Happy Grin’s following has a widening reach in Japan and trainer Junji Tanaka is hopeful his star galloper will do the nation proud in Sunday’s (26 May) G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).
“A lot of people are involved in this project; I want to make them happy from the race on Sunday,” Tanaka said at Sha Tin this morning (Thursday, 23 May).
Happy Grin is the ‘international’ interest in Sunday’s contest, with the raider’s connections keen to take up the Hong Kong challenge despite the cost of travelling a horse overseas.
“This is not a 100 percent invitational race, so it is a big spend for the owner to travel here and look after all the costs,” Tanaka explained.
“The National Association of Racing (NAR) gave us a subsidy of five million Japanese Yen, but it doesn’t cover everything.”
Tanaka revealed that fund-raising for the Lohengrin chestnut’s expedition is “still going on, but at this moment it stands at two million Japanese Yen.”
While horses from the JRA (Japan Racing Association) are regular competitors – and winners – in Hong Kong’s majors, Happy Grin is set to become only the second horse from the local authority-run NAR circuit to compete at Sha Tin. The first was Cosmo Bulk, 10th in the 2005 G1 Champions Mile.
The JRA is the nation’s top tier of racing, conducting meetings at weekends, and the NAR covers the midweek fixtures, which is where Happy Grin’s career began.
A 2018 Japan Cup seventh behind Almond Eye put the four-year-old on the map and his loyal fans have been eager to see him test his mettle abroad.
“Because of the characteristics of this horse, being an NAR horse and coming from the JRA’s big races like the Japan Cup, he has a lot of followers and the followers are willing to support his big task, many people were willing to give a kind of donation,” the handler said.
“We have two racing organisations in Japan; one is obviously the Japan Racing Association. The other one is the National Association of Racing which Happy Grin belongs to and there are many restrictions for horses who belong to the NAR to run in JRA races on the turf, particularly for horses over four years old, so this is one of the major reasons why we chose to come here to Hong Kong to run in the Champions & Chater Cup,” Tanaka said.
That lack of suitable races has given Happy Grin the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Win Bright, who captured international success at Sha Tin for Japan in the QEII Cup last month.
Crowned 2018 NAR Best Turf horse, Happy Grin finished eighth to Win Bright in the G2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m) earlier this year.