Contrail signs off with a strong Japan Cup victory

Odds-on favourite Contrail romped to a two-length victory claiming this year’s Japan Cup and fifth G1 triumph in his career-finale performance at Tokyo on Sunday. 

After claiming the 2019 Hopeful Stakes (2,000m) as a two-year-old, the Deep Impact colt went on to sweep the Triple Crown—the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, 2,000m), the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, 2,400m) and the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, 3,000m) and, with the Japan Cup victory, is now tenth on the JRA list of career earnings with a total of JPY 1,195,294,000. 

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi is now the proud owner of 14 JRA-G1 wins—his latest victory was with the colt in last season’s Kikuka Sho—while jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, following his recent Sprinters Stakes victory with Pixie Knight in October, has collected a total of 32 JRA-G1 wins.

Breaking well from the second most inner stall, Contrail was settled under Fukunaga in mid-pack and two-wide, while Kiseki made rapid headway in the backstretch from the rear, taking over the front at the third corner, extending his lead by six to seven lengths. By the time the field hit the top of the straight, the brown colt had shifted to the outside with clear running room in front of him and displayed his trademark explosive kick, shaking off Shahryar after a brief rally at the furlong pole then turned up an extra gear to easily put away Authority 100 meters out for a convincing two-length win.

“All I have now is mixed feelings of relief and lonesomeness. In the colt’s latest start (Tenno Sho (Autumn)), he broke poorly so I told him, while he was walking in the paddock earlier, to stay calm at the start. It worried me a bit since the pace was slow and he wasn’t in that good a position, but we had tuned him up to perfection and the colt gave us all he had in the straight. I have to admit I was under a lot of pressure during the two years he was at my stable, but I think it has helped me in becoming more mature, and I can’t thank him enough. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to win the Arc with an offspring of his someday?”, commented trainer Yoshito Yahagi.

“The colt had issues before his debut, so there were always concerns about his form, but I am so proud of how he proved himself today—I’m overwhelmed. All I did today was believe in him. He broke well and everything went just perfectly. He has given me every jockey’s dream and I am utterly grateful. The colt shone a bright light over a gloomy year due to the pandemic last season. I’m relieved that we can send him off to his next career with this victory,” commented jockey Yuichi Fukunaga after the race.

Posted third favorite, four-year-old Authority sat in fourth behind Shadow Diva, turned wide into the lane while passing Wagnerian and ran strongly, inheriting the lead from the tired pacesetter 300 meters out, but was gunned down in the last half furlong by the eventual winner for second.

Second favored three-year-old colt Shahryar ran in fifth down the backstretch, entered the straight right behind Authority and in front of Contrail, ran willingly up the hill but was checked when rallying with the closing winner and had nothing left to tag the runner-up, finishing 1-1/2-lengths behind Authority in third.

French raider Grand Glory was the top finisher among the three foreign contingents. Unhurried after the break, the Olympic Glory mare saved ground along the rails in mid-division in ninth or tenth position.

Angling out off the rails coming into the final turn, Grand Glory exerted an impressive turn of speed going up the long uphill stretch and geared up further from the 200-meter marker to make ground and finish fifth, five-lengths from the winner. 

“I am very satisfied with her performance and her result at fifth-place. She appeared to lose a bit of balance and lean to the inside but thankfully Cristian got her back on her feet by the stretch. She’s mentally very strong and the experience to run in the Japan Cup was fantastic for us. It’s a great race and we would love to come back with another horse,” commented trainer Gianluca Bietolini.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better result—having finished fifth in this competition is almost like winning for us. She was in super form, almost as good as when I rode her in the Prix Jean Romanet—which we won. The pace was very fast for this mare, but she handled it remarkably,” commented Cristian Demuro.

Japan broke sharply from an outside stall but was eased back to mid-field, choosing to move to the inside to save ground behind Grand Glory. Angled out at early stretch for a clear run, the Galileo horse attempted to make his bid with the eventual winner in view but was unable to cause a serious threat but held on for eighth.

“The track may have been a bit too fast for this horse. He was able to secure a good spot but wasn’t able to keep up with the pace,” commented Patrick Keating.

Broome was slow out of the gate and gradually worked his way up to mid-division along the backstretch outside Grand Glory, but struggled to find another gear with 400 meters to go and even paced to finish 11th.

“He missed his break and that cost him,” said Patrick Keating. “He missed his break. The pace was slow but he wasn’t able to pick up speed in the end,” added Ryan Moore. 

The 41st Japan Cup (G1) in association with LONGINES – Japan Autumn International –
3-year-olds & up, 2,400 meters (about 12 furlongs), turf, left-handed
Sunday, November 28, 2021 Tokyo Racecourse 12th Race Post Time: 15:40
Total prize money: ¥ 648,000,000 (about US$ 6,172,000 <US$1=¥105>)
3-y-o: 55 kg (about 121 lbs), 4-y-o & up: 57 kg (about 126 lbs)
2 kg allowance for Fillies & Mares, 2 kg allowance for Southern Hemisphere-bred born in 2018
Course Record: 2:20.6 Race Record: 2:20.6 [Almond Eye (JPN), 2018]
Safety factor: 18 runners Going: Good to Firm Weather: Fine 

FP BK PP Horse Jockey S&A Color Wgt Odds (Fav) Margin (L3F) Sire Dam (Dam’s Sire) Owner Breeder Trainer

1 1 2 Contrail (JPN) Yuichi Fukunaga C4 br. 57.0 1.6 (1) 2:24.7 (33.7) Deep Impact Rhodochrosite (Unbridled's Song) Shinji Maeda North Hills Co,. Ltd. Yoshito Yahagi

2 4 7 Authority (JPN) Christophe Lemaire C4 b. 57.0 7.1 (3) 2 (34.4) Orfevre Rosalind (Symboli Kris S) Silk Racing Co., Ltd. Northern Farm Tetsuya Kimura

3 2 4 Shahryar (JPN) C3 3.7 1-1/2 Deep Impact Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.  Yuga Kawada d.b. 55.0 (2) (34.4) Dubai Majesty (Essence of Dubai) Northern Farm Hideaki Fujiwara

Other Horses:
4th: (12) Sanrei Pocket—sat in front of winner, angled out, showed effort although unable to threaten top
finishers while besting the rest
6th: (14) Uberleben—raced near winner, struggled to find clear path at early stretch, showed 2nd fastest late
speed, belatedly
7th: (11) Shadow Diva—chased leaders in third, remained in contention until 100m out, weakened
9th: (9) Aristoteles—disputed lead and made pace, opening gap to 4 to 5 lengths, gave way to Kiseki while
keeping second position, unable to sustain bid and overtaken
10th: (5) Kiseki—held back after break, headway along backstretch, led rounding 3rd corner and pulled away
to open gap to 6 lengths, soon used up and outrun by foes at furlong pole
12th: (16) You Can Smile—further back than mid-division early, weakened after uphill stretch
13th: (13) Mozu Bello—near rear, raced wide throughout and unable to make up ground
14h: (15) Makahiki—raced second from last, unable to reach contention
15h: (10) Lord My Way—broke a fraction slow and raced behind, unable to make ground from wide turn
16th: (1) Muito Obrigado—trailed in rear, never a factor
17th: (8) Windjammer—mid-division early, even paced and outrun in last furlong
18h: (17) Wagnerian—broke sharply and tracked leader in 2nd, tired and faded
Fractional time (sec./furlong): 12.7 - 11.5 - 12.8 - 12.6 - 12.6 - 12.3 - 11.6 - 11.6 - 11.7 - 11.6 - 11.5 - 12.2
 Last 4 furlongs: 47.0 Last 3 furlongs: 35.3