Irish victory in Tokyo will have to be hard won
Bolger’s Trading Leather faces stiff competition from three local favourites
It is 31 years since Stanerra secured Ireland’s only success in the hugely prestigious Japan Cup, but Trading Leather is on course to bridge that gap in Tokyo this Sunday.
However Jim Bolger’s 2013 Irish Derby hero is likely to need a career-best performance against an international field if he is secure the near €1.8 million first prize with the biggest threat of all likely to come from hat-trick seeking local superstar Gentildonna.
Gentildonna is already the most successful horse in the Japan Cup’s 33-year history and will be joined in a formidable home defence by Just A Way, the world’s highest rated thoroughbred who disappointed in last month’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Both Gentildonna and Just A Way secured lucrative victories in Dubai’s World Cup meeting last March while another home star due to run on Sunday will be this year’s Japanese Oaks winner Harp Star who subsequently looked unlucky in the Arc.
Trading Leather arrived in Japan over the weekend and is part of an international challenge that also includes the German Group 1 winner Ivanhoe and last year’s Canadian horse of the year Up With The Birds.
The horse, Bolger’s consistent top-flight performer, hasn’t run since finishing third to The Grey Gatsby and Australia in Leopardstown’s Champion Stakes in September but the Godolphin-owned colt has had Japan as his principal target all season.
After riding Trading Leather in a workout at the Fuchu track, Bolger’s representative Pat O’Donovan told local media: “He has been trained specifically for this race.
“He’s had a light season and since his last start he regularly did some fast work once a week. He’s had his fast work done and was very fit coming here, so all we want to do is maintain his fitness.”
“The track here is a good galloping track which he likes. It’s probably similar to Leopardstown even though it’s bigger. We have no concerns about the track and he needs quick ground. The climate is perfect: not too cold and not too warm. He’s travelled very well.”
Prize money for Sunday’s race stretches down to €178,000 for fifth but it is nine years since the last overseas winner, Frankie Dettori’s Alkaased.
Ireland’s only win in the Japan Cup memorably came with the Frank Dunne-owned and trained Stanerra back in 1983.