Berry backs Magical Lagoon to take Japan by storm


The Irish Oaks winner takes on a stacked field in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup

Friday, November 11, 2022
Magical Lagoon 850

Magical Lagoon and Shane Foley are hoping to take their domestic success overseas this weekend


Few people this side of the Pacific know Japanese racing quite like Fran Berry and the ebullient ex-jockey has backed Magical Lagoon to take Hanshin by storm this weekend, writes Paul Martin.

The three-year-old filly won the Irish Oaks in July and has now been sent to the land of the rising sun for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes as trainer Jessica Harrington takes aim at a global addition to the CV.

Harrington has wins in nigh-on all the UK and Ireland’s crown jewels under her belt and has trusted Shane Foley, who had a stint in Japan in 2016, with the ride.

 

Berry has also spent many a winter in the far eastern saddle and believes Magical Lagoon, the first British or Irish-trained horse to enter this race since Snow Fairy won it in 2011, has a live chance.

“Speaking to Shane during the week, he is of the opinion she may well be better going right-handed and if that’s the case, she’s in the right place in Hanshin,” he said.

“Kate [Harrington, Jessica’s daughter and assistant] and Shane are very happy with their filly and a number of my Japanese contacts think she looks very well and travelled very well. 

“It might not be the most vintage crop of Japanese fillies, so it could be the right year for her to travel, and Snow Fairy also won the Irish Oaks en route to winning this one, which will be of interest to connections.

“When you look back on the [Ribblesdale Stakes] win at Royal Ascot, she showed a great attitude. 

“The Irish Oaks may not have been as strong a race following Emily Upjohn’s withdrawal but she’s a filly who does the bare minimum.

“Each of her wins this season have been by half a length in that company and she does what she has to do to go and win races.

“If she is a Group 1 filly in Ireland, she can transfer that to Japan. She’s had to travel three-quarters of the way around the world but Magical Lagoon has had a mid-season break and this has been targeted for her since August.

“It’s not an afterthought, which is very important when you go on these foreign trips.”

Berry has a long and storied association with Harrington which was taken to a new level by his win on Pathfork in the 2010 National Stakes.

The year before, he had travelled to Japan for the first time and instantly soaked up the passionate racing culture in the country.

The feeling was mutual – a ‘Fran Club’ was set up in Japan by those who followed the fortunes of the Kildare jockey – and Berry returned earlier this year to film a ‘Fran in Japan’ documentary for Racing TV.

 

 

“It shocked me initially when I first went out there,” he said.

“It’s the equivalent of Premier League football in England, it is held in such high regard. 

“You get huge crowds. The Japan Cup will draw 100,000 at the end of the month and a Group 1 Sunday like this one coming up will see people camp out on a Saturday evening at the turnstiles to get in the gate first and get the best seats in the house. 

“It is a fanatical thing and people follow jockeys and horses in the same way people would football teams over here.”

Racing in Japan also brings with it unique preparation for the jockeys involved, with Berry giving an insight into how Foley will have to gear up for his rides this weekend.

“All jockeys have to be in quarantine in an on-site hotel from the Friday night through to the Sunday,” he said.

“They take away your phones and you don’t really have contact with the outside world.

“I used to like it. I spent three months on my own so it was a bit of company, and once the racing starts, you’re so busy you don’t really think about it as there are 12 races a day. 

“It’s another interesting aspect about riding in Japan and I would recommend it to any jockey. It’s proper Premier League stuff.”

If she is a Group 1 filly in Ireland, she can transfer that to Japan

- Fran Berry

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