Japanese runners still underrated on the global stage

VICTOIRE Pisa, tipped in this column 12 months ago, caused a minor upset when landing last year’s Dubai World Cup at 12/1 and the Japanese hold strong claims again tomorrow night.

There is a general perception that Japanese Group One form doesn’t quite match up to the same classification on the global stage, even though they filled the first two places last year. Far Eastern runners have to be taken more seriously as they have been competing with the best for well over a decade now. Don’t forget Delta Blues and Pop Rock (first and second in the 2006 Melbourne Cup), Nakayama Festa (second to Workforce in the 2010 Arc), and Deep Impact (third in 2006 Arc).

Now, I was going to recommend siding with seven-year-old Smart Falcon in the £3.8 million contest, but his trainer issued a warning over the 11/2 shot’s wellbeing yesterday and reported that the colt had lost 20kg on his journey over from Japan. He may well record his 10th straight win if recovering from those exertions, but 20kg is a huge amount to lose so close to a big race.

The race has a habit of throwing up surprises (the last three winners have been 10/1, 40/1 and 12/1) and I’m prepared to take chances on fellow Japanese raider EISHIN FLASH and German runner ZAZOU, both at 14/1. The former failed to win in six starts last campaign, but did finish in the first three on four occasions. He’s drawn well in stall two and I think a fast-run 10 furlongs is his ideal trip.

Zazou ran a screamer on his penultimate start in Hong Kong and followed that up with the comfortable defeat of Cirrus Des Aigles at Chantilly earlier in the month. He is progressive and continues to fall under the radar. Aidan O’Brien’s So You Think has attracted plenty of support over the last few days, but I’d far rather be a layer at 9/4 on Betfair than a backer.

Elsewhere on a cracking looking card, Frankie Dettori can land the Godolphin Mile aboard the Godolphin-trained AFRICAN STORY. The five-year-old should be unbeaten in all three starts on Tapeta and looks value at 2/1 with Coral.

Fox Hunt and Opinion Poll are sure to be well-supported in the Dubai Gold Cup, but I’m taking another chance on a Japanese runner being hugely overpriced. I’m sure you think I’m crazy supporting MAKANI BISTY at 14/1 as the five-year-old has yet to win in 13 starts. However, he’s picked up just under £500,000 along the way and has made the frame in two Grade Two events. More importantly, I think he’s crying out for this two mile trip and I’m convinced he’s going to play a part in the finish.

The European-trained horses look worth opposing in the UAE Derby and if forced to bet I’d probably side with the American-trained Lucky Chappy or the Canadian runner Maritimer. Both sprints look wide open and I’ll be leaving them alone, while at the prices, I’d rather take a chance each-way on the progressive SONGCRAFT at 20/1 in the Sheema Classic.

You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views on a great day’s racing.

AFRICAN STORY 2.10pm Meydan (tomorrow)
MAKANI BISTY e/w 2.45pm Meydan (tomorrow)
SONGCRAFT e/w 6.00pm Meydan (tomorrow)
ZAZOU e/w 6.40pm Meydan (tomorrow)
EISHIN FLASH e/w 6.40pm Meydan (tomorrow)