Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1) - Preview
Rey de Oro
On the heels of the Triple Crown final leg comes what is traditionally seen as the most prestigious of Japan’s races – the Tenno Sho (Autumn). On Sunday, Oct. 28, Tokyo Racecourse hosts the 158th running of the iconic event, which is held in the spring at Kyoto over 3,200 meters and in the fall at Tokyo over 2,000. Fourteen of Japan’s best will vie for the winner’s prize of 150 million yen and a share of the 325-million-yen purse.
The fall version of the Tenno Sho is sure to attract many of the most prominent names in Japanese racing and this year is no exception. Though few in number at 14, the lineup is a powerful one, with eight Grade 1 champions from some of the biggest races both in Japan and abroad, including this year’s Osaka Hai and Takarazuka Kinen, as well as winners from last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger), Dubai Turf, and Shuka Sho.
Four-year-olds are drawing the most attention this year, with Suave Richard and Rey de Oro likely to lead neck and neck at the betting windows. Kiseki, Al Ain and Sungrazer are seen as three other promising 4-year-olds, while 5-year-olds Makahiki and Mikki Rocket will likely fill out the top choices.
This year’s Tenno Sho will have a decidedly international air to it, with four non-Japanese jockeys set to ride. In addition to full-time riders Italian Mirco Demuro and Frenchman Christophe Lemaire will be Joao Moreira of Brazil and Colm O’Donoghue from Ireland, the latter two riding in Japan on short-term licenses.
The race starts in the pocket just past the stands. There are only 130 meters to the first turn, and the pace tends to be slow. The last three years in a row have been won by the favorite, all returning just over three-fold on a wager to win. The last decade has seen the favorite win a total of five times, finish in second place twice and third place once. Those horses returning more than tenfold on a wager to win have won the race five times in the past 10 runnings.
The Tenno Sho is the 11th race on the Sunday card of 12 at Tokyo. Post time is 15:40 local time. Here is a look at the popular choices:
Suave Richard: Runnerup in the Japanese Derby last year and fourth in the Arima Kinen (Grand Prix), the 4-year-old son of Heart’s Cry finally captured his first Grade 1 race this year with the 2,000-meter Osaka Hai on April 1. Suave Richard followed up with a third-place finish in the mile Yasuda Kinen two months later. With wins of the Copa Republica Argentina at Tokyo over 2,500 meters last year and the Kinko Sho at Chukyo over 2,000 meters (both Grade 2 races) this year, Suave Richard looks to be a shoo-in for the Tokyo 2,000 as well. He will go to the gate for the first time since June, but he has a perfect score on the three previous starts he returned from a layoff without a prep. Mirco Demuro is expected to be up and has ridden the race five times before, for one win, two seconds and one third. Demuro rode work on Oct. 18, after which trainer Yasushi Shono said, “I expected to push this horse from the start over 6 furlongs but he was a bit stubborn at the start. After he caught the other horse he moved out nicely though and had a lot left over in the finish and his time was good. He’s ready. If he can break well and get a good position like he did last out, it’ll be to his advantage here as well.”
Rey de Oro: By King Kamehameha, the 4-year-old Rey de Oro has certainly brought gold to his connections with six wins, one second and a third from 10 starts thus far. His only Grade 1 win was the Japanese Derby, but he finished second in the Japan Cup last year, losing by a length and a quarter to Cheval Grand, 2 years his senior. Rey de Oro has made the top five in all his starts, including a fourth at Meydan in the Dubai Sheema Classic this spring. Returning to the track for the first time since then in the Sankei Sho All Comers, Rey de Oro topped the field again. He beat Suave Richard in both the Satsuki Sho and the Derby and this will be their first meeting since then. On Oct. 17, trackmen held their breath when rider (jockey Yusuke Igarashi) stopped in mid workout, but continued on after the colt was inspected. “The track was rough in spots and disturbed his gait. The rider felt something amiss and, to be careful, had him checked. We found nothing wrong,” trainer Kazuo Fujisawa said. Fujisawa, who has fielded five winners in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), says all has proceeded as planned since. Expected to be in the saddle on raceday will be Lemaire, who currently leads all of Japan’s jockeys by 43 wins. Lemaire, who rode the winner in the Kikuka Sho last week, has yet to win the Tenno Sho (Autumn), but has won three graded-stakes races with Fujisawa this year alone.
Makahiki: Winner of the 2016 Japanese Derby, the Deep Impact-sired Makahiki followed up the classic with a trip to France and won the Grade 2 Prix Niel before turning in a poor showing in the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe. He has failed to make the winner’s circle since, though he has made board all but once. After a fifth in this race last year over a sloppy track and a fourth in the Japan Cup, he suffered a fracture and returned after 9 months off to finish second by a nose under Lemaire in the 2,000-meter Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen on Aug. 19. This time Yutaka Take will be up, partnered for the first time with the 5-year-old Makahiki, who looks to be on the up and up and should have little problem with a return to the Tokyo 2,000. Take rode work on Oct. 18 and trainer Yasuo Tomomichi commented, “He worked in tandem, his movement was as usual and Take looked like he had a good handle on him. I think the Tokyo 2,000 is his best race and a fifth over a sloppy track last year can’t be helped. If the track is fast on Sunday, I think we have a good chance.” Take won the race last year aboard Kitasan Black and has six wins total of the Tenno Sho (Autumn). He has ridden a Derby winner in the autumn version of the race five times before and from them has three wins and one third-place finish.
Al Ain: A Deep Impact 4-year-old, Al Ain last made the winner’s circle in the 2017 Satsuki Sho, but he has not been far off in his seven starts since. He began 2018 with a second in the Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen before running third in the Grade 1 Osaka Hai, then traveled to Hong Kong to take on the 2,000-meter Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup and finished fourth. He was given the summer off and returned on Sept. 23 to post a second by a neck behind Rey de Oro in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho All Comers, an important Tenno Sho prep at Nakayama Racecourse. It will be his first time at Tokyo since his fifth-place finish in the Japanese Derby and the course and distance bode well. Yuichi Kitamura, who rode Al Ain’s last start, is expected to get the ride.
Kiseki: Kiseki, a 4-year-old son of Rulership has had lackluster results in his four starts since winning the Kikuka Sho last year. After a poor showing in the Hong Kong Vase, he returned to Japan for two more finishes off the board, took the summer off and returned 10kg up on Oct. 7 for a third in the Mainichi Okan, an 1,800-meter Grade 2 at Tokyo.
Vivlos: One of two females expected to be in the field is the Deep Impact 5-year-old Vivlos, who returned from a 2nd-place in the Dubai Turf (which she had won the previous year) in March to finish fourth in the Takarazuka Kinen at the end of June. She is running for the first time in the Tenno Sho but has two firsts and a second at the distance, though only one start (over 1,800 meters) at Tokyo. It will be her first start since the Takarazuka Kinen.
Mikki Rocket: The King Kamehameha-sired Mikki Rocket is back from winning his first Grade 1 race in seven bids – the Takarazuka Kinen on June 24. It was his only finish in the money of four starts this year, but represented a big improvement from last year’s sixth. Last year in the Tenno Sho, Mikki Rocket was sent forward from the No. 10 gate. Racing on sloppy ground and with nothing left in the stretch, he finished in 12th place. Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi said he did plan to return in the fall with the Kyoto Daishoten, but was unable to meet the deadline and changed plans.
Sungrazer: Sungrazer, a 4-year-old son of Deep Impact, has yet to win a Grade 1 race. This will be his third bid. Sungrazer has two wins from three starts this year, both Grade 2 races, and is coming off a win of the 2,000-meter Sapporo Kinen. In addition to a fifth in this year’s Yasuda Kinen, Sungrazer posted a third in the Mile Championship last year. Raced primarily in the 1,400-1,600 meter range, the Sapporo Kinen represented his first start at 2,000 meters since the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes in December 2016. In recent starts, Sungrazer has settled much better than he had early on in his career. Joao Moreira is expected to get the ride.
Sources: Keiba Book, Netkeiba