NHK Mile Cup (G1) - Preview
Tower of London
Top level horseracing action in Japan switches to Tokyo on Sunday, May 6, when the Fuchu track gears up for its five-week stint of Grade 1 races, beginning with the NHK Mile Cup. Originally a Japanese Derby trial run over 2,000 meters, things changed in 1996 when the race took on its current format and gave the 3-year-olds their own stage to see what they are capable of over a mile. It takes a strong horse to dominate over the stiff 1,600 meters at Tokyo Racecourse.
This year sees the 23rd running of the race, and it has attracted 22 nominations, including six fillies, who get to claim a 2kg allowance, while the colts will all carry a set weight of 57kg. The race excludes geldings. Such is the competition for a place in the lineup, the past 19 years have seen a full gate of 18 go to post. There’s a prize money boost this year, where the winner will be awarded 105 million yen.
Step races leading up to this year’s Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup have included the Grade 3 Chunichi Sports Sho Falcon Stakes run at Chukyo over 1,400 meters in March, the Grade 3 Arlington Cup run at Hanshin over a mile in April, and the Grade 2 New Zealand Trophy run over a mile at Nakayama, also in April. The race has been kind to those at the head of the betting, with six first favorites finding the winner’s enclosure in the past 10 years. The record time for the race is still held by Danon Chantilly who won in 2010 in a time of 1 minute, 31.4 seconds. The race has thrown up big name winners such as King Kamehameha (2004) and Deep Sky (2008), and in the past two years the race has been claimed by fillies, namely Major Emblem (2016) and Aerolithe (2017).
The Grade 1 NHK Mile cup will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Tokyo, with a post time of 15:40 local time. Will the fillies come out on top again against the colts?
Here’s a look at some of the runners expected to attract attention:
Tower of London: The colt bred at Darley Japan looks to be something in the making, and even holds entries for this year’s Royal Ascot. He’s started favorite in four of his six races, and has chalked up four wins already, including his only start as a 3-year-old when he won the Grade 3 Arlington Cup at Hanshin over 1,600 meters. The colt by Raven’s Pass has been ridden in all of his races by Christophe Lemaire, and is trained by Kazuo Fujisawa, a powerful combination when it comes to success in racing in Japan. Assistant trainer Daisuke Tsumagari commented: “His last race was a success when he returned over the same course and distance as before, and ran patiently before showing a good turn of foot to win. It was more like the race he ran two starts ago, and it proves he’s coming on well.”
Keiai Nautique: The colt by Deep Impact is two wins and two seconds from six starts, and was fourth in last year’s Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes. He lost by a head last time when favorite for the Grade 2 New Zealand Trophy over 1,600 meters at Nakayama. With jockey Yutaka Take still sitting out a suspension, Yusuke Fujioka is a candidate for the ride on Keiai Nautique. Trainer Osamu Hirata said, “He was slightly unlucky last time, when the eventual winner came up on his outside and just got the better of things. But looking ahead, there were a lot of positives to take from that race.”
Tetradrachm: The Rulership filly has shown what she’s made of with good runs at Tokyo, where she has never finished out of the first two in three starts at the track, which have included two wins. Her latest victory came in the Grade 3 Daily Hai Queen Cup over the mile at Tokyo in February, so she’s coming into the race fresh. Trainer Kazuo Konishi said, “After her win in the Queen Cup, she had a break at the farm, and the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) would have come a bit too soon for her, so we decided on the NHK Mile. She came back to the stable on April 13 and all looks good with her.”
Katsuji: Recent winner of the Grade 2 New Zealand Trophy, Katsuji put in a powerful finish to make it his second win in four starts, and both wins have come over a mile. The colt by Deep Impact has been ridden by in form jockey Kohei Matsuyama in all his races, so he would be expected to be in the saddle this time as well. An assistant training staff at the stable of trainer Kaneo Ikezoe commented: “It got a bit tight just after the start last time, so it took a while for him to find his rhythm, but when finally coming with his run down the outside, he was impressive and we could take a lot from the race. He’s come out of it well and there’s no change with him.”
Gibeon: Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara looks to be well represented in the race, and the Shadai Race Horse Co. Ltd. colt comes into the race after a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Mainichi Hai over 1,800 meters at Hanshin. He has won over 2,000 meters at Tokyo, so that experience should be good for him. Assistant trainer Nobuyuki Tashiro said of Gibeon, “He did well enough last time, with the winner just able to forge ahead from the inside on the run to the line. The horse has been at the stable since and things have been as usual with him.”
Mr Melody: Also from the same stable as Gibeon, the American bred Mr Melody is three wins and two seconds from five starts, with his latest win being in his only turf race to date, the Grade 3 Chunichi Sports Sho Falcon Stakes over 1,400 meters at Chukyo, where he ran out a comfortable winner. Assistant trainer Nobuyuki Tashiro said, “It was his first run on turf last start, and he got a good early position, showing his speed. He was pulling in the early stages, but soon found his rhythm, and I don’t think going the extra distance next time will be a problem.”
Primo Scene: Another one of the fillies expected to take part, Primo Scene is looking to bounce back after her 10th place finish in the Grade 1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas). The Deep Impact filly has two wins to her credit – one as a 2-year-old and the other as a 3-year-old, both over a mile. Assistant trainer Yu Ota commented: “She got off to a slow start in the Oka Sho, so she was never really in with a chance. She came out of the race fine thankfully, and she’s had a break at Northern Farm Tenei, before getting back to training.”
- Barrier draw
- Past performances of runners
- Race result
- 2018 English
- 2017 English
- 2016 English
- 2015 English
- 2014 English
- 2013 English
- 2012 English
- 2011 English
- 2010 English
- Photo Gallery
2018 Winner: Keiai Nautique
2017 Winner: Aerolithe
2016 Winner: Major Emblem
2015 Winner: Clarity Sky