After a great weekend at the Breeders' Cup for Japan, this coming Sunday (Nov. 14) sees the domestic Grade 1 action return to the Hanshin Racecourse, where the Queen Elizabeth II Cup will be run over 2,200 meters on the track's inner turf course. Established in 1976, it was originally run over 2,400 meters, but when the race's format changed in 1996 to allow fillies and mares over 3 years old to enter, the distance was shortened to its current 2,200 meters. It became an international Grade 1 in 1999. It is also the first leg of four races of what is now known as the Japan Autumn International series of races, and one that includes the prestigious Grade 1 Japan Cup.
There are eighteen nominations for this year's Queen Elizabeth II Cup, including recent Grade 1 Shuka Sho winner Akaitorino Musume. As a 3-year-old filly, she'll be able to claim a 2kg allowance, whereas 4-year-olds and up are allotted 56kg. There were originally three runners nominated from overseas, but none of them will take a place in the final line-up. The race hasn't been kind to first favorites in the last ten years, with just two heading the market and going on to win. Third favorites have fared better, taking out four of the last ten races. 4-year-olds have been dominant over the same time period, winning on six occasions. Record time for the race was set just last year, when Lucky Lilac (now retired) won the race for the second year in a row, setting a time of 2 minutes 10.3 seconds, although it must be remembered that last year the race was also run at Hanshin, not its regular venue Kyoto. The winner's check this time around is JPY105 million (approximately USD 1 million).
The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Hanshin, with a post time locally of 15:40. The final field and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.
Here's a look at some of the fillies and mares expected to take on the race:
Akaitorino Musume : The 3-year-old filly by Deep Impact managed to go one better last time than she did in the Grade 1 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) back in May, when winning the Grade 1 Shuka Sho over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in October. It's a fairly tight rotation, but trainer Sakae Kunieda feels the horse is coping with everything just fine. "She ran a good race in the Shuka Sho, which was her first race in a while, and ran smoothly despite drawing an outside gate, so I was very pleased. She quickly recovered from the race, and getting her back in work has been an easy task," said the trainer recently. The filly is now four wins from her seven career starts, and jockey Keita Tosaki is expected to ride her again here.
Lei Papale : Another filly by Deep Impact, her stunning six-win streak finally came to an end in the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen back in June, when she finished third, and most recently she had to settle for fourth in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers over 2,200 meters at Nakayama in September. It would seem she just has to find a bit more over the extended distance. Trainer Tomokazu Takano commented: "In the All Comers last time, I don't think she found her best rhythm throughout the race, but she did find the front briefly in the homestraight, and showed what ability she has. The extra furlong just found her out, so the key will be getting her to stay that little bit more." Connections have been quick to secure the services of Christophe Lemaire this time, so a big run can be expected from Lei Papale.
Win Marilyn : Winner of the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers at Nakayama on her last start, the 4-year-old filly by Screen Hero looks set for a run here, and before her last victory she finished a creditable fifth in this year's Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) back in May. Trainer Takahisa Tezuka said, "She ran very well last time when taking on the male horses, especially when you consider she hadn't run in a while. She had an operation on a leg swelling a while ago, and after this last race it flared up a bit and she had a fever, but we've kept her at the stable since and she's been back in work recently. She's running slightly awkwardly, but I expect that to improve."
Win Kiitos : As with Win Marilyn, Win Kiitos was also bred at Cosmo View Farm, but is a daughter of Gold Ship, who claimed his first Grade 1 as a sire earlier this year. Win Kiitos won the Grade 2 Meguro Kinen over 2,500 meters back in May at Tokyo, and is coming off a second place finish in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers. "In recent training, I intended her to do a five-furlong piece of work solo in about 70 seconds, but in front of the stand she ended up running with a horse from another stable and got quite switched on. Consequently, her time was faster than expected. She's in good shape though, and things are pretty much going according to plan," said trainer Yoshitada Munakata. The trainer is looking for his first ever JRA Grade 1 victory.
Terzetto : Looking like jockey Mirco Demuro's big race ride, the improving filly by Deep Impact is now six wins from eight career starts. Trainer Shoichiro Wada was pleased with her latest win in the Grade 3 Hokkaido Shimbun Hai Queen Stakes over 1,800 meters at Hakodate in August. "The jockey managed to get the best out of the horse last time, especially with a great turn of foot at the end of the race. She was relaxed, and it was just a short distance from the paddock to the track, so this helped her stay calm," stated the trainer. Terzetto has run beyond 1,800 meters just once, when finishing third over 2,000 meters at Nakayama as a 3-year-old.
Des Ailes : Another filly by Deep Impact, the 4-year-old still boasts an almost 50% win strike rate, despite finishing outside the first three in her last two starts, an 8th in the Grade 1 Victoria Mile in May, and a disappointing 16th of 18 last time in the Grade 2 Ireland Trophy Fuchu Himba Stakes at Tokyo in October. Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi is not too worried about her latest run. "It was unlike her to drop out of the race like she did last time, and since being back at the stable she seems her usual self. I think in the summer when she was at the farm, she obviously wasn't being prepared for a race, and it showed in that last run. I think we're in a much better place now that she's got a race under her," commented the trainer.
Rambling Alley : As with Des Ailes, Rambling Alley carries the colors of the Shadai Race Horse Co. Ltd. and is a stablemate of the former. Every race she's taken on this year has been a graded one, so her experience in those races points to a likely good run in this one too. She finished second in the Grade 1 Victoria Mile in May, and last time out she was seventh in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers over 2,200 meters at Nakayama in September. Of the 5-year-old mare, trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said: "She got a bit too far back last time and wasn't suited by the pace, but it wasn't a bad result. She's been working well in training and there's no change with her." The trainer has thirteen JRA Grade 1 wins, but they don't include a win in this race, although it looks as if he'll be well represented here this time if both his runners get a start.
Clavel : The 4-year-old filly by Epiphaneia has been in the first three eight times from her twelve-race career, and her graded race experience, while limited, has been quite impressive. Most recently she produced a great late run in what was a tough race, the Grade 3 Niigata Kinen over 2,000 meters in September. Trainer Shogo Yasuda said, "She has done well before, saving ground in races and showing a good late turn of foot, but in her last race, she really flew home in a good final three-furlong time. It took a bit out of her, so she's had a rest at the farm, but on returning to the stable, she's currently running with a good rhythm." The trainer is seeking his first JRA Grade 1 success.