JAPAN CUPS 1981-1989 (JOHN HENRY & ALL ALONG 1982, etc.)
The Japan Cup, an invitational event, is the one of the most prestigious horse races in Japan. It is contested on the last Sunday of November, at Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, Tokyo at a distance of 2400 meters (about 1 ½ miles) run under weight for age conditions with a maximum of 18 horses on turf (grass). With a purse of ¥476 million (about US $5.8 million), the Japan Cup is one of the richest races in the world.
During a relatively short history, the race has established itself as an international contest with winners from Japan, North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy. The Japan Cup has produced some of the most memorable finishes seen in Japanese racing. Along with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Melbourne Cup and the Breeders' Cup, the race ranks as one of the great end-of-year events.
The Japan Racing Association established the Japan Cup as an international invitational race in order for local racehorses to have the opportunity to compete against horses of an international caliber and to promote goodwill within the racing community worldwide.
The inaugural running in 1981 was restricted to horses trained in Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India, as well as ones that were specifically invited. An American mare triumphed as five-year-old MAIRZY DOATES, trained by John Fulton and partnered by Cash Asmussen, came home a length in front of the Canadian-trained FROST KING, with THE VERY ONE, another from America, in third.
A year later in 1982 restrictions on entry were abolished and the best horses from around the world were invited and the Japan Cup remains an invitational race.
There was again an American-trained victor in 1982, with three-year-old HALF ICED getting the better of a thrilling battle with French fillies ALL ALONG and APRIL RUN by a couple of necks, with STANERRA a length back in fourth. The biggest disappointment of the race before a crowd of more than 90,000 was the showing by JOHN HENRY, the pre-race favorite and 1982 Horse of the Year in the U.S. JOHN HENRY, ridden by veteran rider Bill Shoemaker, finished 13th. JOHN HENRY lead at the outset, then drifted to second and third before fading out of contention completely.
STANERRA, owned and trained by Irish retail millionaire Frank Dunne, returned to Japan in 1983, having enjoyed a brilliant season in Europe which included winning both the Hardwicke Stakes and the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. The tough and courageous mare was partnered by regular jockey Brian Rouse in the third running of the Japan Cup and proved a head too strong for the Japanese-trained KYOEI PROMISE. It was a very close finish as ESPRIT DU NORD from France was another head back in third.
The race was officially ranked as International Grade 1 in 1984 (prior 1984 there is no Grading in all races in Japan). The race was highly anticipated as being the first showdown between two Triple Crowns in Japanese racing history. The Japanese did enjoy a first home success, through neither two Triple Crown - MR. C.B. and SYMBOLI RUDOLF - were winner, instead unfavoured four-year-old colt KATSURAGI ACE, which defeated BEDTIME, trained in Britain by Major Dick Hern, by a length and a half, takes the title.
There was further Japanese success in 1985, with the previous year's third SYMBOLI RUDOLF defeating ROCKY TIGER in good style.
JUPITER ISLAND became the first British raider to capture the Japan Cup the following year in 1986 when the Clive Brittain-trained seven-year-old just got the better of compatriot ALLEX MILORD, trained by Guy Harwood, by a head under an inspired ride from Pat Eddery.
The French made their mark in 1987 when the Robert-Collet-trained and Alain Lequeux-ridden LE GLORIEUX came home in front, while the Americans struck for a third time in 1988 with the Bobby Frankel- -trained PAY THE BUTLER, the mount of Chris McCarron.
The 1989 renewal fell to the New Zealand six-year-old mare HORLICKS when scoring by a neck in world record time for 2400 meters.
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