To regular ITM readers, Steve Bonnick needs no introduction. Over the past year or so, he’s graciously shared his insights on international runners far and wide. With Breeders’ Cup approaching, it’s never too early to start your preparations. With that, below you’ll find Steven’s thoughts on the Japanese contingent of runners. We will be pumping out a ton of content over the next two weeks – both free and premium. If you like this type of analysis, there will be much more in-depth coverage on our ITM Plus service. For a peek at what we have planned, make sure to check out this post.
Jasper Great – Juvenile – 2-year-old colt, he cost $200k at Fasig-Tipton as a yearling. By Arrogate, he is out of a Stakes-winning mare and is a half-brother to Power Broker, who won the Frontrunner and was 5/2 for Shanghai Bobby’s Juvenile. Trained by Hideyuki Mori, he won a 9 furlong race for newcomers by 10 lengths on debut (video: https://youtu.be/qi9eD-QxeNA) in early October, his only start to date. While he clearly knew his job there, the manner in which he strode clear having set his own even fractions was impressive. The winning time was 3 seconds slower than the decent 3-year-old race on the card but the horses carried the same weight. He looks a nice-moving horse who floats over the dirt and, while it is extremely difficult to work out what level he has run to, he is bred to be Stakes-class and clearly has an engine.
Jasper Prince – Dirt Mile – a 66/1 chance for last year’s Sprint where he finished last, he is also trained by Hideyuki Mori and goes for the Dirt Mile this time. He is a triple Stakes winner at Listed level in Japan, with his most recent victory coming at Chukyo Racecourse, where he landed the Enif Stakes for a second consecutive year. That was his first win in a season that has seen him struggle in the main and it would be a big surprise if this horse was good enough to beat a horse like Life Is Good, having yet to make an impact in Graded Stakes races back home. He should be a huge price again and, while the mile will probably suit him a bit better, he is yet to win over that distance.
Pingxiang – Dirt Mile – this colt entered up last year for the Sprint but didn’t make the cut. He has had a decent year so far, winning three of his five starts, mostly at Allowance level, although he beat a big field to win a Conditions race last time out. He has had one try at Listed level in his career and cut little ice, beating just one home. Yet to run over a mile and hard to see how he figures here.
Matera Sky – Sprint – the last of the Mori-trained quartet, this 7-year-old is an extremely fast horse who looked all over the winner in the Saudi Cup in 2020 but was nailed close home by the former Steve Asmussen-trained New York Central, having shown blistering pace. It was a similar scenario this year, showing great early pace, traveling well but run down late by compatriot Copano Kicking. In reality, the Saudi Arabian form is pretty weak and he subsequently disappointed in the Golden Shaheen at Meydan having been unable to lead. He had, however, run second in that Group 1 in 2019, finding only X Y Jet too good. He could only manage 5th in a Listed race last time out, his first run since March. This will be his second time at the Breeders’ Cup, having finished last behind Mitole at 28/1 in the 2019 Sprint. Should show up early but hard to see him holding off a horse like Jackie’s Warrior.
Loves Only You – Filly & Mare Turf – a dual Group 1 winner, having won the Japanese Oaks in 2019 and Queen Elizabeth II in Hong Kong in April this year. This daughter of Deep Impact has run with credit at Group 1 level on several occasions throughout her career, most notably when and running a close third in Dubai behind Mishriff and Chrono Genesis, both of which are top class animals rated 120+. Despite a lay-off, Yoshito Yahagi’s mare ran really well last time out in a Group 2 behind the white filly Sodashi and she should be primed to peak at the Breeders’ Cup. Do not underestimate this mare, as her form in Dubai is arguably the best on offer here.
Marche Lorraine – Distaff – a capable enough 5-year-old mare, she usually plies her trade at Listed level, although does have one placed effort in a Grade 3. She was a winner of a Listed race on her most recent start at Mombetsu, but it is hard to imagine that she will be good enough to make an impact at this level.