Japan Cup Produces New Hero
The first Japan Cup was run in 1981 and has grown to be one of the most prestigious horse racing events in Japan. Run at the Tokyo Racecourse, over a distance of two thousand four hundred meters, the Japan Cup is not only an extremely rich horse racing event with a purse of $5.5 million, but a popular international racing meeting, even though the event has only been won by foreign horses twice in the last ten years. And locally bred horses definitely seem to have the upper hand in this event, as the long-shot for the day, Screen Hero, galloped his way to victory.
Trainer Susumu Yano retired recently, and Yuichi Shikato took over from the legendary trainer, opening his stable yard in March this year. This meant that Screen Hero fell into the hands of Shikato. Screen Hero had been off the track for a awhile, recovering from a leg injury, but did not disappoint when he returned, as he won two races and placed second in the others of the four starts he made leading up to the Japan Cup. He is known as a tenacious horse that never gives up, and looking at his racing career it is evident, as he has never placed worse than third in any of his career starts. Taking on such a huge Grade 1 event did have Shikato a little nervous, wondering if he would be able to rise to the challenge, but Screen Hero took every moment of the Japan Cup in his stride and performed better than anyone could have expected.
The Japan Cup started off at a very slow pace, with Never Bouchon taking the lead. Vodka did not handle the slow pace very well and fought her jockey considerably, making it hard for him to settle her down into the race. This behavior would have exhausted any other horse, but Vodka, an Emperor’s Cup winner, showed her strength as an exceptional racehorse by still finishing in third position. Mirco Demuro, riding Screen Hero, was able to settle his mount down soon after breaking well from the sixteenth pole position and bided his time amongst the front runners. And when Demuro asked him to give it his all in the final stretch, Screen Hero pulled away from the rest of the field, finishing first in a nail biting battle for victory with Deep Sky.
After the event, Demuro commented that he had believed in Screen Hero’s abilities right from the start, and said that it was his fighting personality that won the race. Shikato expressed his shock and excitement at winning such as massive horse racing event, especially with three Derby winners being amongst the seventeen contenders. It was most certainly a day of celebration for Screen Hero and his connections, proving that racehorses can make magnificent comebacks.