The American quartet for this weekend's two-race, $6 million extravaganza at Tokyo Racecourse took it rather easy last weekend, doing nothing more strenuous than cantering or galloping around the track at the Shiroi Quarantine Center.
Acclimating to new surroundings after an arduous trans-Pacific journey is never easy. Better Talk Now and King's Drama, who go in Sunday's $4 million Japan Cup, both traveled 6,700 miles from New York, as did Tap Dance, a candidate for Saturday's $2 million Japan Cup Dirt. By comparison, Japan Cup Dirt hopeful Lava Man had it relatively easy during his 5,400-mile trip from Los Angeles.
Better Talk Now and King's Drama both jogged two miles around the dirt track at Shiroi on Sunday, while Lava Man and Tap Day galloped a mile. No times were taken by Japan Racing Association work watchers, but exercise rider Mike Tenney was satisfied with Better Talk Now's early preparation for the 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup.
"He's in better condition than he was for the Breeders' Cup Turf," Tenney said of the three-time Grade 1 winner. "We intend to jog him again on Tuesday at Tokyo Racecourse."
Bobby Frankel is taking a similar tack with King's Drama. The recent Red Smith Handicap winner joined Better Talk Now and Tap Day for the 40-mile van journey from Shiroi to Tokyo Racecourse on Monday and will remain in light exercise for the next few days. The Mark Hennig-trained Meadowlands Cup winner Tap Day is scheduled for a midweek blowout prior to his date in the 1 5/16-mile Japan Cup Dirt.
Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, has been monitoring the progress of Lava Man, the Hollywood Gold Cup winner. "He's in such good shape we won't be doing any strong gallops at Tokyo this week," said Mora, who will be deputizing for O'Neill in Japan this week. Hennig arrives on Wednesday while Better Talk Now's trainer, Graham Motion, was scheduled to touch down on Tuesday.
Two of the Japan Cup's European challengers, Bago and Ouija Board, both returned home to France and England, respectively, after their efforts in the Breeders' Cup but have settled in well at Shiroi. Likewise, the British horse Eccentric, a Japan Cup Dirt hopeful. Defending champ Zenno Rob Roy will head up the home defense in the Japan Cup, while a pair of 3-year-olds, Kane Hekili and the Hennessy colt Sunrise Bacchus, hope to make things unpleasant for the American raiders in what is shaping