In the 17-year history of the race formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt, only Transcend (2010-11) has managed to repeat. Sound True will try to join him in Sunday’s renewal of the contest subsequently dubbed the Champions Cup (G1).
Transcend’s back-to-back scores came during the race’s stint at Hanshin. The other two-time winner, Kane Hekili (2005 and 2008), captured his first under the race’s original conditions at left-handed Tokyo, and his remarkable follow-up three years later came in its debut at right-handed Hanshin.
Rebranded as the Champions Cup in 2014, the about nine-furlong test was transferred to its new home of Chukyo. Although also a left-turning circuit, Chukyo is unlike Tokyo in that the stretch is much shorter (410 meters compared to 501 meters on the Tokyo dirt).
As a deep closer, Sound True ran out of ground in his first crack at the Champions Cup in 2015, rallying from last to grab third. Last year, the Noboru Takagi veteran got up in the nick of time to deny Awardee by a neck and secure year-end honors as Japan’s champion dirt horse. Sound True went on to lose his next five, but returned to the winner’s circle in the JBC Classic in his latest on November 3. Regular rider Takuya Ono will guide the seven-year-old son of French Deputy from post 14.
The respective second through fifth in the about 1 1/4-mile JBC Classic are back to tackle Sound True again on the cutback. Runner-up K T Brave had beaten Sound True earlier this season when landing the Teio Sho; third-placer Mitsuba scored a pair of listed wins in the spring and summer; familiar foe Awardee, an older half-brother to recently retired Lani, was fourth; and fifth Glanzend, winless since taking the Tokai TV Hai Tokai (G3) over the Champions Cup track and trick in January, gets an eye-popping jockey change to Hugh Bowman. Famous for his partnership with Winx, Bowman just clinched the Longines World’s Best Jockey title by lifting Cheval Grand to an upset victory in last Sunday’s Japan Cup (G1). Also exiting the JBC Classic is Apollo Kentucky. Although only eighth that day, the feast-or-famine type defeated Sound True in last December’s Tokyo Daishoten (G1) as well as in the September 27 Nippon TV Hai two starts back.
Up-and-coming London Town, a four-year-old son of the aforementioned Kane Hekili, is taking a different route. Hero of the Elm over streaking T M Jinsoku in record time at Sapporo in August, London Town next wired the $885,000 Korea Cup. He authoritatively dethroned compatriot Chrysolite, and it was a mile back to third.
T M Jinsoku, by 2001 Japan Cup Dirt star Kurofune, has won four of his past five. Since his half-length loss to London Town at Sapporo, he bounced back in the November 5 Miyako (G3) at Kyoto. Miyako third King’s Guard, previously victorious in the about seven-furlong Procyon (G3) at this track, and Miyako also-rans Molto Bene (fifth) and Rose Princedom (seventh) re-oppose. They too are Grade 3 winners, with Molto Bene besting London Town in Hanshin’s Antares (G3) back in April and Rose Princedom, the lone sophomore in the field, earning his signature win in the Leopard (G3) at Niigata.
Nonkono Yume, the 2015 Champions Cup runner-up and sixth a year ago, is entitled to improve off his comeback fourth in the Musashino (G3). Kafuji Take, fifth in the same prep, lures Christophe Lemaire into the saddle, while Meisho Sumitomo just stunned the Sirius (G3) at odds of 73-1.
Reigning February S. (G1) winner Gold Dream has fallen off form since trying the Dubai World Cup (G1), where he trailed home a long-way last behind Arrogate and Gun Runner. Most recently fifth to Copano Rickey in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai on October 9, Gold Dream picks up ace rider Ryan Moore in hopes of recovering his spark.
Copano Rickey, the Japanese champion dirt horse of 2015, has disappointed in all three of his attempts at the Champions Cup. Hence his fine current form, exemplified by a near-miss second in the JBC Sprint in his tune-up, may not translate on Sunday.