Is Irésine up to the Japan Cup task?

24 November 2023

Irésine and connections after Conseil de Paris' success at Lonchamp last month

Winner of last April’s Gr.1 Prix Ganay, the Jean-Pierre Gauvin-trained Irésine boarded a plane last week destined for Tokyo. The objective is quite simple in theory, to beat Equinox, currently considered the best horse in the world. In reality however, his rendezvous with the Japanese superstar on Sunday 26 November will be no easy endeavour.

Winner of 13 of his 19 starts, his climb towards the summit began in earnest last season with success in the Gr.2 Prix Foy followed by classic victory in the Gr.1 Prix Royal-Oak. Missing out on the Foy double by just a neck on his return from a 4.5 months’ layoff this summer, he went on to dominate a good Prix du Conseil field in mid-October. Taking on the Japanese on their own turf will be no easy feat.

Equinox makes his first start in the Japan Cup after winning five particularly prestigious Gr.1s in succession, but Christophe Lemaire’s partner will still be pitted against current titleholder Vela Azul. Should Irésine succeed in his bid, he will become just the second French-trained horse to land the showpiece, only 36 years after Le Glorieux sealed the deal in 1987!

Hampered by the excessive rain which has fallen across much of central and northern Europe, Gauvin was forced to modify his gelding’s preparation for what is the trainer’s biggest challenge to date. Now with the notoriously nervous traveller in place, together with a stablemate to accompany him in his morning work, said Gauvin of the coming challenge, “It’s already a victory getting here, so if he does well, it’s a bonus. It’s a high-class affair, and even though the context for him is not ideal, if we’re not there, we can’t hope for a result!

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