Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup Preview
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The 35th Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup on Nov. 14 at Kyoto Racecourse traces its origin to the Victoria Cup, which was set up in 1970 as the final leg of the fillies’ Triple Crown at 2,400 meters. The race was given its current name following Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Japan in 1975.
The Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup was shortened to 2,200 meters in 1996 and was opened up to all female horses over the age of three. It has since become the stage where the cream of the 3-year-old crop take on the older horses for the first time in a Grade 1 race, with the Shuka Sho (2,000 meters, Kyoto) replacing the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup as the third race of the "Triple Tiara."
The Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup allowed a maximum of five foreign horses in 1999, but the overseas allotment was increased to nine in 2007, when Japan was promoted to a Part I Country of the International Cataloguing Standards.
The Japan Racing Association is expecting two guests this year: reigning English and Irish Oaks champion Snow Fairy and the 4-year-old Ave, winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational in New York. Both fillies qualify for a winning bonus of 90 million yen in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, 36 million yen for finishing second, 22.5 million yen for third.
The Intikhab-bred Snow Fairy has four wins and a pair of second-place finishes from 11 starts, and is coming off a fourth-place outing in the punishing 2,920-meter St. Leger’s at Doncaster on Sept. 11. The wins in the English and Irish Oaks made Snow Fairy the top 3-year-old filly in all of Europe. And following the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, the Snow Fairy team is targeting the Japan Cup on Nov. 28 at Tokyo for the Edward Dunlop-trained filly, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore – the jockey of Workforce, winner of this year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Epsom Derby.
Ave held off last year’s Shuka Sho champion Red Desire, who was also third in the Japan Cup, to capture the Flower Bowl Invitational by a length on Oct. 2 at Belmont Park. Based in Europe at Sir Michael Stoute’s stable for her first nine starts, Ave, by Danehill Dancer, crossed the Atlantic to Canada where she has been based since under the auspices of trainer Roger Attfield. The victory in the Flower Bowl Invitational was Ave’s first in North America in five starts.
The Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup is also the opening act of the Japan Autumn International, a series just three years into its existence featuring four Grade 1 races in as many weekends – with total prize money of more than 1.2 billion yen. Following the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup in the Japan Autumn International is the Mile Championship (1,600 meters, Kyoto), the Japan Cup (2,400 meters, Tokyo) and the Japan Cup Dirt (1,800 meters, Hanshin).
The barriers are set on the home stretch along the outer oval at Kyoto, which runs for 400 meters ahead of the first turn. The course gradually rises for four meters from the 1,200-meter post to the 800-meter post before descending into the final bend. From there to the wire is another 300 meters.
Weights are set at 54 kilograms for 3-year-olds, 56 kg for 4-year-olds and above. The first place prize money is 90 million yen, and the maximum number of starters is 18. The race record is held by To the Victory, who cut a time of 2 minutes, 11.2 seconds nine years ago.