07/29/2010 10:11AM

Top Japanese runners pointing for Breeders' Cup races


Japan is planning a concerted assault on many of the world’s best races this fall. The Japanese Racing Association confirmed on Thursday that the country’s best dirt horse, Espoir City, has his sights set on the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while Red Desire, the winner of Round 2 of the Maktoum Challenge against males in Dubai, is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Victoire Pisa winner of the 1.15-mile Japanese 2000 Guineas, and Takarazuka Kinen winner Nakayama Festa will soon be traveling to France to prepare for a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, while Jaguar Mail and Meiner Kitz, the first two finishers in the two-mile Spring Tenno Sho in May, are headed to Australia for the Melbourne Cup over the same distance.

Trained by Akio Adachi, the 5-year-old Espoir City won for the sixth time in a row at Funabashi Racecourse near Tokyo on June 30 in the $1 million Kashiwa Kinen going a mile on dirt. Espoir City clinched Japanese champion dirt horse honors in 2009 with a 3.5-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo when he beat the James Bond-trained Tizway into twelfth place.

Espoir City is the Japanese version of Cigar. One-for-seven on turf early in his career, he is 10-for-12 since being switched to dirt, on which surface he has earned $5.7 million. A son of the Sunday Silence stallion Gold Allure, he has done most of his racing on Japan’s all-dirt National Association of Racing circuit. He is expected to prep for the Classic at Morioka in the October 10 Mile Champion Nambu Hai, a race he won last year by four lengths, and then travel to Churchill Downs three weeks before the Breeders’ Cup.

Second last year in both the Japanese 1000 Guineas and the Japanese Oaks, the Mikio Matsunaga-trained Red Desire won the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Shuka Sho last fall before finishing third in Vodka’s Japan Cup. She is expected to arrive at Belmont Park on Sept. 15 for a Breeders’ Cup trial in the Flower Bowl Invitational on Oct. 2.

The Japanese came close to winning the Arc when El Condor Pasa was second in 1999 and again in 2006 when Deep Impact was third, before being disqualified for a drug positive. Victoire Pisa had his five-race winning streak ended when he was two lengths third as the 11-10 favorite in the Japanese Derby, while Nakayama Festa upset Buena Vista in the 1 3/8-mile Takarazuka Kinen on June 27. Both will fly to France in mid-August for Arc preps at Longchamp on Sept. 12, with Victoire Pisa slated for the Prix Niel and Nakayama Festa in the Prix Foy.

The Japanese stunned their Australian hosts in 2006 when Delta Blues and Pop Rock finished first and second in the Melbourne Cup. Japanese horses have since been banned from running in Australia due to quarantine restrictions, but those are expected to be lifted in time for Jaguar Mail and Meiner Kitz to make the trip to Flemington.