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Turf champ Conduit draws post 16

11/27/2009

Conduit and his rider Ryan Moore will have to work out a trip at Tokyo on Sunday if they are to win the $4.9 million Japan Cup, as the two-time Breeders' Cup Turf champion has drawn post 16 in a field of 18 for the 1 1/2-mile, Grade 1 race.

One of the three American horses in the field, Interpatation, also drew wide in 15, but Just as Well in 7 and Marsh Side in 11 are more favorably positioned.

In reality, Conduit's draw should not have an adverse effect on his chances. Moore is likely to take Conduit back early well off the pace. And Tokyo's long straights (there is a more than two-furlong run to the first turn and the stretch is 2 1/2 furlongs) and sweeping turns are an aid to closers.

Victory for Conduit in Japan's premier international event would be the fifth Group 1 or Grade 1 triumph of his career. In addition to his two Breeders' Cup wins, he has also won the classic St. Leger Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Trainer Michael Stoute's assistant Anthony Cromby compared Conduit to the trainer's two previous Japan Cup winners, Singspiel and Pilsudski.

"He's like them in that the older he's gotten, the stronger he's gotten physically and mentally," Cromby said. "He's fresh and well, but it's going to be a very tough race to win."

And it will be that much harder for one of the American-trained horses to win. In its early years, the Japan Cup was dominated by American horses. Mairzy Doates and Half Iced won the first two runnings in 1981 and 1982. They were followed by Pay the Butler in 1988 and Golden Pheasant three years later, but no American has reached the winner's circle since 1991.

Marsh Side was poised for a big effort last year off his Canadian International score but was scratched on the eve of the race due to a fever.

"We came here last year hoping to win," said trainer Neil Drysdale. "Sadly, we were unable to do so. He's a true mile-and-a-half horse and a galloper, and that's why we've brought him to Tokyo. We feel the course suits him. Our tracks in California are a bit tight for him as he's a large horse with a big, long stride."

Javier Castellano will ride the 6-year-old Marsh Side.

Interpatation is coming off a big upset in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on very soft ground. Firm ground is expected at Tokyo on Sunday. Interpatation will be ridden for the first time by David Cohen. The Turf Classic was Interpatation's first victory in more than two years and he seems up against it at this level.

The Jonathan Sheppard-trained Just as Well, who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, was awarded Woodbine's Grade 1, 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer Stakes via the disqualification of Marsh Side. Like Drysdale, Sheppard likes the look of Tokyo Racecourse.

"He finishes strongly but doesn't have very quick acceleration, so I like the stretch run here," Sheppard said. "It's longer than he's used to in America and will give him more time to reach full stride."

The race received a surprise defection when Japanese Derby winner Logi Universe was not entered due to an injury sustained in his final workout. The home team will be headed by the outstanding 5-year-old mare Vodka, who was third in this race last year and won a pair of Grade 1 miles this past spring. Most recently, she was third in the 1 1/4-mile Autumn Tenno Sho, in which last year's Japan Cup winner, Screen Hero, was second.

In a surprise move, Christophe Lemaire replaces Yutaka Take on Vodka as Take opts for Japanese Derby runner-up Reach the Crown. Screen Hero will be ridden by the man who rode him to victory in last year's Japan Cup, Mirco Demuro.

Red Desire, recent winner of the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Shuka Sho against 3-year-old fillies, is a threat off her nose second to Buena Vista in the Japanese Oaks.