Japan's Boss targets Ascot upset
Given the lengths to which most people would go to shelter their horses from the searing talent of Frankel, it seems quixotic to fly one from the other side of the world in order to take him on. But there is another, more promising paradox in the participation of Grand Prix Boss in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday.
Japan may still be one of the Turf's more insular nations – most races remain closed to overseas runners, and Sheikh Mohammed had to wait years before being permitted to invest – but in recent decades the country has shown increasing adventure on the international stage. In turn, punters have learnt that the best Japanese horses warrant more respect than their parochial instincts have tended to allow.
Last October, 11 years after El Condor Pasa ran the mighty Montjeu so close in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, his trainer and jockey lost out by just a head to Workforce with a 26-1 shot, Nakayama Festa, in the same race. Then, days after their homeland was stricken by natural disaster, Victoire Pisa rallied the Japanese industry by taking the Dubai World Cup in March.
Mirco Demuro, the Italian who produced such a splendid ride that night, will also be in the saddle when Grand Prix Boss goes on his intrepid mission next week. His team are hoping to introduce a proper spirit of competition to a race being treated as little more than a lap of honour by the bookmakers, with Frankel at odds as short as 1-4 while Grand Prix Boss can be backed at 16-1.
For all their regard for the favourite, those supervising the raider's preparation have hardly sent him all this way in meek obeisance. Pointedly, they had dressed his legs in red and white bandages when he appeared on the Newmarket gallops in the morning; and his bridle was in a similarly patriotic hue.
Koji Kubo, assistant trainer to Yoshito Yahagi, is a dashing young man with a ready smile. "Frankel is a superstar," he said. "Even in Japan everyone knows how good he is. But we're very excited by the chance of taking him on. He's the best miler in Japan. It's our best horse against yours.
"It's a long way to come here. The trip took over a day. But he was eating and drinking well throughout, and has settled well into his new environment in Newmarket, training just as we'd hope."
Japan's champion juvenile last year, Grand Prix Boss evidently needed his first two starts at three but last month showed striking acceleration to beat 17 rivals for a Group One prize in Tokyo. That performance came within days of the death of his sire, and confirmed his owner's ambition to come to Ascot.
His racing manager, Keita Tanaka, explained: "Sakura Bakushin O was one of our top sprint sires. With his death, our horse has an important goal as a stallion. The prestige of this meeting could raise his value for the future."
Tanaka was naturally in awe at how Frankel barrelled clear in the 2,000 Guineas. "Any plan you might have can have no meaning after a performance like that," he said. "It was amazing. But it's a different race, a different day. He's amazing, but we've brought a champion too, so we have a chance. If we thought Frankel unbeatable, we wouldn't be here."
Emboldened by the success of overseas sprinters at recent royal meetings, another posse of speedballs has arrived from the United States, Hong Kong and Australia. Jeff O'Connor, representing Peter Moody's Melbourne stable, rates their Hinchinbrook "terrific value at 12-1" in the Golden Jubilee Stakes but, excitingly, added that the mare rated the world's top sprinter, Black Caviar, is being aimed at the 2012 meeting.
The mare is unbeaten in 13 starts, including six Group Ones, and O'Connor said: "Everyone in the camp is all for bringing her over. She's got runs on the board, now it's time to get her some world-wide prestige."
Danny O'Brien, another Australian, could saddle Star Witness as favourite for the King's Stand Stakes. He looks forward to seeing So You Think, exported from Bart Cummings to Ballydoyle, on Wednesday. "In one season back home we had Black Caviar and So You Think," he said. "They could be the two best horses we have seen over the last 25 years."
Meia Noite (6.55 Chepstow) Promising return at Kempton, travelling strongly, and likely to enjoy this drop in trip off what looks a very fair mark.
All Action (4.35 Sandown) Top pedigree, and easy to see him getting it together with a stiff test today.
One to watch
War Poet (David O'Meara) Looks capable of sustaining his improvement.
Where the money's going
Cape Blanco is 6-1 from 9-1 with Coral for Tuesday's Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot.
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