It seems naming horses after a country does not do any harm when it comes to trying to win the Investec Derby.
Australia won the 2014 renewal and, five years later, Japan came within half a length of doing the same. He finished third in a blanket finish behind stablemate Anthony Van Dyck.
Japan had been a leading ante-post fancy for the Derby over the winter but suffered a minor setback in the spring and was very easy to back when fourth in the Dante at York on his return, beaten about five lengths.
He was also a big drifter on Derby day, going off at 20/1 after being half that price in the morning. However, it did not stop him running a huge race under Wayne Lordan.
Japan confirmed himself a top-class colt when landing the King Edward VII Stakes by four and a half lengths on his next start at Royal Ascot.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “The Derby was a very good race, I don’t think anyone realised what a good race it was – we can see what happened to Circus Maximus earlier in the week. They were all there together – it was a very high-class race. This is a very smart horse and he is coming forward lovely all the time.”
Japan subsequently showed himself to be a force back at the highest level in 2019.
First, he scooped the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. Not much divided the first four home but Ryan Moore always looked to have things in hand aboard the odds-on favourite.
Next time, back over ten furlongs, he put up a career-best to edge out Crystal Ocean by a head in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York before finishing a fine fourth behind Waldgeist and Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
In 2020, Japan’s efforts included finishing third in the Coral-Eclipse and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes but the suspicion is that we never saw the best of him.
He is a son of Galileo and is out of Shayste, and is a brother to the Oaks runner-up Secret Gesture and the Group 3 winner Sir Isaac Newton. He was bred by Newells Park Stud, and bought by MV Magnier/Mayfair/P&R Doyle for 1.3 million guineas at Tattersalls October Book 1 Yearling Sale in 2017.
As a two-year-old, Japan won two of his three starts and signed off with a narrow win in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes over a mile at Naas.