The late-blooming Student Council has Vermilion to beat in his effort to become the second American winner of the $2.5 million Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Racecourse on Saturday. A 5-year-old son of Kingmambo, Student Council prepped perfectly for his Japanese odyssey with a solid 1 1/4-length victory in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 29. His previous outing, a 23-1 surprise score in the Pacific Classic, made him eligible for a $900,000 bonus if he is successful in the 1 5/16-mile Japan Cup Dirt, meaning that victory would be worth more than $2.2 million to his owners at Millennium Farms.
Vladimir Cerin has been working Student Council up to Saturday's Grade 1 race with gallops in Tokyo.
"I saw him for the first time since he left for Japan on Tuesday and I'm happy to see that he looks even better than when he left California," Cerin said. "He's well hydrated, eating well, and gaining weight. I think he likes the Tokyo course. He finished his gallop quite strongly, and the uphill part [entering the stretch] doesn't seem to bother him at all."
While this will be Student Council's first start beyond 1 1/4 miles, the additional sixteenth should pose no problem. Richard Migliore, who rode him to victory at both Del Mar and Hawthorne, will be aboard. The Mig appears to have worked wonders since picking up the assignment in the Pacific Classic, as Student Council's record prior to August was just 5 for 20 for earnings of $252,731. With Migliore on board he is 2 for 2 with a bankroll of $900,000.
Fleetstreet Dancer in 2003 is the only American - indeed the only foreign-trained horse - to win the Japan Cup Dirt in its seven runnings. Kane Hekili, Time Paradox and, most notably, Kurofune, who set a track record of 2:05.90 when winning the 2001 edition by seven lengths, are the best of the locally trained winners, whose ranks Vermilion will attempt to join on Saturday.
Trained by Sei Ishizaka, Vermilion - the son of 1999 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up El Condor Pasa - was fourth in last year's renewal to stablemate Alondite. He won lesser events at Nagoya and Kawasaki last winter before finishing 15 lengths fourth to Invasor in the Dubai World Cup. Rested since then with the Japan Cup Dirt in mind, Vermilion returned to action with a victory in the $1.5 million JBC Classic going 1 1/4 miles at Ohi Racecourse on Oct. 31. Like Student Council, he is fresh and ready for a big effort, and he will have the services of Yutaka Take, the man who rode Kurofune, Time Paradox, and Kane Hekili to their Japan Cup Dirt victories.
Japan Dirt Derby winner Furioso was four lengths second to Vermilion in the JBC Classic, Dragon Fire has won four lesser stakes in a row, and Eishin Lombard would be a threat on a wet track. But in the end, the world's third-richest dirt race should boil down to a battle between Student Council and Vermilion.