The lists of the first foreign nominated horses to the Japan Cup and the Japan Cup Dirt, both of which will be run at Tokyo Racecourse on Thanksgiving weekend, offer some clues as to the future intentions of some of the biggest names in racing.
The $3.9 million Japan Cup, scheduled for Nov. 27 at 1 1/2 miles on turf, has attracted the attention of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare favorite, Ouija Board, and Breeders' Cup Classic hopeful David Junior, as well Pride and Hurricane Run, the pair who will lock horns in Saturday's Champion Stakes at Newmarket. The defending Breeders' Cup Turf title-holder, Shirocco, has also been nominated.
Americans who might try the Japan Cup are Turf Classic winner English Channel, Arlington Million winner The Tin Man, multiple Grade 1 winners Aragorn and Cacique, and the hard-knocking filly Gorella. They will all have to contend with last year's unlucky runner-up, Heart's Cry, the winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic in March who was a close third last time put in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.
A day earlier, the Japan Racing Association will conduct the 1 5/16-mile $2 million Japan Cup Dirt. Lava Man, a three-time Grade 1 winner on dirt this year but a disappointing eleventh in the Japan Cup Dirt last year, is joined on the list of free nominees by a pair of Kieran McLaughlin trainees: three-time Grade 1 winner Invasor and Belmont Stakes champ Jazil. David Junior and the Godolphin Mile winner, Utopia, who is now trained by Saeed bin Suroor, are under consideration, as is George Washington, who is currently on the fence between the Breeders' Cup Mile and Classic.