A month-long extravaganza of Japanese group 1 races begins with a full field set for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup for fillies and mares Nov. 12 at Kyoto.
Likely for the 2,200-meter event are defending champion Queens Ring, Dubai group 1victor Vivlos, and recent Shuka Sho (G1) winner Deirdre. The race is open to foreign entrants and Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien nominated five and Roger Varian one but none made the trip, leaving the race an all-Japanese affair.
Queens Ring, a 5-year-old mare by Manhattan Cafe, has not won since last year's QE II triumph, most recently returning from a layoff to finish fourth in the Irish Trophy Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2) at Tokyo, going 1,800 meters. Trainer Keiji Yoshimura said a horse acting up in an adjacent stall "affected her start" in the Fushu Himba.
"She ran on well down the outside at the finish, so I think overall it wasn't a bad run," he added, predicting a good effort in the QE II.
Vivlos, a 4-year-old filly by Deep Impact, won last year's Shuka Sho, then went on to post a grinding surprise win on a yielding surface in the Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World (G1) on World Cup night at Meydan March 25. She then got a break and came back to finish second in the Fuchu Himba in her return.
"She was coming off a layoff," said trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, "and I think with that race under her, she'll be fine."
Christophe Lemaire, who had nine wins the weekend of Nov. 4-5 and leads the JRA jockey standings, will ride Vivlos.
Deirdre comes to the QE II with three straight wins to her credit, culminating in the Shuka Sho tally Oct. 15, the first at the top level for the 3-year-old Harbinger filly. That race was 2,000 meters on yielding ground at Kyoto.
Trainer Mitsuru Hashida said, "I think the extra distance is a plus, and the ground is not a worry."
The race is the first in the Japan Autumn International series of group 1 events that continues with the Mile Championship at Kyoto Nov. 19, peaks with the Japan Cup Nov. 26 at Tokyo, and concludes with the Champions Cup on the Chukyo dirt track Dec. 3.