Thursday, 18 February, 2021
Japan’s challenger in Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup has made his second visit to the Gulf region with hopes from connections that it will be more successful than his first.
Chuwa Wizard had started his 2020 term in flying form in the Grade 1 Kawasaki Kinen, with the son of King Kamehameha clinching a six-length win in what had looked to be a good preparation for the Dubai World Cup at Meydan last March.
However, the cancellation of the meeting from the Covid-19 pandemic saw a 20-strong Japanese contingent, including Chuwa Wizard, flying back home instead.
So Chuwa Wizard reappeared in June, with Christophe Lemaire partnering him to finish third behind Chrysoberyl, last year’s Saudi Cup contender, in the 2000m Teio Sho at NAR-Oi.
In the following JBC Classic, at the same track in November, Lemaire had his mount sitting handily in the field on a rain-affected track but he finished third behind his biggest rival, Chrysoberyl, once again.
But in December, in the Champions Cup at Chukyo, he finally gained not only his first Grade 1 at the top-tier JRA level in Japanese racing, but the edge over Chrysoberyl as he came two and a half lengths clear in an ideal prep for his Saudi Cup challenge.
"He’s a very talented horse," said trainer Ryuji Okubo. "From the tactics we had in the JBC Classic, I decided to change the strategy again in the race. I wanted to make the most of what he had, so I told the jockey (Keita Tosaki) to settle him further back, targeting Chrysoberyl from behind."
Bred by the Japanese leading breeding operation Northern Farm, Chuwa Wizard has barely put a foot wrong since winning a maiden at Kyoto in February 2018. Since his debut, he has been unplaced only once in his 18 career starts.
Tosaki has partnered Chuwa Wizard in his exercise since he arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday and is happy with what he has seen.
"He has matured a lot and showed lots of progress every time he races," the jockey said. "I think he is in really good form and has been the same as how he is at home, feeling good."
After helping his mount to his most significant victory to date in Japan, Tosaki is keen to make the most of their partnership in what will be a new experience.
"Having riding experiences overseas is nothing but very special for me," he said. "My last trip to overseas was the Shergar Cup at Ascot (in 2017), and this is my first trip to Saudi Arabia.
“I have had a really good time and it is a great experience to ride here. Even under the difficult circumstances, I am very honoured and grateful to have been invited."