Edited Japan Racing Association report
Jockey Mirco Demuro rode Screen Hero to an upset over Deep Sky in the Nov. 30, US$4,639,000 Japan Cup (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Racecourse. The winner, a 4-year-old son of Grass Wonder trained by Yuichi Shikato for owner Teruya Yoshida, was bred in Japan by Shadai Farm. With a crowd of 107,904 on hand, the winner completed the 1 ½ miles on firm turf in 2:25.5.
With only four starts this year after coming off an 11-month break due to a leg injury, Screen Hero showed he had recovered sufficiently to succeed at the top level, defeating the Japanese Derby (Jpn-I) winner and second-choice Vodka, who had come off a win in the Tenno Sho Autumn (Jpn-I) just three weeks ago.
From an outside draw, Screen Hero broke smoothly and settled in a good position, stalking behind last year’s Arima Kinen (Jpn-I) champion Matsurida Gogh in sixth position. Vodka also broke well but eased back to press the pace in third place, while Deep Sky settled in midfield.
As Demuro steered his colt to the outside after the last corner, Screen Hero responded willingly and exploded powerfully after taking the lead just before the 100-meter pole. Surging out right behind him, Deep Sky also exerted his usual late spurt and challenged the front, traveling the last three furlongs in :33.8 seconds, the fastest in the field, but was half a length short to cross the wire in second. Vodka, the only filly in the field of 17, took the lead at one point at the beginning of the homestretch, and although overtaken by the top two colts, ran tenaciously, rallying with Matsurida Gogh for third place in the last furlong and managed to finish a head in front and 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner in third.
Purple Moon, ridden by James Spencer ,was shuffled back toward the rear on the inside along the backstretch and angled out through the last turn, trying to come from between horses in the homestretch, but was even-paced to finish 9th. “The pace was a bit too slow. I was able to position him well but was caught between horses in the stretch,” commented Spencer.
Sixties Icon, ridden by John Murtagh, broke well and traveled around fifth from the rear through the backstretch and turned wide around the last corner to make a bid, but was unable to accelerate and faded to 13th. “The pace was too slow and we were forced to travel in the rear. I think the course was too fast for the horse,” said Murtagh.
Papal Bull, partnered with Ryan Moore, ran sixth from the rear by the rail through the backstretch and improved position through the last two corners but was unable to find an opening in the stretch and finished 14th.