By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: Doubts may surround Britain’s summer programme owing to the worldwide coronavirus crisis but connections of top Japanese sprinter Tower Of London are still working on the premise that a trip to the UK may be in the offing.
With racing continuing behind closed doors in Japan,Godolphin’s five-year-old is set to run on Sunday in the 50th running Takamatsunomiya Kinen over 6f, the first turf G1 of the Japan Racing Association (JRA) season at Chukyo.
An overseas campaign has long been mooted for Tower Of London, with the Breeders’ Cup mentioned in dispatches last year, and according to the latest JRA newsletter, Royal Ascot and/or the July Cup may well feature on his schedule later in 2020.
First, though, comes the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, where the son of Raven’s Pass will be reopposed by Mozu Superflare and Danon Smash, the two horses who finished immediately behind him when he won the G1 Sprinters Stakes, Japan’s top race for the division, in September at Nakayama.
Also set to line up in the 281 million yen ($2.6m) contest is Tower Of London’s Kazuo Fujisawa-trained stablemate Gran Alegria, last year’s top three-year-old filly who lowered Almond Eye’s stakes record time when winning the Oka Sho.
British bookmakers Coral have started betting on the race, with Tower Of London a 3-1 chance behind 9-4 favourite Danon Smash.
Tower Of London needs to bounce back after finishing only third on his seasonal debut behind the impressive Danon Smash in a G3 event on March 7.
Godolphin Japan president Harry Sweeney said he was “disappointed” with that effort. “I was concerned before the race about his draw in stall one and having to concede 2kg to Danon Smash but in truth our horse was comprehensively beaten,” he said.
“He didn’t have an absolutely clear run home and the track surface was somewhat loose but, all that being said, Danon Smash was absolutely imperious.”
Speaking on godolphin.com, Sweeney added: “However, I felt very similar after Tower Of London’s first race last year, when he was beaten into fifth in a G3. He rallied on his next start to win a G2 in a new record time en route to a stellar year.”
Meanwhile, the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup meeting will entail a drastic change of plans for a host of the nation’s top performers, among them superstar mare Almond Eye and top dirt horse Chrysoberyl, who were among those denied a run when they world’s richest raceday was called off six days before the event.
However, plans are also changing for at least one major name at home, where racing continues behind closed doors, as long-range Arc contender Saturnalia – so impressive on his return in the G2 Kinko Sho – will bypass Hanshin’s Osaka Hai in favour of the Takarazuka Kinen at the same venue on June 28.
Not that the Osaka Hai on April 5 is likely to be short of high-profile runners, however. Among those set to clash are a pair of Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winners in Wagnerian and Makahiki, plus last year’s Derby runner-up Danon Kingly and G1-winning trio Blast Onepiece Chrono Genesis and Lucky Lilac.
Coronavirus has also disrupted Japanese running plans at The Championships in Sydney, where Danon Premium in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 11 is likely to be the nation’s sole representative.
Mozu Ascot, who had been an intended runner in the Doncaster Mile, is now set to run in either the Takamatsunomiya Kinen over 1,200 metres (6f) at Chukyo on March 29 or visit Hong Kong for the Champions Mile at Sha Tin.
Jump racing rarely features high on the agenda in the Far East but Oju Chosan will surely gain his share of headlines if he wins his fifth successiveNakayama Grand Jump on April 18. Though he has been beaten on the Flat, his winning streak in steeplechases now stands at 12 after his victory in the Hanshin Spring Jump earlier this month.
Japan’s Classic season begins with the Oka Sho (1,000 Guineas) at Hanshin on April 12 followed a week later by the Satsuki Sho (2,000 Guineas) at Nakayama.
Takamatsunomiya Kinen betting
Coral: 9-4 Danon Smash, 3 Tower Of London, 4 Gran Alegria, 8 Mozu Ascot, 10 Nac Venus, 12 Diatonic, 16 I Love Tailor, Normcore, 20 A Will A Way, 25 bar.