racing Association
Danedream is trying to become the first Arc victor to win the Japan Cup.

TOKYO – There will never be another autumn like 2011 for German jockey Andrasch Starke.

Danedream, a 3-year-old German-bred filly, gave the 37-year-old Starke his first win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Oct. 2, bursting away from a strong field to win by five lengths in track-record time.

“She’s definitely the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” Starke said.

Starke was standing on the outer rail at Tokyo Racecourse on Thursday morning when he made that statement. On Sunday, Starke will ride Danedream in the $6.7 million Japan Cup. Danedream can become the first Arc winner to win the Japan Cup.

“She gave me the greatest time of my career on the second of October,” Starke said. “If she has a performance like the last race, we’ll be very confident.”

Trained by Peter Schiergen, Danedream is the top foreign hopeful in the Japan Cup, which is run over about 1 1/2 miles on turf. The course is expected to be firm for Sunday’s race, which has a local post time of 3:20 p.m. (1:20 a.m. Eastern in the United States).

A firm course should pose no issues for Danedream, who races for Gestut Burg Eberstein and Teruya Yoshida. Danedream won the Arc on firm turf for her third consecutive Group 1 win. In the summer, she won two Group 1 races in Germany over about 1 1/2 miles on turf – the Gross Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten on a course rated good in July and the Grosser Pries von Baden at Baden-Baden on a yielding turf course in September.

“Her strongest point is that she’s very flexible and versatile to any conditions,” Schiergen said Thursday. “She’ll have no problems with the ground and she’s the same weight as last time.”

Danedream drew post 13 in the Japan Cup and is one of four foreign runners in the 16-horse field. Arc runner-up Shareta is the only other 3-year-old filly in the field. Sarah Lynx won the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine against males Oct. 16. Mission Approved, the lone American-based runner, won the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park in June, but is winless in his last three starts.

Sarah Lynx, a 4-year-old filly, earned a trip to Japan after the Canadian International, her first win in a Grade 1 race. Her France-based trainer, John Hammond, is hoping that the filly’s patient style will be an asset in a crowded field.

“She’ll handle the distance well,” Hammond said. “She relaxes and she has good acceleration, and that’s good to have.”

Shareta is yet to win a Group 1 race, but is a changing filly as she approaches her ninth career start, according to Jean-Michel Roux, an assistant to trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre.

“Before the Arc, Shareta had been a little tense,” he said. “This time, she is relaxed and in good condition.”

Mission Approved, fourth in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, has made a remarkable career transition, having been claimed for $35,000 in June 2010 by brothers Terikchand and Naipual Chatterpaul. Naipaul trains and gallops Mission Approved, a 7-year-old New York-bred.

For much of his career, Mission Approved has set the pace, but Naipaul Chatterpaul said the horse is not committed to that style.

“I’ll play it by ear,” he said Thursday. “There are a few others that have speed. I can sit off of it and make a nice run. I think he should run a great race. I think he’s fit enough, and he’s showed me he’s feeling good.”

If one of those four win, they would become the first foreign-based runner to succeed since the British-trained Alkaased in 2005. There is a formidable team of Japanese-based runners who can easily keep the trophy.

The first five finishers of the 2010 Japan Cup are part of the field – Rose Kingdom, Buena Vista, Victoire Pisa, Jaguar Mail, and Pelusa. Victoire Pisa won the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March, but has not started since that race.

On Wednesday, Victoire Pisa worked six furlongs in 1:22.50, including the last furlong in 12.60 seconds, over a woodchip course at a training center.

“He is in good condition, that is something I am confident of,” trainer Katsuhiko Sumii said. “I can feel that he is now completely in race mode, and I think we have him at his peak.”

The other four horses who finished in the top five in the 2010 Japan Cup have managed just one win among them this year. Rose Kingdom won a Group 2 in Kyoto last month, although Pelusa was a fast-closing third behind Japan Cup entrant Tosen Jordan in the Group 1 Tenno Sho Autumn Stakes on Oct. 30 and is well regarded among local observers.

The 3-year-old colt Win Variation, second in the Japanese Derby and Japanese St. Leger this year, also is well respected. The other Japan-based runners are 2010 Japanese Derby winner Eishin Flash, the 2011 group stakes winners King Top Gun, To the Glory, and Trailblazer, and the group stakes-placed Oken Bruce Lee.

As for Danedream, Starke said little can be learned from her recent training. She is not the sort to pour considerable effort into works or daily exercise.

“She does what she needs to do,” he said. “She never gives a great feel that she’s a superstar.”

Her performances in races are different.

“She’s not a big horse, but the way she moves is great, very smooth,” Starke said. “The key is the way she gallops, and to let her run in the straight. For each stride of galloping, she catches up with the other horses.”

It worked in the Arc. If it works Sunday, Starke will be known as the rider of one of the great 3-year-old fillies.

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