The 57th running of the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen will be run on June 3 at Tokyo racecourse over 1600m, and the nominations for the race have just been announced. The race is the final leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, with the other three legs (the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin racecourse, the Group 1 Power Pays Futurity Stakes at Caulfield racecourse and the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba racecourse) already having been run and won.
There are 4 foreign trained horses still nominated for the race - all from Hong Kong. Both Joyful Winner and The Duke are back again this year, and will be hoping to improve on their 3rd and 15th (respectively) placings last year. Champions Mile winner Able One is also making the trip, as is Good Ba Ba who was one of the favored runners in the Champions Mile only to finish 5th. Able One will be chasing a US$1,000,000 bonus in the Yasuda Kinen - for winning 2 legs of the Challenge.
The full field for the race is 18, with 14 places for Japanese runners after the 4 foreign runners above have been afforded their place. For those 14 positions, there were 27 nominations for the race, with the final field promising to be a crack field of Asian milers. Below is a brief description of the main chances from Japan:
Daiwa Major: A 3-time Grade 1 winning son of Sunday Silence who is sure to be popular in this race after establishing himself as one of the best milers in the world throughout in the past 18 months. Since the beginning of last year he has raced only in Grade 1 and Grade 2 races, for 4 wins, one 2nd, two 3rds and two 4ths from his 9 starts. He was the Champion sprinter/miler in Japan last year, and his international standing should only have improved after his 3rd in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free last start when he was forced to travel wide for the whole trip. It was no surprise that he tired in the final stages of the long Dubai straight after hitting the lead with several hundred meters to go. There used to be questions about how well he handled the Tokyo racecourse, but he put paid to those queries last year when winning the Grade 2 Mainichi Okan (1800m) and then the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) over 2000m in succession last year at this course. He has returned from Dubai in good condition and is very hard to leave out of the chances here.
Suzuka Phoenix: Another son of Sunday Silence who will be favored here after a dominating performance to win the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) last start. Did not break through at Grade level until this year (as a 5yo) but since being restricted to sprint/mile distances, he had shown that he was top class and last start finally broke through at the highest level. Earlier in his career he tended to get a long way back and therefore sometimes needed luck, but champion jockey Yutaka Take rode him a lot closer last time and he won very easily. He loves the Tokyo course and will be expected to go very close to winning this.
Eishin Dover: An extremely consistent American-bred son of Victory Gallop who failed badly in this race last year at 160/1, but since then has just continued to improve. He was one of many promising milers who failed behind Kongo Rikishio in the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup (1600m) at Hanshin racecourse two starts back, before arriving at Tokyo and breaking the track record last start in the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup over 1400m at only his second start at the track (the other was last year's Yasuda Kinen), when running 1:20.0. He hadn't been thought of as one of Japan's top milers until last start, but that performance showed that he may be ready to step up to the next level here.
Orewa Matteruze: A good sprinting son of Sunday Silence who had always been consistent, but really come into his own last year, winning the only spring Sprint Grade 1, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen over 1200m in March, then following up with a dominant win in the traditional lead up for this race, the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup over 1400m at Tokyo at his next start. However, he subsequently failed in the Yasuda Kinen in 2006 and was struggling for the next 10 months or so, but last start he showed he may be coming back into form with a game effort to race on the pace and hang on for 3rd in record time behind Eishin Dover in the Keio Hai Spring Cup. His name means "I'm waiting!" in Japanese.
Kongo Rikishio: A 5yo son of Stravinsky who had been marked as a consistent middle distance performer up until last start where he was tried over a mile for the first time in his career. He wasn't expected to do much over the shorter distance and was sent out a 25/1 chance, but he led all the way in record time, absolutely smashing a good field of milers including the champion mare Sweep Tosho, Hat Trick and several of the horses who will line up against him again here. It looks like the switch back to shorter distances may bring out the best in the horse, and if he can repeat the performance here, he will be very very hard to run down.
Dia de la Novia: Was 4th across the line behind Kawakami Princess, Fusaichi Pandora and Sweep Tosho in last year's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup before being promoted to 3rd. She has a big finish and had never missed a place at Tokyo until last start. She disappointed in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup behind Pride, Admire Moon and Vengeance of Rain in December last year, but then came back to Japan and demolished a Grade 3 field of fillies and mares. The next start she was ridden forward as a very short priced favorite and disappointed to finish 3rd. In a race dominated by leaders, she finished off the race with a very quick 33.5 second last 600m to hit the line in 6th place last start in the Grade 1 Victoria Mile for fillies and mares. This is obviously tougher here against the males, but she hasn't had much luck recently and there is no doubt she has ability.
Jolly Dance: Will have some supporters after a big effort in the Victoria Mile last start over this course. Coming into the race she had won two in a row including running past hot favorite Dia de la Novia to win the Grade 2 Hanshin Himba Stakes over 1400m. In a slowly run race, she came home in 32.7 seconds for her final 600m - by far the fastest closing sectional recorded in the race and was clearly making more ground that any other horse at the finish. She will be tested here (like Dia de la Novia) against the males, but she showed she was one of the best female milers around last start, so she must be given some kind of rough chance in this race.
Meiner Scherzi: A 4yo colt that has always showed loads of potential but recently has trouble breaking through at the top level. He won a Grade 3 over this distance in the first week of 2007 before finishing close up in three high level races - the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen, the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup and then the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup last start. He races on the pace and last start looked as though he had found a winning break in the middle stages of the final straight only to be run down in record time. It was a good effort though, and with luck here, he can be in the finish.
Air Shady: Is still yet to win a race at Grade level, but has been racing against some of Japan's best milers throughout his career. Was terribly disappointing as favorite last start in the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup at Hanshin racecourse finishing 11th in the 15 horse field, but had lost 18kgs prior to that run. If he is back to his best condition here, he definitely has the ability to be in the finish.
© Japan Association for International Racing and Stud Book (JAIRS). All Rights Reserved.