2016 Yasuda Kinen (G1) - Preview
After a thrilling Japanese Derby, which saw 140,000 racegoers in attendance, the final Grade 1 of the five consecutive weeks of top level action at Tokyo Racecourse will be run on Sunday, June 5. One of the best mile races on the Japanese racing calendar, the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen rounds out a great series of races which has included the Japanese Oaks and the Derby.
The Yasuda Kinen is named after the first president of the JRA, Izaemon Yasuda, and this week will see the 66th running of the race, which became a Japanese Grade 1 in 1984, and later in 1993 was given international Grade 1 status. It’s a race for 3-year-olds and up, but among the sixteen nominations this year, no 3-year-old will take on the race. Two of the nominated horses will also not run. Danon Platina misses the race with a hoof ailment, and Magic Time has not recovered in time from her exertions in the Victoria Mile.
On the plus side, though, the race will live up to its international name, with the participation of Hong Kong’s Contentment, who chased home Japan’s Maurice last time in the Grade 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin in May. The 6-year-old Australian bred gelding, trained by John Size, will be looking to turn the tables on the Japanese runner, whose meteoric rise to the top has been quite astounding. Challengers from Hong Kong always deserve the utmost respect, and the spoils went to them in 2000 (Fairy King Prawn) and 2006 (Bullish Luck). Jockey Brett Prebble won on the latter, and he looks to be back again this time for the ride on Contentment.
Lead up races this time around for the Japanese runners include the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup, the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup, and the Grade 2 Nakayama Kinen. The winners of recent Yasuda Kinen races, with the exception of 2014 when the going was soft, have got home in times around 1 minute, 32 or 33 seconds, but Strong Return still holds the race record of 1 minute, 31.3 seconds set in 2012. In the last 10 years, 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds have won the race three times apiece, and in the same decade four first favorites have won, with the three most recent top picks obliging.
There’s a winner’s check of ¥103 million, and post time this Sunday will be 15:40 local time. Here’s a look at some of the Japanese contenders:
Maurice: The sky still seems to be the limit for this 5-year-old by Japan Cup winner, Screen Hero. He has seven consecutive wins to his name, including four Grade 1s, and in JRA races alone has won prize money of ¥313 million. Further accolades include JRA’s Horse of the Year award in 2015, and a current world ranking which puts him at number three. Just to align the stars further, his trainer, Noriyuki Hori, has won the Yasuda Kinen three times in the last five years, Maurice claiming victory in the race last year. Assistant trainer, Atsunori Hashimoto, recently said: “It was such a great run last time in Hong Kong, and he came out of it with no trouble at all. He seemed to look a bit different over there, but all went well. On his return, he’s been in quarantine at the JRA Horseracing School Quarantine Centre and at the Tokyo Racecourse. After which, he’ll get out onto the Tokyo track proper and we can judge his condition.”
Real Steel: Another returnee who won the Grade 1 Dubai Turf last start, the Northern Farm bred Real Steel will be having his first run at a mile. He’s three wins and four seconds from nine starts, and one of his wins has come over 1,800 meters at Tokyo. The 4-year-old by Deep Impact is trained by leading trainer, Yoshito Yahagi. The horse recently put in a six furlong piece of work over the woodchip course at the Ritto Training Center, with stablemate Taisei Cruise having a three length advantage. The first half of the workout saw Real Steel run at an easy pace, before picking things up from after the third corner and finishing off strongly. Yuichi Fukunaga, who is scheduled to get the ride in the race, rode the horse in training.
Satono Aladdin: Recent winner of the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup, Satono Aladdin has a good track record at Tokyo. The 5-year-old has finished first or second in four of his six races at the track. He was also fourth in last year’s Grade 1 Mile Championship. His trainer, Yasutoshi Ikee, said, “In his last race he started slowly, and it looked like with the pace he was going to have a hard time. But when you consider how he ran on down the straight for a final three furlong time of 32.4 seconds, you have to be impressed.”
Danon Shark: The 8-year-old horse by Deep Impact has now run three times in the Yasuda Kinen, with a best place finish of third in 2013. He’s coming off a good second place finish in the Grade 2 Milers Cup at Kyoto in April, and could be getting back into things in time for this year’s Yasuda Kinen. He recently trained, with jockey Yasunari Iwata aboard, over six furlongs with stablemate All of Night. Between the third and fourth bends, Danon Shark got into gear well, before finishing strongly down the straight in the workout.
Isla Bonita: The 5-year-old by Fuji Kiseki is the 2014 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) winner. He has won six times from sixteen starts, and among his victories, one has come over a mile from three starts at the distance. He was third in last year’s Grade 1 Mile Championship, and has finished ninth and fifth in two starts this year. His regular jockey, Masayoshi Ebina, thinks well of the horse. “There’s no change in his condition and everything’s been satisfactory so far. His races have been pretty good, and he’s the type that just needs to be given races to see what he can do.”
Fiero: Carrying the same colours of recent Derby winner, Makahiki, 7-year-old Fiero was bred at Shadai Farm and is trained by Hideaki Fujiwara. He’s raced twice in the Yasuda Kinen, finishing eighth on soft going in 2014, and fourth just last year. In his one run this year, he finished fourth in the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup in April.
Logotype: The 2013 Satsuki Sho winner is now a 6-year-old, but has only had six starts over a mile. Out of those runs, he’s won twice and finished second and third in two of the other races. Trainer Tsuyoshi Tanaka recently said, “His condition is improving and his movement was good in last week’s training. Of course, the opposition’s going to be strong, but I’m looking forward to how he’ll do.” Logotype is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Lord Derby Challenge Trophy over 1,600 meters at Nakayama in April, and is looking to add to his already impressive prize money tally of ¥404 million.