This week’s Grade 1 action is at the Hanshin Racecourse, where the 47th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Cup will be run this Sunday (November 13). The race was established back in 1976 to commemorate the late Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Japan in 1975, and was originally a 2,400 meter race for 3-year-old fillies. With the introduction of the Grade1 Shuka Sho in 1996, it opened up the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup to older fillies and mares. It became an international Grade 1 in 1999, and this year the race will have its first runner from overseas since the great Snow Fairy won the race for a second time in 2011. Ireland’s Magical Lagoon, this year’s Irish Oaks winner, arrived in Japan late last month and is going through her preparations for the race.
There have been 22 nominations for this Sunday’s big race, including Magical Lagoon, and so the maximum field size of 18 runners can be expected. It’s sometimes been a difficult race to predict the outcome of, with just one first favorite winning in the past decade, while third favorites have won four times in that same time period. Six 4-year-olds have won in the last ten years, and Akai Ito caused an upset last year as the tenth favorite, but was a 4-year-old then. The race is run over 2,200 meters on the inner turf course at Hanshin, and weights are set at 56kg for 4-year-olds and up, while 3-year-olds carry 54kg.
A couple of races leading into this year’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup have been the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers at Nakayama in September, and the Grade 1 Shuka Sho run at Hanshin in October. Record time for the race is 2 minutes 10.3 seconds, set by Lucky Lilac in 2020. This year’s winner’s check is JPY130 million (just over USD1 million).
The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup is Race 11 on the Sunday card at Hanshin, with a post time locally of 15.40. Final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.
Here’s a look at some of the fillies and mares expected to be in the line-up:
Daring Tact: The champion filly of 2020 is now a 5-year-old, and she is looking for her first win since those great days when she was a 3-year-old. She was a beaten favorite last time when she finished sixth in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers over 2,200 meters at Nakayama in September, but trainer Haruki Sugiyama remains upbeat on the mare. “She had a short break at the farm after her last race. In recent work since returning to the stable, she’s worked well uphill and is better for her training. I thought she ran well in her last race, but she should improve on that this time,” the trainer said. Jockey Kohei Matsuyama takes the ride once more, having ridden the horse in all of her eleven starts to date.
Stunning Rose: The 3-year-old filly ran a strong race to claim the Grade 1 Shuka Sho last time, and she’ll carry 54kg this time with her age allowance. With four wins from her last five starts, and a win strike rate of 50%, there’s every chance she can add another victory to her name here. Trainer Tomokazu Takano said: “She got a good start last time and found a good early position. I have to give her credit for her racing sense and the ability that goes with it.” Jockey Ryusei Sakai has won on her every time he’s ridden her, and will be hoping she can give him another JRA Grade 1 win, after having scored his first ever top-level win last time aboard the filly.
Geraldina: Maturing nicely as a 4-year-old filly by Maurice, she demonstrated her ability last time when winning the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers at Nakayama in September. It’ll just be her second start in a Grade 1, but trainer Takashi Saito thinks she is very capable. “I was pleased with the way things went in her last race, which included getting a position early. She’s a lot more developed now, and she’s a lot better at taking the bit and finding a good rhythm in her races,” the trainer said. Helping Geraldina’s chances will be the services of visiting jockey Cristian Demuro.
Win Marilyn: She’s only had fifteen career starts and tends to be a little off the radar, but the 5-year-old mare by Screen Hero has won five times and is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen over 2,000 meters in August. Trainer Takahisa Tezuka commented: “It was a strong pace in the Sapporo Kinen last time, but she did well up against male horses, in particular the winner. She had a break at the farm afterwards, but back in work now she’s been moving well.” Jockey Damian Lane was snapped up to ride the horse as soon as connections knew he was returning to Japan this autumn.
Namur: After her big runs in the Grade 1 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the Grade 1 Shuka Sho, where she finished third and second respectively, the filly by Harbinger seems to have reached another level in her career. Trainer Tomokazu Takano is spoiled for choice over her and his other runner, Stunning Rose, and recently commented on Namur: “She’s filled out a lot more and was 20kg heavier for her last race, the Shuka Sho. I think with the relatively short time between races this time, she’ll be able to keep her condition and the power she showed in her last run.”
Izu Jo no Kiseki: The 5-year-old mare by Epiphaneia has won her last two races, the latest being the Grade 2 Ireland Trophy Fuchu Himba Stakes, when she got up to beat Sodashi right on the line. She seems in very good form, and will be looking to improve on her fifth-place finish in this race last year. Comments taken from assistant trainer Tomonori Kanaori were: “Her autumn campaign has begun with this race as her target. She ran a good race last time against strong opponents, and she can improve more. She’ll come on for that run, and her fifth-place finish in the race last year wasn’t a bad effort.” With jockey Yasunari Iwata picking up a suspension, Christophe Lemaire is set to ride Izu Jo no Kiseki.
Win Kiitos: A pretty consistent mare, Win Kiitos has finished in the first three 16 times from 23 starts, with her number of wins at five. She was last seen finishing third to Geraldina in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers at Nakayama in September. Trainer Yoshitada Munakata said, “She got to run her style of race last time when finishing third. She doesn’t have a closing turn of foot, so it’s better if she’s well up with the pace. She’s been at the stable since, but is well, and we’ll build up her training from now.”
Terzetto: The 5-year-old mare by Deep Impact might find it hard in a Grade 1, but she won her last race, the Grade 3 Queen Stakes over 1,800 meters at Sapporo in July. She finished eleventh in last year’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, and trainer Shoichiro Wada is preparing her for another run in the race this year. “She’s looking well and coming along nicely. She does need a bit more work, but she should be fine going into the race,” the trainer commented.