Japan Cup: Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga promises to do ‘my very best’ on Contrail

Horse Racing Contrail
Contrail (Yuichi Fukunaga) will retire to stud after the Japan Cup. Photo: Japan Racing Association

By HKJC media team

Japan: Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga has pledged to do “my very best” to ensure Triple Crown champion Contrail bows out in triumph when the four-year-old colt has his final start in the 41st running of the G1 Japan Cup in Tokyo on Sunday.

Fukunaga, 44, noted how rare it was to have a horse, sired by another unbeaten Triple Crown winner Deep Impact, advance to the very same achievement.

“Contrail has been a very special presence in my life, one that came along just when I’m entering the final stage of my career as jockey,” he said, speaking at a press conference. “He gave me the gift of the Triple Crown and to me he is a treasure.”

As for trainer Yoshito Yahagi, the mission on Sunday brings mixed emotions, with Contrail heading off to stud to end a career in which he last year became the the first horse since Orfevre in 2011 to complete the Japanese Triple Crown. 

“I want him to get a result on Sunday,” said Yahagi, just off a monumental double at the Breeders’ Cup but so far without a G1 win at home this year. 

“I want him to do well but I also need for him to finish without mishap. This is all making me very tense.”

In his last workout before the big race, the superstar colt breezed up the Ritto hill course under Fukunaga, clocking a faster than usual workout time. “It’s too good, he’s moving just too well,” said Yahagi.

Fukunaga said: “I just breezed him, but his time, he was fantastic. I didn’t push him at all and he didn’t overdo it.”

He added: “He’s always been better coming straight off a layoff, but even with only three full training weeks in between, he’s as fresh as he would be coming straight in. He’s also mentally very calm.”

Contrail has never finished out of the money. A second to Almond Eye in last year’s Japan Cup was followed by a third in the G1 Osaka Hai in his first time over soft ground. Last out, in the G1 Tenno Sho Autumn, he finished second to this year’s Japanese Derby runner-up Efforia.  

Contrail’s opponents include this year’s Japanese Derby winner Shahryar and the three-year-old filly Uberleben while Japan, Broome and Grand Glory comprise the overseas challenge.

Fukunaga has ridden Contrail in all but one of his ten starts. “If I had to name one race up to this point, I’d have to say that the Derby was his best,” he said. “And, I will be doing my very best this time to bring out his best once again.”

• Read more at the Japan Racing Association

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