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Espoir City travels well from Japan

Espoir City (wearing blinkers on left) and companion Artiste enjoyed a safe, uneventful journey from Japan (Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs)

Japan-based star ESPOIR CITY (Jpn) (Gold Allure) arrived at Churchill Downs early Tuesday morning for a run in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), settling in his stall in the quarantine barn at 4:30 a.m. (EDT).

"It was his first time to travel out of Japan and he handled it well," trainer Akio Adachi said through an interpreter. "All the flights were on time and there were no problems."

Espoir City flew from Japan to Chicago, where he changed planes for the short flight to Louisville. Accompanying Espoir City on the flights was Artiste.

"It was a long flight and he was his companion," Adachi said. "He is a racehorse, but he will not race here and not train with Espoir City in the morning."

Espoir City is expected to be in quarantine for 48 hours and Adachi said the five-year-old would go to the track for training Thursday morning "if time permits."

Jockey Tetsuzo Sato is scheduled to come to Louisville on Friday for a three-day stay before returning to Japan to honor a riding commitment and then return to Louisville.

Sato accompanied Adachi to Louisville in July to get a firsthand look at Churchill Downs. As Adachi watched horses train Tuesday morning, he was asked how preparations had gone with Espoir City since the last time he was in Louisville.

"Better than expected," Adachi said. "His first race back (from a five-month layoff) was good and he needed that race."

That race was the October 11 Nambu Hai Mile Championship, where he finished second.

The two-time Group 1 winner has compiled a record of 20-11-4-1 for earnings of $5,963,979 with Sato aboard for eight of the victories.

Adachi said he has not committed to giving the horse one or two works prior to the Classic, scheduled for a 6:45 p.m. on November 6. Although it will not be dark for the race, the lights will be on at Churchill Downs.

"The lights are not a concern," Adachi said. "The JRA (Japan Racing Association) has lights and he has raced under the lights."

Trainer Eric Guillot says CHAMPAGNE D'ORO (Medaglia d'Oro) is a different filly this time around than the model he saddled in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs six months ago.

"She is more seasoned to sprint now," Guillot said of the three-year-old filly who is being pointed toward the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on November 5. "To get to the Oaks, I had had to rush her to get to the maiden race at the Fair Grounds and then had to rush to get to the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2)."

In the Kentucky Oaks, Champagne d'Oro finished 11th in a field of 14.

"She had trained as well here before the Oaks as any Oaks horse," Guillot said. "She had a rough trip. She had her head turned sideways at the start and got shuffled back."

Cutting back to one turn after the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, Champagne d'Oro won the Acorn S. (G1) at a mile and followed that victory up with a runner-up effort in the Prioress S. (G1) at six furlongs and a 4 1/2-length victory in the Test S. (G1) at Saratoga at seven furlongs, the distance of the Filly & Mare Sprint.

"She had run in three straight Grade 1s and we gave her a break," said Guillot, who brought Champagne d'Oro back to the races off a two-month layoff to run in the Thoroughbred Club of America S. (G2) at Keeneland on October 9. "The timing was right for the Keeneland race as well as the distance. I only had to ship an hour rather than go across the country."

Champagne d'Oro finished fourth two lengths behind likely Sprint rival DUBAI MAJESTY (Essence of Dubai) in the TCA.

"She didn't like the Polytrack at all," Guillot said. "She got left (at the start) and the field got away from her, but she kept running to the wire."

Guillot said that Champagne d'Oro would have a five-furlong work this coming Saturday and then a half-mile breeze on October 30 with regular rider Miguel Mena scheduled to be aboard for the moves.

"She doesn't have to have everything her way to win now," Guillot said. "It is going to be a full field and it's going to come down to who gets the best trip. You can't get boxed in."

Two horses under consideration for the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon (G3), to be run at 1 3/4 miles, turned in works over the fast track main track Tuesday morning at Churchill.

A. U. MINER (Mineshaft), who earned a spot in the starting gate with his victory in the Greenwood Cup at Philadelphia Park in July, worked five furlongs in 1:01 2/5, fifth fastest of 24 at the distance. Fractions for the work were :12 1/5, :24 2/5, :36 1/5, :48 4/5 and out six furlongs in 1:14 3/5 for trainer Clark Hanna.

A. U. Miner was most recently third in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2).

FALLING KNIFE (Cozzene), runner-up in the Turfway Fall Championship (G3), worked a half-mile in company with King of Stripes (Leroidesanimeaux [Brz]) in :48 1/5, third fastest of 30 at the distance. The two worked on even terms throughout in fractions of :12 1/5, :24, :36 and out five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 for trainer Tom Amoss.


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