Japanese-trained horses have swept all before them on the international stage in the past few months with Dubai the latest stop on their worldwide quest for success.
Two victories at the Breeders’ Cup in the United States in November last year and another two at Sha Tin in December, along with a near clean-sweep of the big races at one of the world’s richest meetings in Saudi Arabia last month, means the rest of the world could well be running scared ahead of Saturday’s Dubai World Cup meeting.
Hong Kong punters will be familiar with plenty of the participants on show and not least Glory Vase, who won the Hong Kong Vase in 2019 and 2021 and finished runner-up to Loves Only You in the QE II Cup in 2020 in his three visits to the city.
The Tomohito Ozeki-trained runner features in the US$6 million (HK$47 million) Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410m), which takes place at 11.55pm Hong Kong time, in which he will cross paths with two British raiders who competed in Hong Kong in December.
Glory Vase beat Pyledriver by a length at Sha Tin three months ago and his trainer William Muir is confident that a disappointing run in Saudi Arabia last time can be forgotten.
“He came out of Hong Kong brilliantly and we went to Saudi in brilliant nick,” Muir said
“It was disappointing but there was a reason, he was drawn 14 of 14. The grass track in Saudi is very tight and we were stuck four wide. We didn’t get on an even keel, the race was over a mile and a quarter (2,000m) and that’s our shortest trip.
Japanese globetrotter Loves Only You caps brilliant career with gutsy HK Cup win
“Ryan Moore warned me not to go to Saudi and to go straight to Dubai and he was right and I was wrong. Pyledriver has travelled brilliantly, he’s eating fantastically and his training has been brilliant.”
With regular rider Martin Dwyer out of action with a knee injury, Muir has enlisted a top replacement in Frankie Dettori and is confident that Pyledriver will finish at least as close to Glory Vase as he was in Hong Kong.
“I’m expecting him to run every bit as good,” Muir said. “He’s fantastic and in really good shape. I’m not saying we’ll beat Glory Vase but we’ll be very close.”
Another Sheema Classic contender is Dubai Honour, who finished fourth behind Loves Only You, Hishi Iguazu and Russian Emperor in the Hong Kong Cup. His trainer William Haggas felt he was slightly unlucky and is hopeful of another big run.
“He was a bit unfortunate two furlongs from home in Hong Kong, it was a little tight for him, but he ran on really well and as an international form line it’s pretty strong,” Haggas said.
“He’s fine and he’s a really nice horse but because he’s a gelding, he needs to be chasing money. He can’t stand at stud so we go where the money is. He’s settled in well in Dubai and he’s in good shape.”
Aside from Glory Vase, Japan holds a strong hand in the Sheema Classic with second and third from the Japan Cup, Authority and Shahryar, also taking their chance.
Japan’s best two hopes on the card could well be Combustion, who runs in the Group Two UAE Derby (1,900m) and comes off the back of a Listed win on dirt at Tokyo, and Schnell Meister in the Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m).
Schnell Meister has never finished out of the first three at the highest level and heads the betting for this race.
More than HK$90 million is up for grabs in the feature Dubai World Cup, with US raiders Life Is Good and Hot Rod Charlie boasting strong claims.