IN a distinct case of déjà vu, the Japan Cup once again proved to be a final feather in the cap of a Japanese racing royal.
Twelve months ago, Almond Eye bowed out in arguably the best performance of her career. In a strikingly similar fashion, Contrail exuded class to etch his own name into the history books as a Japan Cup winner, to add to his three-year-old Triple Crown.
Jumping smartly from stall two, Yuichi Fukunaga settled Contrail to race firmly in the midfield of the 18 runners. Initially a slowly-run affair, Kiseki seized the initiative and surged to the front providing a much-needed injection of pace.
Entering Tokyo’s long home straight, Fukunaga manoeuvred Contrail wide off the final bend to give the odds-on favourite a clear view to the winning post.
Showing his trademark turn of foot that served him so well in a Triple Crown-winning classic campaign, he moved effortlessly forward.
Despite a brief challenge from Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) hero Shahryar, Fukunaga pushed his willing partner to take the lead entering the final 200 metres. The four-year-old powered clear to pass the line a two-length winner.
The always-prominent Authority finished second while Shahryar weakened to finish in third, a further length and a half in arrears.
To conclude the days Japan Cup festivities, Contrail was paraded in front of fans as part of his retirement ceremony. The crowd quickly broke into applause as his trainer, 60-year-old Yoshito Yahagi donning his finest suit, was given the leg-up on to his stable star. The pair completed the colt’s final circuit of Tokyo’s parade ring.
Contrail retires as a select group of horses that have won five JRA Group 1 races. He is an eight-time winner from his 11 starts amassing earnings in excess of €9 million in the process.
He has been retired to stand at Japan’s premier stallion station owned by Shadai based on Japan’s northern-most island of Hokkaido.
Commanding a fee of €95,000, he is not only the hottest stallion prospect in Japan but possibly the most exciting colt to retire to stud anywhere in the world this year.
Contrail was on somewhat of a mission of redemption after two distinctly disappointing starts and a winless 2021. The lightly raced colt lost his unbeaten record when finishing narrowly behind Almond Eye in last year’s Japan Cup.
The April-born son of Deep Impact is the third produce out of the 11-year-old Unbridled Song mare Rhodochrostie.
She was placed four times in the JRA from seven starts on both turf and dirt and had been purchased as a yearling from Keeneland’s September Sale in 2011 for $385,000 by Koji Maeda.
Maeda’s North Hills farm operation has enjoyed a quite spectacular few years on the track. The familiar red and blue silks were also carried to classic triumph by another Deep Impact colt, Kizuna.
In his short career at stud so far, Kizuna is proving himself as one of the most prolific sources of winners for Japanese breeders. Akai Ito captured a first Group 1 for Kizuna as a sire in the Queen Elizabeth Cup in November.
In Japanese racing circles it’s expected that a sound top-level horse will race until the end of their five-year-old season. In Contrail’s case, Yahagi has raised fears over the soundness of the horse. In addition, the obvious next race for a horse of his class is the year ending Arima Kinen in Nakayama. However, Contrail’s trainer has been resolute in that the tight Nakayama course is not suitable for the colt.
Yahagi is enjoying a quite spectacular season both domestically and overseas. The Ritto-based trainer is currently second in the overall JRA trainer’s rankings but with a far superior earnings tally. He trails Mitsumasa Nakauchida by just two wins.
Of the foreign-trained contingent, Grand Glory belied her large odds by staying on well to finish fifth. The French-trained mare earned €230,000 for her Japanese exploits, substantially more than for her Group 1 win in the Prix Jean Romanet.
The Aidan O’Brien duo of Japan and Broome finished in eighth and 11th respectively.
In a post-race examination, Broome, who missed the break badly, was found to have suffered a splint bone fracture.