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January 8, 2021 (Fri)

International Racing Recap

Nearly all of Japan's dreams of running internationally were dashed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the global lockdown, six Japanese horses raced in the inaugural Saudi Cup carnival at King Abdulaziz Racecourse on February 28th in Saudi Arabia. Full Flat(USA) by Speightstown(USA) had the best results of the day, winning the Saudi Derby Cup (Mile) in fantastic style after a promising 5th place finish in the 2019 Breeders Cup Juvenile only a few months prior. Internationally based, Deirdre(JPN) by Harbinger(GB) ran second by a nose in the Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors Cup in her first race back for the year. Matera Sky(USA) by Speightstown(USA) was dramatically caught at the wire in the Saudia Cup (Sprint). Chrysoberyl(JPN) and Gold Dream(JPN), both by Gold Allure(JPN), finished down the field in the first running of the $20 Million Saudi Cup.

The Saudi Arabia group, along with a bunch more from Japan, traveled to Dubai in March to participate in the 30th Dubai World Cup carnival at Meydan Racecourse on March 28th, but was canceled shortly after the Japanese horses arrived in Dubai. Many big-name horses, including Almond Eye(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) and Admire Mars(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN), along with 12 other horses, were stuck in for over a week as they sought out transport home after Dubai locked down due to the spread of the virus.

Danon Premium(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was able to get into Australia before major lockdowns to participate in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 11th at Randwick Racecourse, where he finished third back in April.

Deirdre(JPN) was the only one not to return to Japan and went back to Newmarket to continue looking for European opportunities throughout 2020. While she didn't finish well in her next four starts, she participated in the G1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Racecourse on July 5th, G1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood Racecourse on July 30th, and G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp Racecourse on October 4th before traveling to Bahrain to finish her year and racing career out with a go at the Bahrain International Trophy at Rashid Racecourse on November 20th. She has now been retired from racing and will visit Europe's premier stallion Galileo(IRE), next spring.

Two Japanese trained horses made it over to the United States for the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland Racecourse on November 6th and 7th, and though he led the way early on, Jasper Prince(USA) by Violence(USA) finished down the field. His stablemate Pingxiang(USA) by Speightstown(USA) was an Also-Eligible in the Dirt Mile, but due to a lack of spring and summer racing, the race went off without him.

The year ended a lot more promising for the internationally inclined Japanese with the uninterrupted Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin Racecourse on December 13th. Six Japanese horses made the trip over this year. Admire Mars(JPN) was there to defend his title in the G1 Hong Kong Mile but stalked the pace early and had to settle for third. Danon Smash(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) emulated his father in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint when he overcame an unfavorable draw to win handily. The grand finale was indeed the G1 Hong Kong Cup, where Japan made quite a show of things with a one-two finish. Normcore(JPN) by Harbinger(GB) relished the pace and came flying down the center of the track to become the first filly to win the prize. Last year's defending champion Win Bright(JPN) by Stay Gold(JPN) secured second place for himself, proving that he loves Hong Kong even in defeat.

There is no real way to compare 2020 to any other year on record, but hopefully, in 2021 and beyond, we can get back to competing comfortably and safely on the global stage.

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