The Group 1 $3,000,000 Japan Cup Dirt on Saturday, November 30 will draw the curtain on the Japan Autumn International meeting with American-bred Pants on Fire the lone guest for the 1,800 meter contest at Hanshin Racecourse. Pants on Fire will be the first American shipper to participate in the race since Tizway in 2009.
On Japanese homebred front, this year’s Japan Cup Dirt will pit the defending champion, Nihonpiro Ours, against Grape Brandy – winner of the JRA’s other Grade 1 dirt race, the February Stakes. But both horses are still trying to recapture their form, having been sidelined by injuries. The 6-year-old Nihonpiro Ours hasn’t raced since the Teio Sho in June, and the 5-year-old Grape Brandy flopped to 10th in the 1,800-meter Miyako Stakes at Kyoto earlier this month, won by the 4-year-old Brightline who will also be throwing his hat into the ring here.
Wonder Acute has been runner-up in the Japan Cup Dirt the last two years and a model of consistency this season, not having missed third place in five starts, the last three of which he’s run under the race’s four-time winner Yutaka Take.
Post time for the Japan Cup Dirt is 3:40 p.m. It will be the 11th race on the card.
World Super Jockeys Series
Hall of Famer Gary Stevens will compete in the World Super Jockeys Series, a two-day contest held at Hanshin Racecourse November 30-December 1. Inaugurated by the Japan Racing Association in 1987, the competition pits top riders from Europe, North America, Asia and the Antipodes.
Stevens will be making his fourth career appearance in the World Super Jockeys Series, but his first since 1998, when he turned in his best finish in a tie for fifth. After emerging from a seven-year stint in retirement in early 2013, the 50-year-old has taken the racing world by storm. His storybook comeback has been highlighted by his Preakness victory aboard Oxbow and a pair of Breeders’ Cup wins, turning the Distaff/Classic double with Beholder and Mucho Macho Man. Stevens will take in this contest before heading to Hong Kong for its International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley December 4.
Representing Europe are Richard Hughes and Ryan Moore of the United Kingdom, Irishman Pat Smullen, Germany’s Andrasch Starke and young Frenchman Maxime Guyon. Australia’s Craig Williams and Hong Kong’s Douglas Whyte complete the visiting team.
Japan’s representatives are Yuichi Fukunaga, Suguru Hamanaka, Yasunari Iwata and Yuga Kawada of the JRA’s Ritto Training Center; Keita Tosaki and Hiroyuki Uchida of the JRA’s Miho Training Center; and the NAR’s Shoichi Kawahara, the oldest of the competitors at age 54, who won his only prior appearance in the World Super Jockeys Series in 1997.
Four other past winners are also seeking to regain the World Super Jockeys Series title — Whyte (in a tie in 2004), Iwata (2005), Williams (2007) and Moore (2010).
The contest comprises two allowance races each day, for a total of four scoring opportunities. The opener on November 30 is the Golden Saddle Trophy, an about seven-furlong turf affair, followed by the Golden Bridle Trophy, the series’ only dirt race, at about nine furlongs. The December 1 events are the Golden Boots Trophy, at about 10 grassy furlongs, and the Golden Whip Trophy at a metric mile, both on the Japan Cup Dirt undercard.
Mounts will be determined by a random draw on November 27.
Additional information on scoring, the jockeys’ biographies and past results are available here.