Brillante aims to shine in King George

Deep Brillante wins Japanese Derby

Comparisons between the top horses of different countries are always interesting, and Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot provides us with a rare opportunity to see how the best of Japan matches up to our own horses.

Deep Brillante, winner of the Derby there, will attempt to become the first Japanese trained winner of a major European race since Agnes World won the July Cup in 2000. His trainer Yoshito Yahagi has lodged Deep Brillante at Clive Brittain’s yard since they arrived here at the beginning of July and is certainly up for the challenge.

He said, “Winning races such as this gets the attention of people all over the world to Japanese horses. Most of Deep Impact’s (his sire) progeny like harder, faster ground, but this horse has won in heavy ground. The racecourse at Ascot is very tough. It is uphill and downhill. Bu Japanese standards we would regard it as a tough racecourse. But I think this horse can handle it.”

Ryan Moore spoke positively about his far Eastern challenger, but he saw his ability to handle the track as a major obstacle. He said, “Japanese horses are top class. They perform very well. Look at how they’ve done recently. Dubai Cups, Melbourne Cups. They’re serious horses, beautiful looking horses. The problem for them is that the ground will be very, very different. The tracks out there drain so well they can go from soft ground to good ground in a few hours.”

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Asked if he had doubts about Deep Brillante’s ability to stay, Moore said, “Stamina won’t be an issue. You’ve got to stay in Japan. They breed for a lot of stamina. The only worry would be softer ground than they are used to.”

Yahagi shouldn’t have any stamina concerns for his horse. His Sire, Deep Impact, was backed down to odds-on favouritism for the Arc in 2006, though he didn’t show his best that day, finishing in third place behind Rail Impact.

The King George isn’t a race the Japanese contest often; they’ve had only four previous runners in the 61 times the race has been run. If Deep Brillante goes one better than the last Japanese challenger for the race Heart’s Cry, runner up in 2006, his connections will pick up a £404,000 bonus from the Japan Racing Association as well as the £567,000 winning prize money. The JRA believe their incentive for their Derby winner to go on and win one of the major overseas awards will prove small fry alongside the international exposure for both Deep Impact and Deep Brillante and the commercial boost it could give to the country’s racing and breeding industries.

Regular rider Yasunari Iwatawill partner Deep Brillante on Saturday. He’s 38 years old, but has only held a JRA licence for six years. His 14 year apprenticeship in lower grade racing has done him proud, and every year since graduating to the top league of riders he’s proved his worth, and has won top races every year, including three Grade 1 contests this year.

Iwata has ridden in England before, in the Shergar Cup in 2010, where he piloted Amanda Perret’s Life And Soul into second place over the 12 furlongs of the King George. Clive Brittain has booked him for Shafaani on Friday and Miblish on Saturday to give him a refresher on the track.

Iwata was clearly hoping for a good showing on Deep Brillante, but was playing it close as far as tactics went. “It’s a secret,” he said. “Japanese races are run as a good pace and the worry is whether there will be enough pace. But I am confident that we have a special relationship and that we can communicate well with each other. Getting into a good rhythm is important.”

He was, though, clear on the importance of the King George. He said, “This is the race of my life. We are here to win.”

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