Though the U.S. doesn't have a representative in the Nov. 25 Japan Cup (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Racecourse, in a way it can claim Jakkalberry. The 6-year-old son of Storming Home--Claba de San Jore, by Barathea, won the inaugural American St. Leger at Arlington Park Aug. 18 by 2 1/4 lengths.
One more flag to wave won't bother Jakkalberry. After all, he stems from Italian breeding, was foaled in Ireland, is trained by an Italian based in England, is owned by Australians, and has raced in Italy, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Dubai, the U.S., and Australia.
"And his sire stands at the Darley Farm in Japan," said Lucie Botti, who assists her husband, trainer Marco Botti.
With the Newmarket sales upon them in England, Marco Botti was unable to travel to Japan. Lucie is overseeing Jakkalberry's preparations. The horse put in a strong gallop Nov. 22 and followed that with a slow canter on the dirt track at Tokyo Racecourse Nov. 23.
"He's going to have a similar easy canter tomorrow," said Lucie Botti. "He's fit, he's well, so everything is going to plan so far."
Though she gallops some of her husband's 100 charges at their yard in Newmarket, Alex Cairns has taken over on Jakkalberry while in Japan. Cairns also traveled with the horse to Australia, where Jakkalberry ran an excellent third to Green Moon in the Nov. 6 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I).
The Melbourne Cup was Jakkalberry's primary goal since he sold in Dubai to the Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock. Headed by Darren Dance, the group consists of more than 15 enthusiastic Australians who wanted to see their colors in their native country's biggest racing event.
"They are such a great bunch of people," said Lucie. "In Melbourne, I know that horse finished third, which for somebody who isn't Australian doesn't maybe seem much. But for them it was like touching the sky."
Originally owned by Italian interests, Jakkalberry came to the Bottis' Newmarket yard in September of 2011. His victories in Italy included the 2010 Gran Premio de Milano (Ity-I)
"The owner realized there were not any more races for the horse in Italy," said Lucie.
Under the care of the Bottis, Jakkalberry finished third in the 2012 Nad Al Sheba Trophy (UAE-III) and Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in Dubai. During that time, Dance first bought a half-interest in the horse to syndicate among Australian owners and then bought the other half.
With a summer of rain in England, Jakkalberry's prep plans for the Melbourne Cup changed. He ran fifth in the Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot, and then Marco Botti and Dance decided to send him to the U.S. for the inaugural American St. Leger at 1 11/16 miles. Botti had won major races in the U.S. before; training for Team Valor, he captured the 2009 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park with Gitano Hernando.
"We thought this horse is fit and well, and we decided to take a chance," said Lucie Botti of Jakkalberry in the St. Leger. She added that the new Arlington race at that distance is a good opportunity for Europeans in the U.S. The St. Leger fits very well with Arlington's other major turf races, the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT). Europeans have often won both of those races, and Irish-bred I'm a Dreamer captured this year's Beverly D.
Colm O'Donoghue rode Jakkalberry for the first time in the St. Leger. They closed well to defeat Ioya Bigtime in 2:49. The jockey then partnered the horse in Australia, where they ran in the BMW Caulfield Cup (Aus-I) before competing in the Melbourne Cup. From there, Jakkalberry traveled to Japan.
Doug McLennan, one of Jakkalberry's owners, regrets not going to Arlington to see the St. Leger.
"After that I said I was not going to miss another of his races," said McLennan, who is in Japan for the Japan Cup.
McLennan may have many more airplane trips in his future. Jakkalberry is slated to remain in training for 2013. He will likely try Dubai again. The Bottis have said that they may also point him for a second St. Leger.
As for a second Japan Cup, Lucie Botti said that will depend on how he runs Nov. 25. He faces 16 others that include the one-two finishers in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), France's Solemia and Japan's Orfevre. Orfevre is Japan's reigning Horse of the Year and winner of the 2011 Japanese Triple Crown.
Jakkalberry drew post 11 in the Japan Cup. The 2,400-meter race on the turf offers a purse of 521 million yen (about $6,512,000).
"We're happy with the draw," said Lucie Botti. "The horse traveled well to Japan. The jockey knows him. He rode him really well in America and in Australia. So we're just hoping that he's good enough to win."