Dubai stopover for Japanese filly Gentildonna

The Horse of the Year for Japan will aim at Prix de l'Arc in France after crack at Sheema Classic in March.

The credentials of Gentildonna received a big boost when Yasunari Iwata rode her past Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up Orfevre in November.
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The newly-crowned Japanese Horse of the Year is set to take in the US$5 million (Dh18.3m) Dubai Sheema Classic in March as a first step to a campaign that is built around attempting to produce Japan's first victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Gentildonna, the daughter of Deep Impact, was handed Japanese Racing's ultimate accolade on Tuesday night for securing the 2012 Japanese Triple Tiara, comprising the Satuski Sho (1000 Guineas), Yushun Himba (Oaks) and Shuka Sho (Fillies' St Leger).

In November she embroidered those victories by becoming the first three-year-old filly to win the Japan Cup, defeating Orfevre, the 2011 Triple Crown winner who threw away the Arc in dramatic style at Longchamp in October.

Although Gentildonna has the option of running in the Dubai Duty Free over 1,800m, her victories in the Japan Cup and Japanese Oaks illustrate that she would be better suited by the 2,410m test of the Sheema Classic.

"We are not sending her just to see how she gets on. It has to be with the intent to win, which we have," her trainer Sei Ishizaka said.

Ishizaka has previous form in Dubai, having sent over Vermilion to contest the 2007 and 2008 World Cups in which the multiple Group 1 winner finished fourth to Invasor and 12th behind Curlin respectively. Her regular jockey Yasunari Iwata will take the ride.

Few horses of the Classic generation made an impact during the 2012 flat campaign, with Dullahan's success in the Pacific Classic and Trinniberg's victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint rare triumphs for the three year olds in America.

In Europe the story was similar as the German colts Pastorius and Novellist were the only horses of their generation to strike in open races at the highest level.

In beating Orfevre, there is a real belief in Japan that Gentildonna could well prove to be one of the best horses produced in the Land of the Rising Sun, which bodes well for the filly's challenge both in Dubai and Paris.

"It's fantastic and I hope she comes," Martin Talty, the Dubai Racing Club's international manager, said.

"She's been entered and it is a matter now of everything falling into place. She's one of the best horses in the world."

More immediately, the challenge from the Far East takes shape in the presence of Steven Burridge, the trainer from Singapore who bids to extend his phenomenal record at Meydan Racecourse tomorrow on the opening night of the 2013 Dubai World Cup Carnival.

Burridge saddled four winners from just 11 starters in a whirlwind visit last season and runs Benji's Empire in the Longines Dolce Vita Handicap over 1,000m.

Freezemaster also takes his place in the 1,700m handicap that acts as the concluding race on the seven-race card after the withdrawal of Finjaan during the final declarations.

"Benji's Empire has had seven wins for 39 starts and has really started to come good over the last season," the Australian handler, who has also brought Tiger Stripes and Devil's Cut to Dubai, said.

"He'd done a few things wrong but over the last 12 months he's come into himself and become really consistent in his racing."

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