Japanese challenger King Hermes limbers up for July Cup

Japanese trainer Yoshito Yahagi is no stranger to big-race winners – and now has his eyes fixed on the Darley July Cup on Saturday with King Hermes.

The ‘man in the hat’ has had an almost unparalleled run of success across the globe in recent years, and sprang to wider prominence at the Breeders’ Cup.

Victories at Del Mar for Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine in the Filly & Mare Turf and Distaff respectively made the headlines, before Contrail won the Japan Cup, Loves Only You followed up in the Hong Kong Cup and then Panthalassa, Stay Foolish and Bathrat Leon all won in Dubai on World Cup night.

This would be another first for Yahagi, although Japan have tasted success in the July Cup before with Agnes World in 2000, and Yahagi is no stranger to Newmarket.

“I specifically love the July Cup and the July Course. It would be an honour (to win it) and I would be very pleased if that fortunate thing could happen,” he said.

Yoshito Yahagi in Newmarket on Tuesday
Yoshito Yahagi in Newmarket on Tuesday (Jockey Club)

“I would like to bring more horses to run in the UK as I spent three months working in the UK with Geoff Wragg 32 years ago under a scholarship to see how things happen with the horses here.

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“I’ve always dreamed of having a winner of the July Cup. That is how much I like the race and the racecourse that is why I’m looking forward to it.”

King Hermes worked on the racecourse on Tuesday and Yahagi hopes the experience he gained will prove invaluable.

“I was a bit conscious that the horse lost his speed in the last furlong, but maybe that was because of the hill. This work will make the horse understand how to run on the day,” he said.

“I was worried about (the lack of experience he might have) but after seeing the horse today I’m quite confident he will manage the July Cup.

“It is the first time the jockey (Ryusei Sakai) has ridden in the UK. Because of visa issues, it is his first time here. He has experience riding in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Australia and France so I’m not worried about that.”

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