This weekend from Japan will see top-class graded stakes action with the highlight being the 2023 Champions Cup run at Chukyo Racecourse on Sunday where Lemon Pop will be aiming for his tenth win in fourteen starts, and which is preceded by the 2023 Sports Nippon Sho Stayers Stakes over two miles at Nakayama Racecourse on Saturday with Meiner Virtus looking to secure a first graded stakes success.
Grade 1 – Purse $1,570,000 – 1 mile 1 furlong – Dirt – 3-Year-Olds and Up
Last weekend we saw Equinox slam his rivals in the 2023 Japan Cup and this weekend in Japan, the dirt stars get to strut their stuff and the likely chalk will be Lemon Pop who is going for his tenth win in fourteen starts.
He is already a winner in the 2023/2024 season having won the 2023 Listed Mile Championship where he had a number of these behind, and there is no reason to see that form being reversed. Most of his wins have been over a mile but he has always looked as though extra distance will bring some more upside.
His biggest rival and a horse unexposed in this spot is the unbeaten Seraphic Call who has won all five career starts to date.
He broke his maiden tag back in February when taking a three-year-old newcomers event at Hanshin Racecourse where he won very well.
He has since stepped up the class ladder winning the 2023 JRA anniversary Stakes two back before making his first venture into Graded Stakes company a winning one when taking the 2023 Miyako Stakes over this distance at Kyoto Racecourse just three weeks ago.
He will need another jolt of improvement to beat the likes of Lemon Pop and Crown Pride, but that is not out of the question and he should be nice odds on the board for those looking outside the top two.
Crown Pride is a very classy individual as proven by his runner-up spot in the 2022 Grade 1 Champions Cup, and he is back to try and make amends for that unlucky defeat.
He is a proven graded stakes performer and warmed up nicely for this assignment taking the 2023 Grade 3 Korea Cup when shipping out to Seoul in September, and it’s important to note he finished a close fifth in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup back in March.
These three look like the main contenders, but for handicappers looking for some value, then Dura Erede could hit the board if coming back to form, and even more interesting as a longshot is T O Keynes who won this race in 2021 and has put up a string of fine efforts since.
He has recently hit the board against listed stakes foes and could quite easily be one that may cause an upset.
2023 Champions Cup Odds
|Horse Racing Odds by Jazzsports
|T O Keynes
A fabulous race and last year’s runner-up Crown Pride looks sure to go close and can surely hit the board after a nice prep run last time.
It’s a tough call but the vote has to go to LEMON POP who has beaten many of these already and promises to appreciate the extra furlong today.
Seraphic Call will surely make his presence felt and both T O Keyenes and Dura Erede are others to consider underneath.
Grade 2 – Purse $810,000 – 2 miles 2 furlongs – Turf – 3 Year Olds and Up
The early morning line chalk here is Meiner Virtus who is effectively getting a class drop here against a much lesser bunch in what looks like a weak Grade 2 for this class.
Meiner Virtus is yet to win a graded stakes but has posted plenty of decent efforts in this spot, and finished off last season with two wins in listed stakes company after taking a class drop.
He had gone close when tackling the 2023 Grade 2 Copa Republica Argentina Stakes and this stretchout in distance could be the missing key to finally getting that elusive first graded stakes success.
One of his biggest rivals looks to be Iron Barows who was last seen when down the field in this spot last time but has some solid back form on the card.
He is another yet to win in this spot but he was not disgraced two back in the 2023 Grade 1 Tenno Sho and it is important to note he was fourth in this race last year and posted an even better effort in 2021 when finishing second.
He’ll appreciate stretching out again and the last run was a prep run for this big assignment.
Outside these top two, we have an interesting unexposed foe and that is Dandyism who is tackling this marathon distance for the first time. His best form has been at around a mile and a half.
He was a runner-up over further when tackling the 2023 Listed Sapporo Nikei Sho over one mile and five furlongs and he has always looked like a horse that will appreciate a stretch out in distance.
Delving further into this bunch, one that looks like a possible upset candidate is the eight-year-old veteran African Gold. Yes, the age is the downside here but he won in this spot last year when taking the 2022 Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen.
He was eighth of eighteen in this spot last time after a lay and is sure to be much fitter this time around.
2023 Stayers Stakes Odds
|Horse Betting Odds by Jazzsports
|T O Royal
Meiner Vertus will be many people’s pick here as the likely chalk and he should be able to hit the board. His recent form is clearly the best but will he represent value on the board?
However, the main vote goes to Iron Barows who has run very well in this race the last two years and is one horse that is proven over this marathon distance.
Both Dandyism and the veteran African Gold can be battling for a slice underneath.