Japan out to continue Aidan O’Brien’s US winning streak in Sword Dancer at Saratoga

Horse Racing Japan
Japan: out to maintain Ballydoyle’s winning streak in the US. Photo: France Galop/scoopdyga.com (Jean-Philippe Martini)

By Nicholas Godfrey

USA: Ryan Moore will be on the way to New York again on Saturday to partner Japan in the Sword Dancer, one of six G1 events on the Travers Stakes card at Saratoga.

WHAT HAPPENED? Japan is undone by Gufo as Essential Quality takes Travers

Aidan O’Brien has enjoyed a productive time across the Atlantic this summer via lucrative victories for both Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara.

Now five, Japan has landed a couple of G3s this season, most recently taking the Meld Stakes over an inadequate 1m1f at Leopardstown last month.

The son of Galileo will be making his US debut in the Sword Dancer, a $750,000 contest over 1m4f and part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge, offering a fees-paid berth in the Turf at Del Mar on November 6.

Japan, who won the Juddmonte International as a three-year-old, arrived in New York on Monday before clearing quarantine on Wednesday.

“We got out onto the track this morning and trotted around the opposite direction and then cantered back past the winning post,” reported O’Brien’s travelling assistant TJ Comerford.

“The last day in Leopardstown when he won, he was very good,” he added, speaking to the NYRA media team. “Going a mile and an eighth he had to be at his quickest to win it and he did. He showed plenty of boot there and that was good for him.

“He’s in very good form – he’s on his way back I think. A mile and a half is better for him than a mile and an eighth, but it’s good that he’s won over a mile and a eighth, because it shows that he’s got a bit of speed as well. You just want a true-run race every time you come here.”

Japan will start from gate six in a seven-runner field also featuring last year’s winner Channel Maker. The seven-year-old was also second in 2019 and fourth in 2020.

Highlight on a fantastic card at Saratoga is the $1.25m Travers Stakes, the ‘midsummer derby’ in which Godolphin’s Essential Quality bids to cement his status as the nation’s top three-year-old.

Star filly Gamine comes in off a ten-length win at Los Alamitos as she seeks her fourth win from four starts in 2021 in the G1 Ballerina, while Letruska and Swiss Skydiver meet in the Personal Ensign.

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