By Nicholas Godfrey
Ireland: A possible reason for the below-par display from Japan in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes has emerged with news that the Ballydoyle four-year-old has a stone bruise after finishing last of three in the Ascot showpiece.
Quietly fancied to dethrone Enable in Saturday’s race, last year’s Juddmonte International winner was off the bridle early in the straight and eventually finished more than 16 lengths behind the history-making mare.
Japan was even 11 lengths adrift of his own stablemate Sovereign, who plugged on for second place, and has now failed to win in any of his three starts as a four-year-old.
“Japan came back from the King George a little bit sore, and he had a bad stone bruise the following day, so maybe he was feeling that on the fast ground,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien.
“Often those kind of things are there and you don’t know – they take a bit of time to come out – but he was very sore the next day and maybe that’s the reason for his disappointing run.”
O’Brien was speaking after winning the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood with Japan’s full brother Mogul, who is 5-1 (from 16) for the St Leger with Coral after claiming the G3 contest by three-quarters of a length over Highland Chief.
However, the son of Galileo is more likely to join Derby-winning stablemate Serpentine in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp on September 13. Japan won the G1 race in 2019.
“We still think there is more to come from him,” said O’Brien. “We were thinking of going to the Grand Prix de Paris with him next, maybe. That was the plan if everything went well today. We just said that was a race that would suit him – if they are all well, they will all run,” said O’Brien.
“We always thought he was a lovely horse and we always thought he was a horse that was going to suit the Derby, but we thought he would take a couple of runs to get him there.
“Santiago is our St Leger horse, I think, and obviously there are other horses there,” O’Brien added. “We have horses going to York and that and we will see when we get a little bit closer. We weren’t really sure about this horse at a mile and a half, but he toughed it out and it looks like he got it today.”
Gordon Stakes runner-up Highland Chief is likely to run in the Great Voltigeur at the York Ebor meeting, while the St Leger remains a possibility for disappointing favourite English King.
Fifth in the Derby – one place ahead of Mogul – he was only fourth of six and never seen with a proper chance at Goodwood.
“He came off the bridle too early and he was staying on at the end,” reported Frankie Dettori. “We are toying with the idea of the St Leger.”
St Leger betting (Coral): 9-4 Santiago, 10-3 Serpentine, 5 (from 16) Mogul, 7 Al Aasy, 8 Tiger Moth, 10 Dawn Patrol, English King, Khalifa Sat, 12 Military March, Russian Emperor, 16 bar.