Cheval Grand Upsets Japan Cup Under Australian Hugh Bowman

Fifth choice in the wagering, Cheval Grand captured his first G1 victory in this year’s Japan Cup where he deprived race favorite Kitasan Black from a back-to-back win. Debuting at the age of two, the slow developer was foreign to Triple Crown starts but began to show potential from the latter half of his three-year-old campaign. Last season, he marked his first grade-race victory in the Hanshin Daishoten and then another in the following Copa Republica Argentina while registering two thirds at the highest level in the Tenno Sho (Spring) and the Japan Cup. With G1 winning mares Verxina and Vivlos (both sired by Deep Impact) as half-sisters, the son of Heart’s Cry captured his much awaited G1 triumph after coming off a reputable third in the G2 Kyoto Daishoten seven weeks before. For trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, this is his eighth G1 title, his latest with Vivlos in the 2016 Shuka Sho. Jockey Hugh Bowman, who has a 2015 Hopeful Stakes (G2, Hartley) title under his belt, celebrated his first JRA-G1 victory with this win.

Breaking from the innermost stall, Cheval Grand took a ground-saving trip on the rails in fifth while Kitasan Black set the pace up front. The field hit the top of the stretch a bit clustered but the eventual winner split horses before the 400-meter marker to break free, romping strongly down the middle of the lane to pin the leader 100 meters out and hold off the fast closing Rey de Oro for a 1-1/4-length victory.

“I feel proud and very humbled to have had the opportunity to have a ride on Cheval Grand and with the horse in such a great form with the addition of a good draw I was quietly confident in winning this race while at the same time having great respect for Kitasan Black,” Bowman said. “It gives me a sense of pride to have even the chance to take part in such a recognized race and while I am well known for my partnership with Winx, it’s an honor to have won this race. When I rode him on Wednesday he didn’t give me a strong impression as an exceptional horse but the stable staff assured me that he was more comfortable on the turf, and I was confirmed of that when watching him race on the video. The good draw really played into the horse’s favor and allowed me to sit near the pace in third or fourth position without spending petrol and within two or three lengths of Kitasan Black in the lead. Everything went as I hoped it would.

“I felt that the pace might have been quicker but it didn’t concern me too much that it was a steady pace because I was able to sustain close to Kitasan Black. I was able to move from outside the German horse and make my way towards Kitasan Black. When Yutaka Take increased the speed at the 600m and again at the 400m mark it gave me great confidence that I was able to judge exactly how fast we were going, and although at the 300—I had so much respect for that horse (Kitasan Black)—I didn’t feel that I was going to beat it, but I knew that my horse still had power to give and as we got to the 200 meter mark it was very clear to me that we were certainly going to beat Kitasan Black but whether something was going to come from behind and beat me I didn’t know at that stage, but we had a lot of confidence in this horse’s stamina, and his best performances have been over fast-run 2,400 meters or even two miles, so I knew that my horse was not going to stop, and the stable was confident, and they gave me confidence to be confident with the horse.”

This year’s derby winner and second choice Rey de Oro broke from the stall next to Cheval Grand and after traveling in mid-field, the three-year-old was steered slightly to the outside at the final turn and found a clear path to unleash a good charge that was tied the fastest in the last three-furlongs to gain in on his front runners but failed to catch the winner while tagging Kitasan Black just before the wire for second.

Defending champion Kitasan Black took his front-running seat before the initial turn, repeating his winning style and performance shown last year, and led the field by more than a length at one point down the backstretch. The 2016 Horse of the Year ran a lone and strong drive in the straight towards the finish line but was caught in the last half-furlong by the winner and then out-finished by Rey de Oro in the final strides.

Aidan O’Brien-trained Idaho from Ireland was settled fourth from the rear and although late in launching his bid at the stretch, demonstrated a tenacious drive down the middle of the lane under jockey Ryan Moore to pick off the tiring field and dig in gamely for a well-fought fifth.

“It was probably one of his best ever runs, if not his best one. We’re very pleased with him—he ran one hell of a race from stall 14 and Aidan was delighted. The plan is to take him home now instead of taking him to Hong Kong because he ran so well here and look after him for next year,” commented assistant trainer Thomas Comerford.

Three-time G1 winner Guignol ran just off the pace in third and maintained good striking position racing prominently up to early stretch, but ran out of steam in the final furlong to register a ninth.

Trainer Jean-Pierre Carvalho said after the race, “Our horse ran very well. He could finished better but ninth is okay. It’s the end of the season, he’s tired and things might have been better if we could have freshened him up a bit more.”

“I think we ran a good race. To break from a good draw, race in pace with Kitasan Black and in front of the winner Cheval Grand was like a dream. Our horse tired at the end, but we’re glad we finished faster than our rival Iquitos,” said jockey Filip Minarik.

German raider Iquitos concluded his second Japan Cup challenge in 15th after hitting the stretch from a second-to-rear position, but struggled to find a clear path, preventing him to display his trade-mark turn of foot.

“He was in a bad spot after entering the stretch today. Daniele was unable to steer him to the outside for clear sailing. He was trapped inside, way behind and with no room,” commented trainer Hans-Jurgen Groschel.

“We traveled in the rear as usual but the pace was slow. We wanted to move up but couldn’t find a good position and lost the chance and timing to make our bid,” said jockey Daniele Porcu after the race.

Boom Time from Australia was rated in mid-field along the rails after in tight rounding the first corner, stayed with the pace and slightly weakened before the uphill stretch but ran on gamely while unable to increase speed and finished 12th.

Trainer David Hayes commented after the race, “He was Okay—could have finished a couple of positions closer if he had a bit more luck at the straight.” “I had no choice but let him run inside with a wall of horses on his outside, but he traveled well and he struggled a little up the rise but whereas you would think he would just drop back from there, he just carried on which was good,” added Cory Parish.

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