Breeders’ Cup International Scouting Report: Japanese contingent

October 31st, 2023

Nine horses based in Japan are entered across seven races at the 2023 Breeders’ Cup. They hope to build on the success of Japan’s first two Breeders’ Cup wins in 2021.

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Let’s take a race-by-race look at the Breeders' Cup Japanese raiders and analyze their chances:

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)

#5 Ecoro Neo (30-1)

Ecoro Neo enters the Juvenile off a hard-charging runner-up effort in a dirt sprint at Hanshin. He finished by far the fastest of anyone that day, but benefited from a decelerating pace and will need improvement to challenge against a deep Juvenile field.

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)

#5 Win Marilyn (20-1)

Win Marilyn was in strong form at the end of 2022, finishing second in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) before shipping to Hong Kong to beat males in the Hong Kong Vase (G1). She hasn’t finished better than sixth in a trio of starts against males this season, but has a chance to rebound against fellow fillies and mares. Win Marilyn’s best race would factor here, so she’s a longshot worth playing at 20-1.

Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1)

#6 Meikei Yell (15-1)

Through the years, Meikei Yell has won half a dozen group stakes over a variety of distances. But she’s yet to crack the trifecta in nine Group 1 starts, so the caliber of competition in the Filly & Mare Sprint is a potential stumbling block.

On the bright side, Meikei Yell was only beaten two lengths when fifth in the prestigious Sprinters (G1) off a four-month layoff on Oct. 1. She’s bred for turf and has yet to compete on dirt, but if Meikei Yell handles the surface switch at Santa Anita, a competitive showing isn’t out of the question.

Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)

#10 Songline (5-2)

The morning line favorite for the Mile is Songline, a two-time winner of Japan’s prestigious Yasuda Kinen (G1) racing 1,600 meters (about one mile). In the 2023 edition, she ran the final 300 meters (about three furlongs) in a stellar :33.1 to rally from off the pace and prevail by 1 1/4 lengths in the blazing time of 1:31.4.

Songline routinely sprints her final 300 meters in less than :34 (occasionally less than :33) and prepped for the Mile with a head defeat in the Mainichi Okan (G2), her first start off a four-month layoff. A fast-paced American mile should suit Songline just fine, considering she showed enough speed to beat the talented American sprinter/miler Casa Creed in last year’s 1351 Turf Sprint Cup (G3) traveling about 6 1/2 furlongs in Saudi Arabia. There are many viable win threats in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but Songline looms as a compelling favorite.

#4 Win Carnelian (30-1)

Win Carnelian has won a couple of Group 3s over 1,600 meters, but finished behind Songline when eighth in the Yasuda Kinen and fifth in the Mainichi Okan. He’ll need improvement to turn the tables.

Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1)

#1 Shahryar (15-1)

Shahryar is a great fit for the Breeders’ Cup Turf on his best day. Major wins over 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) include the 2021 Tokyo Yushun (G1, Japanese Derby) and 2022 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). In the latter race, he beat reigning Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir.

Shahryar hasn’t factored in two starts this season, but surgery to correct a breathing issue opens the door for a big rebound. He loves firm turf and the Breeders’ Cup Turf distance, so victory isn’t out of the question.

Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1)

#8 Ushba Tesoro (4-1)

Triumphant in six consecutive dirt races, including the rich Dubai World Cup (G1) back in March, Ushba Tesoro enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic in red-hot form.

Still, there are questions for the stretch-running six-year-old to answer. The Dubai World Cup wasn’t the fastest race on paper, and the form wasn’t flattered when runner-up Algiers returned to finish second in the Durham Cup (G3). Ushba Tesoro is facing stronger competition in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and may need a career-best performance to challenge for top honors, though a piece of the purse is surely within reach.

#5 Derma Sotogake (20-1)

Arguably the more intriguing Japanese contender in the Classic is three-year-old Derma Sotogake. When he dominated the UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup night by 5 1/2 lengths, his fast winning time suggested he would have beaten Ushba Tesoro in the Dubai World Cup.

Derma Sotogake has only run once since then, rallying to finish sixth with a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He missed a scheduled prep run and enters the Classic off a long layoff, but getting 20-1 on a young horse who has already demonstrated the ability to run faster than Ushba Tesoro is enticing.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1)

#11 Jasper Krone (12-1)

Jasper Krone has won four times this year, most notably wiring the CBC Sho (G3) and Kitakyushu Kinen (G3) sprinting 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) on turf. These victories preceded a start in the Sprinters (G1), in which Jasper Krone set the pace before weakening late to finish fourth by two lengths.

Jasper Krone loves firm turf, boasts excellent early speed, and may appreciate cutting back to five furlongs at the Breeders’ Cup. Don’t underestimate his chances.