2012 Yasuda Kinen (G1) - Preview
2011 Yasuda Kinen (G1)
Sunday, June 3 sees Tokyo's last G1 of the spring after unbroken weeks of the top-level competitions. Deciding the spring's top miler is the 62nd running of the Yasuda Kinen. Always an international affair, the Yasuda field sees two contenders from Japan's neighbor to the southwest. Two Hong Kong-trained horses have already arrived to take on the race as they aim for its first-place prize of 100 million yen and Hong Kong’s first win in six years.
The 1,600-meter turf Yasuda Kinen was created in 1951 in honor of Izaemon Yasuda, the first president of the JRA. Yasuda helped to legalize horse-race betting as well as draw up designs for the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). The race was originally named the Yasuda Sho, or "prize," but was changed to mark Yasuda's passing in 1958 to the Yasuda Kinen. "Kinen" means "memorial" in Japanese.
The Yasuda Kinen became a Japanese Grade 1 race from 1984 and an international Grade 1 in 1993. It is considered Japan's penultimate race for milers. Repeated upsets had given the race an anything-is-possible image, only to change in recent years with winners more consistently from the top picks. Vodka was the first choice in 2009, second choice the year previous, as was Daiwa Major in 2007, with third pick Bullish Luck (then 7 years old) giving Hong Kong the win in 2006. Last year and the year previous, however, the top picks did not figure strongly among those horses finishing in the money. In 2010, the top three in finishing order from first to third were eighth, sixth and fifth choices that day at the windows. Last year the top three had gone to the gate the ninth, fifth and third pick.
The Yasuda Kinen has welcomed over 47 foreign-trained horses since its designation as an international race in 1993, including 1995 champion Heart Lake from the UAE, 2000 winner Fairy King Prawn from Hong Kong and compatriot Bullish Luck, who capped his Champions Mile win that year back home with victory in the 2006 Yasuda Kinen and went on to become Hong Kong Horse of the Year. The race, which used to be one of the two legs of the Asian Mile Challenge in 2005 together with the Champions Mile held by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, served as the final leg of the four-race series after the Melbourne Racing Club of Australia’s Futurity Stakes and the Dubai Racing Club’s Dubai Duty Free were added in 2006. The series was discontinued as of last year.
Last year the then 3-year-old colt Real Impact made good on a 4-kg weight advantage to top the field of 18, which included Hong Kong’s Beauty Flash (ninth-place finish) and Thumbs Up (in 11the place). Two years his senior, the then 5-year-old Strong Return finished a neck behind Real Impact in second.
The Yasuda Kinen wraps up the slew of top-level races at Tokyo Racecourse, coming on the heels of the Japanese Derby and the Japanese Oaks. The venue is known as an especially difficult course to win on strategy alone with the mile course starting at the mouth of the backstretch, with a run of more than 500 meters that evens the chances of success for any draw. The course turns left for 400 meters before hitting the grueling Tokyo straight of 525 meters, the first 225 meters of which is uphill.
Yasuda Kinen's race record was set by Showa Modern, who covered the mile distance in 1:31.7 in 2010.
A number of runners from last year will return in the 2012 version of the Yasuda Kinen. Last year’s champion Real Impact is back, as is runnerup Strong Return. Apapane (6th last year) and Silport (8th) and Danon Yoyo (10th) will always give the Yasuda another shake. Here are the early favorites from among the 27 nominees for this year's Yasuda Kinen.
Craig Williams guided Sadamu Patek to a win of the Keio Hai Spring Cup last time out and, if he'll accept the offer, the two will be together for the Yasuda Kinen as well. Sadamu Patek, despite missing the break by a bit last race, got high marks from trainer Masato Nishizono, who praised the 4-year-old for his cool-headedness and perfect timing. The son of Fuji Kiseki is 2 for 5 at Tokyo with one second at Fuchu as well. He's gunning for his first G1 win.
Last year's Oka Sho champion Marcellina is one of three fillies looking to take advantage of their 2-kg weight allowance. The Deep Impact daughter has had only two starts this year. Those gave her a second in the Hanshin Himba Stakes and a third in the Victoria Mile. She's failed to win since the 2011 Oka Sho, but perhaps three races into 2012 will be the charm.
Apapane has been running in the shadow of Marcellina this year, taking on the same two races but turning in a seventh and, last time out, a fifth. Trainer Sakae Kunieda is blaming the fast pace of this year's Victoria Mile, the race Apapane captured last year, for her eclipse. Kunieda says there's no need for despair and is optimistic his mare can shine once again.
Craig Williams was disappointed with second place from Donau Blue'sVictoria Mile run. He felt she wasn't happy going to the left and that she also needed a little more time under her belt to capture a G1, but he didn't mean three weeks. It'll be a lot to ask the filly -- running in mixed company less than one month from going all out in the Victoria Mile -- but we'll see if she can't make Williams eat his words.
Strong Return ran second to Real Impact last year then was off until fall, when he suffered a break and had to sit the races out until his comeback this May in the Keio Spring Cup, where he turned in a very respectable fourth. With one race behind him, he may be able to revenge last year's Yasuda.
Starting with October's Fuji Stakes, Eishin Apollon had three miles in a row. After clinching the Fuji Stakes at Tokyo, he made it a double the following month with a glorious run in the Mile Championship at Kyoto. This year he came back to the turf in the Yomiuri Milers Cup on April 22 and ran 14th. Poor preparation and a 10-kg gain were cited as reasons for his poor showing, but all eyes will be him to see if he'll be looking sharp next week.
Last year's winner Real Impact is back to see if he can make it a double. If his 18th-place finish in his last race, the Yomiuri Milers Cup, is any indication he won't be coming close. Though the haul to Kyoto is being cited as a one of the factors in the loss, in addition to it being his first race in two months and the fact that the good going helped ease the frontrunners through to the end. It's hoped he'll find Tokyo more to his liking, enough to give him his third win at the venue, his third win overall.
One of the oldest in the Yasuda lineup will be the 7-year-old Silport, who, on his last time out, went wire to wire to won his second Yomiuri Milers Cup in a row.He finished eighth in last year's Yasuda Kinen, only 0.4 seconds off the winner. He'll surely be out in front this year as well, and trainer Masato Nishizono may have more than Sadamu Patek to look out for.
Not to be overlooked are Garbo, taking a step up from a G3 win, the flagging Rose Kingdom, who may blossom anew with the distance change, and Pelusa, whose fans are always hoping he'll get a lucky break. Grand Prix Boss, who hasn't had a win since the NHK Mile Cup last year, has had three crushing losses in a row this year. Word is his mind is no longer on his work, but faint hopes still remain this two-time G1 winner could rally again.
The two runners from Hong Kong, both 5-year-old geldings, will be looking to pick up the country's third win of the Yasuda. Lucky Nine, who raced in the Centaur Stakes and Sprinters Stakes last year in Japan, is 9 for 25 and looking to better his third-place in his last outing, the Hong Kong Champions Mile. Since his win of the Hong Kong Sprint in December, this will be his sixth race in as many months and his second trip abroad in that time period. Glorious Days has had only eight races in his career, five wins and three seconds. He's missed out narrowly on the winner's circle in his last three straight, including his last race, the Hong Kong Champions Mile.
The Yasuda Kinen will be the 11th race on the card at Tokyo on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Post time is 3:40 p.m.