Japan’s leading hope looks to be in the right mood for Meydan

Rey de Oro (work rider Daisuke Tsumagari) represents arguably Japan’s best chance of a victory on Dubai World Cup night. Photo: Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood

In Kazuo Fujisawa’s long career there is one phrase he has stuck with: “Happy people make happy horses.” And there will certainly be some smiles if Rey de Oro can shine in Saturday’s Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, for which he is a general 4/1 chance with British bookmakers.

It was ten months ago when the colt bested the top 3-year-olds in his homeland and provided a first Derby title for Fujisawa (pictured) in an otherwise highly successful 31-year training career.  

Perennially one of Japan’s top trainers, Fujisawa, currently world #60 in the TRC Global Trainers' Rankings, opened his training yard in 1987 and since then the 65-year-old has scored 1396 wins from 8064 starts, with 26 top-level victories.

On the global stage, he won the 1998 G1 Prix the Jacques le Marois (Taiki Shuttle), the 2006 G3 Cashcall Mile Invitational Stakes (Dance In The Mood) and the 2008 G2 Peter Pan Stakes (Casino Drive). Rey de Oro has the potential to become his conditioner’s fourth international star.

Bred by Japan’s leading breeding operation, Northern Farm, Rey de Oro won his career debut over 2000m in October 2016, then went on to win his next two starts both over 2000m as a 2-year-old, rounding off the season with decisive win in the G2 Hopeful Stakes.    

“He won all of his starts over 2000m as juvenile, but that was a lot tougher on him than I thought.” Fujisawa said. “But, thanks to our training facilities and the staff’s best efforts during his winter spell, he was able to bounce back and was ready for the classic season.”

His dam, La Dorada, was trained by Fujisawa and had raced from 1400m to 1800m. His second-dam, Lady Blond, a half-sister to Deep Impact, was also a Fujisawa trainee and only raced over 1200m during her career, so his bottom line proves he has solid speed.

The son of King Kamehameha (world rank 29) kicked off his 3-year-old season with a fifth-place finish in the G1 Satsuki Sho, the Japanese 2000 Guineas, under Christophe Lemaire, then took the G1 Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun) a week after Fujisawa and Lemaire claimed the G1 Japanese Oaks with Soul Stirring. Frenchman Lemaire (world rank 7) rides again on Saturday.

Rey de Oro returned last autumn to complete his 3-year-old campaign, starting with a victory in the G2 Kobe Shimbun Hai over 2400m in September. Two months later, he was pitted against older horses for the first time in the Japan Cup instead of heading to the third leg of the Triple Crown, the 3000m G1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger). He ran a superb second to Cheval Grand.  

He finished third in the 2200m G2 Kyoto Kinen on his seasonal debut in February, before travelling to Dubai. “He did not break well and the pace was slow in his prep. The extra distance the distance on Saturday [2400m] should be good for him,” the trainer said.

It has been nine years since Fujisawa sent a horse to Dubai, and this is his first venture to Meydan. “The Bermuda type of grass on the wide turf course here seems to suit Rey de Oro,” he said.

Japan’s contingent for the Dubai World Cup meeting this year has 14 horses, the largest ever. They arrived in Dubai on March 20. Rey de Oro represents perhaps their best chance of success on Saturday, although the opposition includes fellow Japanese Satono Crown, who is generally 8/1 with British bookmakers. 

“Rey de Oro is getting more familiarised with the new surroundings and relaxing more day by day,” said his work rider, Daisuke Tsumagari. “He eats up well and is in a good mood.”  

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