Brilliant Islington heads market for Japan Cup

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 November, 2003, 12:00am

High-class British mare Islington has been installed as 4-1 equal favourite, along with local star Symboli Kris S, for Sunday's US$4.3 million Japan Cup - the world's richest race on turf.

Renowned international form student Ken Goodwill, from the Michael Eskander organisation in Melbourne, said he was unable to separate the multiple British classic winner and Breeders Cup heroine from the top-rated Japanese star.

'Symboli Kris S, who was an unlucky third to Falbrav in last year's Japan Cup, was the clear pick of the locals,' Goodwill said.

'But Islington has a bank of fabulous ratings, going back to her three-year-old days, which she has maintained right along.

'She has an explosive sprint while [2002 Hong Kong Vase winner] Ange Gabriel is our next best, at 9-2, but he is more of a powerful grinder.'

Australian contender Fields Of Omagh had his first gallop at the rebuilt Fuchu racecourse on Wednesday, but did little to excite Japanese track watchers, doing pacework from the 1,600 metres before running 1,200 metres in 1:25.30, the final 600 in 43.0 seconds.

A number of Australian ratings organisations have queried the relatively low international rating of 116 given to Fields of Omagh in the wake of his Cox Plate triumph.

'You only have to look at the history of the Cox Plate to know a rating of 116 couldn't be right,' said one analyst, who asked not to be named. 'No Cox Plate winner can rate as poorly as 116.'

The AAP Racing and Sports website, which produces 'Timeform equivalent' ratings, credits Fields of Omagh with being a 121 performer, while Mark Read's Ozeform website ranks his Cox Plate performance at 76.5 kilograms (approximately 124).

Islington will be ridden by England's champion jockey Kieren Fallon, who has been on the Sadler's Wells filly in each of her 14 starts for six wins - three at Group One level.

She has won the last two editions of the Group One Yorkshire Oaks (2,400 metres) at the end of August and last start won the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf over 2,000 metres at Santa Anita on October 25.

As solid as her form is against the fairer sex, Islington's greatest claim probably comes via her splendid half-length third behind High Chaparral and Falbrav in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 6 - a performance rated 123.

Islington is trained at Newmarket by Sir Michael Stoute, who has already won two Japan Cups, and the filly is owned by the estate of the late Lord Weinstock, who raced Stoute's 1997 Japan Cup hero Pilsudski.

At yesterday's barrier draw in Tokyo, Islington's dream run of luck came to an end when the four-year-old landed the awkward number 14 alley.

Symboli Kris S, who'll be ridden by Olivier Peslier, came up with barrier five, while trainer Tony McEvoy was understandably delighted when Fields of Omagh drew four.

The Japan Cup is invariably run at a fast pace and local pundits are predicting the winner will need to race close to the speed on the newly laid Fuchu course.