Delight for O’Brien as Japan delivers big-race glory

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Aidan O’Brien’s faith in Japan was rewarded as the one-time Investec Derby favourite provided the Ballydoyle trainer with a record-equalling sixth victory in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York. By PA

It is 19 years since O’Brien first struck International gold with the mighty Giant’s Causeway (2000) – and he has since added to his tally with the likes of Duke Of Marmalade (2008), Rip Van Winkle (2010), Declaration Of War (2013) and Australia (2014).

Having rounded off his juvenile campaign with victory in the Beresford Stakes, Japan spent the winter months towards the top of ante-posts lists for the premier Classic at Epsom in early June – but those ambitions were dented after he could finish only fourth in the Dante at York in May.

Delight for connections of Japan at York
Delight for connections of Japan at York (Nigel French/PA)

However, he has made giant strides in the subsequent three months since that reappearance – finishing a half-length third at Epsom before dominating his rivals in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and breaking his Group One duck in the Grand Prix de Paris.

Taking on his elders for the first time on the Knavesmire, Japan was a 5-1 shot in the hands of Ryan Moore, with Sir Michael Stoute’s proven top-notcher Crystal Ocean the 11-10 favourite off the back of his narrow defeat to the brilliant Enable in a King George for the ages at Ascot.

Crystal Ocean battled his way to the front inside the final two furlongs, but despite displaying his trademark tenacity, Japan more than matched him to win a thrilling duel by a head.

O’Brien said:

Ryan was over the moon with him, he’s got better and better. We saw he got a mile and a half and we didn’t want to bottom him today, which is why we came back to a mile and a quarter with the autumn coming.

We couldn’t be happier and the team back home have done a magnificent job. He had an easy race in Longchamp, it was a steadily-run race and he quickened and got to the front. It was very easy for him and we knew he wouldn’t go and win by far.

He’s a lovely relaxed horse and loads of class. The first time he showed us that real class was when he won the Beresford when he beat two of ours which we knew were good horses.

We rushed him to get back ready for the Dante, but every rung has been a step up. The three-year-olds are better than anyone thinks. The King George was a bit of a disaster with the soft ground and it didn’t work, but that wasn’t a true reading of the three-year-old form.

The lads will see what they want to do, but it’ll be something like that (straight to the Arc) and we’ll maybe take in the Irish Champion Stakes on the way.”

Ryan Moore after winning the Juddmonte InternationaL
Ryan Moore after winning the Juddmonte International (Nigel French/PA)

Moore is better placed than most to assess the strength of the form, having steered Crystal Ocean to six of his eight career victories.

We had a lovely trip. He (Japan) is a very straightforward horse and all he’s done is improve since the Dante

He was a very good two-year-old and he hasn’t put a foot wrong. He’s got better and better and he’s a beautiful horse with a beautiful mind. Hopefully he’ll keep on progressing.

He’s beaten a very good older horse there. I know how good Crystal Ocean is and he’s a very hard horse to get by. I thought it was a superb performance.”

Ryan Moore on Japan

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Sunday 5th April - US Racing Acca

Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365. Min deposit £5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.

17:52

Tampa Bay Downs

Lem Me Tel Ya To Win

He has won four times from 6f to 7f. A winner at 14-1 at Tampa Bay Downs over 6f on his latest outing last month, beating Resident. Expect another bold showing.

18:48

Tampa Bay Downs

Kalu To Win

Successful twice at 6f. Won on his latest outing when 11-10fav at Tampa Bay Downs over 6f last month, beating Minnesota Lucky. Another bold bid from the front beckons as he drops in class.

19:19

Tampa Bay Downs

Majestic Melody To Win

Won on his latest outing when 2-5fav at Tampa Bay Downs over 7f in February last year, beating Alfred The Great. The absence has to be a worry, but his stable is in form.

19:50

Tampa Bay Downs

Classy Of Course To Win

Successful twice at 1m on good ground. A winner at 5-1 at Tampa Bay Downs over 1m (good) on her latest outing last month, beating Don’t Fight by 3 1/2l. Expected to give another good account from on or near the pace.

20:20

Tampa Bay Downs

Speeding Starlet To Win

Winner of five races at 1m. Third of 7 behind Scarlet Bow beaten at 2-1 on her latest outing at Tampa Bay Downs over 1m in February. Having her first run for a new stable today, previously with Gerald Bennett. Goes well at this venue and a bold bid seems assured.

20:51

Tampa Bay Downs

Jais’s Solitude To Win

He has won three times from 7f to 1m 4f on good ground. Beaten 6l behind March To The Arch at 8-1 when last of 9 on his latest outing at Gulfstream over 1m (good) in January. Drops significantly in grade and it will be disappointing if he fails to make his presence felt.

Returns and odds correct at time of publishing.