Almond Eye won the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) at Fuchu, Tokyo and returns to try and win the Japan Cup. Photo by Japan Racing Association.


Ryan Moore feels Japan Cup favourite Almond Eye is underrated by international handicappers

The star jockey is still happy with his mount Capri



By Jason Tan, in Tokyo.



Ryan Moore is adamant Almond Eye is still underrated by international handicappers heading into Sunday’s Japan Cup but locals are well aware of the freak filly’s talents and the champion jockey believes her presence has “scared some rivals off.”

Moore rides Capri for Coolmore on Sunday in Tokyo and singled out Almond Eye as the obvious horse to beat.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out of course – Almond Eye will start odds-on favourite – but Moore is well placed to provide perspective on her class through his extensive experience in Japan.

“She has never done anything wrong, I was discussing her rating earlier and she is still rated 115 – I think she is probably better than that,” Moore said on Thursday in Tokyo. “There are some nice horses there but she is the best of the lot of them.”

Moore was in an uncharacteristically talkative mood as he fronted the press and provided a thorough breakdown of a race that he called competitive at the top end but also lacking overall depth.

“This race is probably a bit down on numbers and maybe she has scared a few off because she has looked so strong,” Moore said. “It’s always a very hard race, but maybe there is not the same depth all the way through as there is usually.”

It might seem crazy to suggest a race containing last year’s winner Cheval Grand and fellow Group One winners Suave Richard and Satono Diamond lacks depth, but the 14-horse field is the smallest since Deep Impact’s presence ensured just 10 other horses faced the starter in 2006.

Deep Impact started 2.3 favourite and Almond Eye will start considerably shorter as she looks to continue her meteoric rise.

Almond Eye had only won a two-year-old maiden this time last year but has since rattled off a sequence of four straight wins in 2018 including the Japanese Fillies Triple Crown at her last three starts.

The last horse to do that was Gentildonna, and Almond Eye can also join the two-time Japanese Horse of the Year as the only three-year-old fillies to win the Japan Cup on Sunday.

Moore was aboard Gentildonna for her record-setting second Japan Cup in 2013 and the following year’s Dubai Sheema Classic.

Gentildonna was also rated 115 after her Triple Crown triumph, a mark that also proved to be way short of her devastating best.

Capri carries a rating of 118 but Moore admitted the one-time star three-year-old will need to run to his absolute best to get near Almond Eye, but he wasn’t completely discounting his mount’s chances.

“He travelled over very well and we are happy with him,” said Moore, who took Capri through his paces on the Tokyo course proper earlier that morning. “He moved well and seems in good shape. He is a very straightforward horse with a very good mind.”

Capri has endured a patchy and injury-interrupted 2018 but a fifth in the Prix de l’arc Triomphe two starts back was a sign he was approaching his best.

A flat fourth at Ascot behind Cracksman was disappointing on face value but that was the four-year-old’s third run in less than a month and Moore believes the entire is better suited this time despite the travel.

“He ran very credible race in the Arc but at Ascot it was just too short a turnaround,” Moore said. “He didn’t run badly but he is a horse that never runs a bad race. If you look back, his best form his very good. When he won the St Leger he beat Crystal Ocean, Stradivarius and Rekindling. That was a very deep race. And before that he won the Irish Derby, where he beat Cracksman and Wings Of Eagles. So he had good form, but he needs to come back to that to be competitive against these high-class horses.

His last race was only 13 days after the Arc and it possibly just came too soon. He is coming here fresh enough – he is coming here with a good month since Ascot.”

Even though Capri has never raced on any surface as firm as the one at Fuchu, Moore dismissed ground concerns for the grey son of Galileo as he chases a first foreign-trained Japan Cup win since Alkaased in 2005.

“I don’t think the ground will be a problem. At least it is flat and it is level. I think he will be OK, he was moving well this morning and I wouldn’t say (the ground) would be an excuse.”