September 24, 2023

Japan overcomes Mount Everest in Beresford

Japan captured the Beresford (Ire-G2) in Ireland under Seamie Heffernan (c) Mike Ziegler

by Dick Powell

Aidan O’Brien has now won the Beresford Stakes (Ire-G2) 18 times, but with three in this year’s renewal, it was still up in the air as to which one would get the job done.

The easy way is to just see who Ryan Moore decides to ride and that is usually the O’Brien trainee who is the betting favorite. In Sunday’s Beresford Stakes at Naas in Ireland, he chose Mount Everest, who had previously been ridden by Donnacha O’Brien. Sovereign was able to get Donnacha back aboard and Seamie Heffernan wound up on Japan, who Donnacha also rode last out.

The tendency is whoever Donnacha rides will be the one sent to the front and sure enough, he put Sovereign on the lead in the one-mile contest over turf rated as good to firm. Moore had favored Mount Everest in perfect striking position sitting just outside the pacesetter while Heffernan was getting a dream trip saving ground in behind them.

The three O’Brien trainees turned for home and Mount Everest took the lead. Heffernan deftly brought Japan behind the two leaders and went up after them with two furlongs to go. He looked like he would never catch Mount Everest, as Moore is very tough to pass once he makes the lead, but Japan surged in the final furlong to run him down at 7-2 odds by less than a head.

Sovereign tired from his early efforts and Power of Now was able to get third and break up the complete sweep by Aidan O’Brien.

Japan earned 10 points toward next year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), as the Beresford is the second of seven races on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The colt showed good speed away from the gate and settled nicely behind horses. While his acceleration wasn’t blinding, he smoothly came off the rail and, once he was without cover, he put his head down and went after the leaders. Mount Everest looked very good and just after the wire, he galloped out about a length ahead of Japan.

Both Japan and Mount Everest are sired by the immortal Galileo but Japan has an interesting pedigree. Japan has a full sister who won a Group 2 in Great Britain and was second in the Epsom Oaks (Eng-G1), a half-brother who was an Australian stakes winner and a full brother won a Group 3 in Ireland.

Japan’s dam is by Danehill and we have seen the Galileo/Danehill successfully cross numerous times. But, Japan’s dam is also a half-sister to Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) winner Sagamix and Sagacity, who won a Group 1 at two in France, as the female family is mostly French. Tons of stamina are in Japan’s pedigree and I like the fact that he won going left-handed on ground that was more American than European.

Mount Everest could come over and be favored in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), but Japan showed when the running got serious, he ran him down with no excuses.