Kitasan Black beats Satono Crown in the 2017 Tenno Sho (Autumn). Pic: Japan Racing Association.

Kitasan Black beats Satono Crown (obscured) in the 2017 Tenno Sho (Autumn). Pic: Japan Racing Association.

Four foreign invaders have arrived to try and wrest the $5.1 million Japan Cup (G1) from the locals for the first time since 2005 – but they’ll have to beat a strong local team in the 1 ½-mile contest to do so.

Coming in to challenge the Japanese horses are the Australian Boom Time, winner of the Caulfield Cup (G1) last month; the Aidan O’Brien-trained Idaho, eighth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and fourth in the Canadian International (G1); and the German pair of Guignol and Iquitos.

The Germans may be the best foreign chances in the race. Guignol has beaten Iquitos into second place twice in group one races this year, finishing 2 ½ lengths in front in the Grosser Preis von Baden at Baden-Baden on firm footing, and a neck in front in the Grosser Preis von Bayern in Munich on soft footing. Third in Munich was Dschingis Secret, who finished sixth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, one place ahead of Iquitos.

However, the local team will be very hard to beat, as Iquitos found out when finishing seventh last year. The winner that day was Kitasan Black, and the popular 5-year-old will probably start favorite again.

Since his Japan Cup triumph last year, Kitasan Black has won the Osaka Hai (G1), the Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1), and the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1). He has plenty of stamina and courage, and he can be expected to run strongly again.

Trying to turn the tables on Kitasan Black is Satono Crown. Last year’s Hong Kong Vase (G1) winner has this year won the Takarazuka Kinen (G1) – Kitasan Black’s only failure this year – and then was runner-up by a neck to Kitasan Black in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). He could provide a stiffer challenge still to Kitasan Black if the going is firm. The in-form Mirco Demuro has the ride.

Two Japanese Classic-winning 3-year-olds also take part. Rey de Oro has won five of his starts, including a stylish victory in the Tokyo Yushun (G1, Japanese Derby), while the Frankel filly Soul Stirring won the Yushun Himba (G1, Japanese Oaks) from subsequent Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Mozu Katchan.

Since their classic victories, Rey de Oro won the Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2), while Soul Stirring was slightly disappointing when sixth to Kitasan Black in the Tenno Sho (Autumn).

Tenno Sho (Spring) runner-up Cheval Grand, 2016 Tokyo Yushun winner Makahiki, and Tenno Sho (Autumn) third-place finisher Rainbow Line may be best of the others.

As good as the foreign team is, it’s hard to go past Kitasan Black and Satono Crown, two very classy performers. Rey de Oro may be their biggest threat.