Smart Falcon, a Japanese-bred 7-year-old son of Gold Allure, is an intriguing but little-known runner (for US audiences, anyway) slated for the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 31, but he’s being held as a second choice to So You Think in many European betting shops. One reason, perhaps: In 2011, two Japanese horses, Victoire Pisa and Transcend, finished 1-2 in the race at Meydan over the tapeta. Victoire Pisa was a high-class JRA horse who’d won the Group 1 2000 Guineas equivalent at 2000 meters on turf, but Transcend was a dirt horse who didn’t have the same aura as his classic-winning countryman. Though Transcend had won the 2010 Group 1 Japan Cup Dirt and the 2011 Group 1 February Stakes before his Dubai foray, dirt form in Japan is not considered in the same league as the turf races, but the colt’s form came through on the synthetic.
Based on their Dubai World Cup run, Victoire Pisa and Transcend were rated at 122 and 121, respectively, as the highweighted Japanese colts at 4 and up in 2011 on dirt (based off DWC run on synthetic). Third on the list is Smart Falcon, now a winner of 23 of 33 starts and the equivalent of more than $9 million—mostly on dirt in Japan.
Like many other top horses in Japan, Smart Falcon is from the Sunday Silence sire line through Gold Allure, who won eight of 16 starts and was like his son a dirt specialist. Gold Allure won the Japan Dirt Derby and the Tokyo Daishoten—both races at 2000 meters on dirt—as a 3-year-old when he was champion dirt horse. The next year, he won the February Stakes on dirt at 1800 meters.
Both the February Stakes and the Tokyo Daishoten are now international Group 1 races and are open to foreign runners, and it’s only a matter of time before US horses begin to participate in them because the money and the surface are just right. Smart Falcon won the 2011 Tokyo Daishoten, the first year the race was elevated to Group 1 status and allowed foreign entrants, and the Tapit colt Testa Matta won the February Stakes last month (this race has been open to all since 2007). Note that Testa Matta was rated at 112 on dirt in 2011, and note, too, that Espoir City, like Smart Falcon by Gold Allure, was rated at 115—both behind Smart Falcon. Espoir City won the Japan Cup Dirt in 2009 and the February Stakes in 2010, but he was nine lengths second behind Smart Falcon in a Listed event last June over 2000 meters on dirt. Likewise, Transcend finished a length second behind Smart Falcon in a 2000-meter Listed race last November.
The form is obviously there.
Smart Falcon, who has won his last nine starts, is a front runner, and if he takes to the tapeta like Transcend did last year, he actually might give So You Think and Game on Dude a run for the $10 million, just as Transcend did on the front end last year.