Horse Racing in Japan


2011 News

October 11, 2011

Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1) - Preview
Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1)
2010 Tenno Sho (Autumn) Winner: Buena Vista

To follow an act like Orfevre's in this year's Kikuka Sho, an act that clinched the Triple Crown title, is without a doubt no easy feat. To not be eclipsed by a performance so rare it has only been seen seven times in Japanese racing history would take a lineup of mega names at a venue of world acclaim in a race whose very name commands respect. The Tenno Sho (Autumn) and this year's lineup fit the bill.

The 144th running of this spring/autumn classic boasts not only some of the biggest names running, but a plot weighty with rivalry, revenge, and a chance to rewrite the history books.

Buena Vista, however, will be the horse to watch Sunday afternoon, when fans in the stands at Tokyo hold their collective breath to see if this equine Amazon can lay claim to her sixth G1 victory and back-to-back wins of the race, while at the same time laying to rest memories of a victory gone awry. It would go far to assuage the painful memories of last year's Japan Cup, if the mare could go down in history as the only female to win this time-honored tradition two years in a row.

The Tenno Sho in its earliest form was founded in 1905 as the Emperor's Cup by the Japan Race Club of Yokohama in honor of the Meiji Emperor. After local racing clubs around the country were merged in 1937, the race took on its current twice-a-year form. What is now considered to be the inaugural Tenno Sho was held in Tokyo in 1937 over 2,600 meters, the second race the following spring in Hanshin was 100 meters longer. The outbreak of war halted the race in both 1945 and 1946, but the Tenno Sho was back up and running in 1947. Since then, the Tenno Sho (Spring) has been held in Kyoto, the autumn version in Tokyo.

Tokyo Racecourse
Tokyo Racecourse

Until 1983, both the Tenno Sho (Spring) at Kyoto and the Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo were run over 3,200 meters, and in 1984, the fall race was shortened to 2,000 meters. Through, previously, winning the Emperor's Cup meant automatically that a rerun was not possible, from 1981, the winner of either version has been allowed to defend his or her title. Since that time eight horses have won the race two or more times, quite a feat considering the difference in distance between the two. The Emperor's Cup remained, for a long time, closed to foreign-bred stock, but from 2000, was gradually opened to participation by foreign-breds and now allows an unlimited number to join the lineup. The race went international in 2005. This year, unfortunately, there will be no overseas participants.

The Tenno Sho (Autumn) starts at the bottom of Tokyo Racecourse homestretch past the finish line, bends around over 400 meters to the back straight, runs for more than 500 meters until the final 400-meter turn and enters the 525-meter stretch. The Tokyo stretch is the undoing of many a horse as it rises 2 meters for the first 225 meters before flattening out to the finish. The now-retired mare Vodka holds both the course record and the race record - set in 2008 at the age of 4 -- of 1 minute 57.2 seconds. That time was equaled by Company in 2009.

Weights are set at 58 kilograms for 4-year-olds & up, 56 kg for 3-year-olds and females are saddled with 56 or 54 kg.

The following names are the early favorites:

Buena Vista - After her return from Dubai, Buena Vista was given two races in the spring, then sat out the summer to make her return in the Tenno Sho in a bid for her first win since last year's race, a win that would also make her the first mare to win successive autumn versions of the Tenno Sho. Though she has not made the winner's circle over the past year, Buena Vista has come within a hair's breadth of it, and she is far from deserving of being written off. Her Japan Cup run, which saw her over the line the winner, was stolen from her by her rider's carelessness and saw her demoted to second place, with Rose Kingdom given the win. Though Christophe Soumillon took the reins again in the Arima Kinen, a late drive saw them finish a nose too late. Other than the Dubai World Cup, in which she raced over an artificial surface for the first time and finished eighth, the daughter of Special Week has handed in quality work. Like last year, Buena Vista will not have raced since the Takarazuka Kinen, a full four months ago, but, with Yasunari Iwata getting his third chance in the stirrups, this time could be the charm.

Rose Kingdom
Rose Kingdom
Rose Kingdom - The 4-year-old son of King Kamehameha may have gotten an undeserved hard knock from Buena Vista fans last years as the horse to be named winner of the Japan Cup, but his initial second-place performance as a 3-year-old in the race was deserving of far more respect. 2010 was, in fact, a formidable year for the colt, with seconds in the Japanese Derby and Kikuka Sho. Rose Kingdom faded, however, from the money and the limelight after the Japan Cup and an ensuing scratch from the Arima Kinen, what had been expected to be the stage for Buena Vista to avenge her loss in the Japan Cup. Into the new year, Rose Kingdom took on four races to notch two thirds, an 11th and a fourth before finally coming back to form with a win his last time out. That race, the Kyoto Daishoten (G2) at Kyoto gave him a nice sharpener over 2,400 meters and sets him up nicely for the 2,000 at Tokyo, a distance that he may be better suited to than the classic one.

Earnestly
Earnestly
Earnestly - This 6-year-old by Grass Wonder could be nicknamed Old Faithful, what with consistency that has seen him in the money in all but four of his 21 starts. The most recent of those four came over two years ago. Earnestly, a 2,000-meter specialist, is coming off two successive wins, one in the G2 Sankei Sho All Comers at Nakayama Sept. 25 and before that in the Takarazuka Kinen, in which he beat Buena Vista over the line by a length and a half in record time. Eishin Flash was third in that race and Rose Kingdom fourth. Six of his 10 wins, which include five graded races, have been at the Tenno Sho (Autumn) distance. He has yet, however, to win at Tokyo. Third in last year's Tenno Sho, 1 1/2 lengths off runnerup Pelusa, Earnestly may find the 132 million yen winner's share beyond his grasp, but he is likely to be good for compensation at the windows.

Eishin Flash
Eishin Flash
Eishin Flash - This son of King's Best has failed to be crowned winner since his victory in the 2010 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). Nonetheless, far from being banished with the also-rans, he is still waiting patiently for what could be his second jewel. Only a length and a half off the winner in the Takarazuka Kinen, Eishin Flash was half a length off Hiruno d'Amour in the spring version of the Tenno Sho. Though he has no other wins at Tokyo other than the Derby, he has never been given the chance at 10 furlongs at the venue, despite the fact that his other three wins were all at 2,000 meters. Last year, Eishin Flash had to deal with a somewhat difficult schedule, as he went from the Derby at the end of May to the Kobe Shimbun Hai four months later, then waited two months before taking on the Japan Cup. This year, however, despite the fact that he has not raced in four months, he has finished in the money in all three of his races this spring. The long break is not expected to cause too much concern as he finished third in the first of those three races, the Sankei Osaka Hai (G3), which saw him back on the track for the first time in over three months.

Dark Shadow
Dark Shadow
Dark Shadow - This 4-year-old colt by Dance in the Dark has whirled into the spotlight with his fancy and impressive moves, moves that won him three of his five races this year and gave him seconds in the other two. Though he will be running in a top-level race for the first time in what is only his 10th career outing, Dark Shadow has not only won three races over 2,000 meters, but has bagged all five of his wins at Tokyo. He is on hot on the trail of his third win in a row, after having dragged down both the Mainichi Okan (G2) on Oct. 9 and the Epsom Cup (G3) on June 12. In the Sankei Osaka Hai at Hanshin April 3, Dark Shadow finished but a nose off winner Hiruno d'Amour and a neck ahead of Eishin Flash. Though he has yet to meet the best in a G1 competition, this colt is definitely no dark-horse.

Jaguar Mail
Jaguar Mail
Jaguar Mail - The 7-year-old Jaguar Mail, by Jungle Pocket, has been winless since last year's Tenno Sho (Spring) partnered with Craig Williams. Jaguar Mail failed miserably in his bid for last year's autumn version of the Tenno Sho, however. He crossed the line in 15th and was further demoted to 18th. He received his first race this year in the Kyoto Daishoten at Kyoto on Oct. 9. after returning from a fourth-place finish in the Hong Kong Vase. Jaguar Mail placed fourth in the 2,400-meter G2 event at Kyoto, but was only a length and a half off the winner, Rose Kingdom, with what was likely the fastest final 3 furlongs of the field.

Pelusa
Pelusa
Pelusa - Following a four-win firecracker start to his career, Pelusa fizzled despite fans' faith in him. His two starts this year gave him a second and eighth, but Sunday's race will be his first since the Tenno Sho (Spring) nearly six months ago. Two of the now 4-year-old Pelusa's early wins were at Tokyo and 2,000 meters, however. Though it has been 17 months since his last win it may be time to welcome the prodigal son home.

To the Glory
To the Glory
To the Glory - Though To the Glory, by King Kamehameha, has crashed and burned in his last two outings, newly crowned Triple Crown trainer Yasutoshi Ikee may be able to have this 4-year-old back in form, the kind of winning form To the Glory displayed in his first two outings of the year, with wins in both the Nikkei Sho (G2) at Hanshin in April and the Kyoto Kinen (G2) in Kyoto in February. Though he has been raced recently distances at least a furlong longer than the 10 of the Tenno Sho, To the Glory has won at 10, albeit in Kokura.

The Tenno Sho (Autumn) is the 11th race on the Sunday, Oct. 30 card at Tokyo Racecourse. Post time is 3:40 p.m.

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