It will be a case of “in Hori we trust” for favourite backers and gun jockey Tommy Berry alike when Maurice contests Sunday’s Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo racecourse after a week of conjecture about the champion miler’s fitness.
Maurice will be chasing back-to-back wins in the Yasuda Kinen and while he is riding a seven-race winning streak, with four of those victories at Group One level, there have also been some question marks about the five-year-old’s preparation.
Trainer Noriyuki Hori is notoriously secretive with the local press, but a stable spokesperson admitted publicly during the week that an extra week of work would be beneficial for the hulking stallion, and that was before Maurice appeared to be short in his action the day after a gallop on Tokyo’s course proper.
Speaking on Friday before entering the lockdown period for jockeys before race meetings, Berry said he had been in touch with Hori and was put at ease about the horse’s readiness for the big race.
“They are happy with him and that’s good enough for me,” Berry said, with the horse having spent a month in isolation in the quarantine centre adjacent to the track since winning the Champions Mile at Sha Tin in early May.
“The stable have been quite open in saying that they would like another week,” Berry said. “But in saying that everything has worked out as well as it could and I’m sure on the day he will be as good as they can have him.”
Berry becomes the third foreign jockey to ride Japan’s horse of the year in three starts after Ryan Moore won December’s Longines Hong Kong Mile and Joao Moreira rode Maurice last month at Sha Tin.
Berry brings some red-hot form of his own into today’s second leg of the double header at Fuchu, having notched three wins and a second from five rides at the track on Saturday, and 12 wins overall since starting a short-term stint two weekends ago.
Maurice has drawn gate eight of 12 for the ¥222,080,000 (HK$16 million) feature and Berry said he won’t be over-complicating things tactically.
“It’s just all aboutgetting him in a rhythm. If I can do that in the first half of the race, I’m sure he will do the rest in the second half,” he said.
“The gate is perfect. I was hoping for a barrier between eight and 10, it gives me some options, and he is a horse that likes some room.
“He can be a bit slow away so we will have to make sure we get a good jump, but after that it’s just about getting him comfortable.
“He has got a bit keen at times, and last time he was fresh off a long break, so maybe with a shorter break that will just take the edge off him in that way.
“There is a bit of a pace query in the race – he could sit third or fourth if they go slow – but there are three or four underneath me that will want to be handy so hopefully that creates some speed.”