DUBAI // Katsuhiko Sumii believes that Japan faces a heavy responsibility to perform as a team at Saturday's Dubai World Cup meeting after a tragic earthquake and tsunami struck his country.
The Japanese trainer saddles Victoire Pisa in the World Cup itself, while he also sends out Rulership in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Sumii is no stranger to international competition, having won the American Oaks, the Hong Kong Mile and his sensational one-two in the Melbourne Cup in 2006.
He is primarily known in the UAE for his exploits with the globe-trotting Vodka.
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"We have had a tragic disaster in Japan and I hope very strongly for Japan to perform well at this meeting," he said yesterday.
"All of the members from Japan feel that we must work together for the victory and give all of the victims of the tsunami hope."
Under a rising sun, Sumii exercised his two horses at Meydan Racecourse yesterday morning, working both in tandem over one lap of the Tapeta track. He then breezed them over six furlongs.
"Since Victoire Pisa arrived in Dubai he has done three steady gallops at Meydan," said Sumii, who turns 47 on Monday. "He has become more muscular physically.
"Rulership has been training on the Tapeta but as they are both in different races I gallop them together."
Among Victoire Pisa's 13 rivals in the world's richest horse race is compatriot Buena Vista, who also worked at Meydan yesterday. Japan's Horse of the Year cantered for two laps around the synthetic track and will have another gallop tomorrow.
The head-to-head score stands at 1-1 between the two horses, with Victoire Pisa's victory coming during the latest clash in the invitation-only Grade 1 Arima Kinen in December.
That the margin which separated them was only a nose highlights the improvement made since Buena Vista finished ahead of her great rival in the Japan Cup in November.
That day Victoire Pisa trailed in two lengths behind the darling of Japanese racing, but in a heavy-handed response by the stewards to a minor piece of scrimmaging the daughter of Special Week was disqualified.
If Buena Vista wins the Dubai World Cup, the five-year-old, which, like Rulership, is owned by Sunday Racing, will become the horse that has claimed the most prize money in training. By doing so she will also surpass Vodka's record, with currently over US$12 million (Dh7.34m) in the bank for her owners.
Clearly Buena Vista, alongside Cape Blanco and Twice Over, present a huge challenge to Sumii's charge but he is keen to underline that, if he doesn't win the big one, then he hopes that Team Japan take home a major slice of the $10m prize-money.
"That's the thing with international racing," he said. "I don't really know what I'm up against so I just concentrate on my horses.
"The competition is very intense so you never know. Let's put it this way. We are both racing for Team Japan, and it is important that Buena Vista is a great rival to us."