Dubai: Two of Japan’s leading trainers, Kunihide Matsuda and Sei Ishizaka, feel horseracing is on the rise in their country.
Matsuda has Japan Dirt Cup winner Belshazzar in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan this Saturday, while Ishizaka has back-to-back Japan Cup winner Gentildonna aiming to go one better in the Dubai Sheema Classic after finishing second here last year.
Both trainers will be inspired by Japan’s first Dubai World Cup winner Victoire Pisa, who won here in 2011. “The quality of horses from Japan is improving recently and we now have many horses targeting many categories,” said Matsuda. “Everything is improving in Japan including training and facilities.”
Ishizaka added: “Recently, many Japanese breeders have brought good stallions and mares from around the world so the breeding quality has improved. Japanese horses are hence getting better and they can now compete against other top class horses in the world.”
Of Belshazzar’s chances in the Dubai World Cup, Matsuda said he remained hopeful despite it being his horse’s first ride on the all-weather Tapeta surface.
“The horse is in very good condition and we want to win very much but it depends,” said Matsuda. “This is his first experience on the all-weather and he is competing with the highest level of horses from all over the world. We cannot say what will happen but we have confidence, he’s a very talented horse and will bring his best performance on the day.”
Matsuda admitted Belshazzar had initially struggled with differing conditions but allayed fears about the surface. “He normally trains on an uphill track whereas this surface is flat,” he added. “I was worried about his weight but so far he is okay. The climate is also different so he was mentally down when he arrived but is recovering and has shown good performance in the gallops. “I think the horses’ confirmation will suit the surface. He has long legs and a long stride, so I think he’s very suitable for a Tapeta ride.”
Meanwhile, Ishizaka said Gentildonna has what it takes to go one better in the Dubai Sheema Classic after finishing second here last year. “She is really in good form compared to last year,” said Ishizaka. “In all the years that I have trained her, this is her best ever condition.
“She fought well for second last year. Of course, you cannot compare the field but as for her condition she is in good form mentally and physically.
“The one challenge is keeping her mentally strong throughout the year. She’s won races on ability but to compete against the best in the world that’s not enough, she will also need to be mentally stronger.”