By Jon Lees
Japan: Superstar mare Almond Eye will have the final start of her record-breaking career in the Japan Cup, a race which will produce a monstrous clash with the unbeaten Triple Crown winners Contrail and Daring Tact.
The five-year-old, who won the Japan Cup two years ago, broke the record for the most G1 wins in Japan when she clinched the Tenno Sho (Autumn), her eighth victory at the highest level.
She had been given a nomination for the Hong Kong International races but connections have chosen to keep her at home for what will be an extraordinarily deep renewal of the all-aged showpiece.
Announcing the decision Masashi Yonemoto, president of the mare’s owners Silk Racing, said, “As we approached this autumn, we talked with Master Kunieda [trainer] and set the big goal for the Tenno Sho (Autumn).
He added: “Considering the conditions and the situation overseas, I decided that the Japan Cup was the last one.”
The Japan Cup, run in Tokyo on November 29, could feature as many as nine individual G1 winners, with Prix Ganay winner Way To Paris providing international competition.
But the build-up will be dominated by Almond Eye, Contrail, the number one horse in the world in the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary’s Global Rankings, and Daring Tact.
Contrail became only the third undefeated horse to win the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas), Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) and Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger), while the also unbeaten Daring Tact won the fillies’ equivalent, the Triple Tiara, of the Oka Sho, Yushun Himba and Shuka Sho. It will be the first meeting between male and female Triple Crown winners.
Almond Eye’s jockey Christophe Lemaire gave his reaction to the announcement in an interview with Black Type magazine.
He said: “It will be emotional. My way of life for the last three years has been based on Almond Eye’s schedule.”
Lemaire came close to denying Contrail an historic Triple Crown in last month’s Kikuka Sho. Riding Aristoteles the pair finished just a neck behind in second.
Of the clash with Contrail, he added: “We don’t yet know his limits because most of the time he was won with some margin.
“I still believe Almond Eye can beat him but it’s going to be some match. It’s definitely the race of the decade. This year is very exceptional. Having these three horses in the same race is something we may never see again.
“It’s the race that everybody has to watch.”
Japan Cup betting (William Hill): Evens Contrail, 2 Almond Eye, 6 Daring Tact, 16 Glory Vase, 20 Current Bouquetd’or, Saturnalia, 25 Kiseki, World Premier, 33 bar