The 45th Takamatsunomiya Kinen - Handicapper's Report on the Japanese Contenders
The 2015 edition of the Takamatsunomiya Kinen is joined by Aerovelocity (NZ, G7, by Pins) from Hong Kong. The Paul O’Sullivan-trained gelding is the winner of the Hong Kong Sprint (G1) whose impressive speed that carries him in front of the field all the way or from just behind the pace-setter is ideal in capturing the spring G1 title in Japan this year.
Meanwhile, the short-distance racing in Japan is without an obvious standout since Lord Kanaloa (JPN, by King Kamehameha) whso was dominant over two seasons between 2012 and 2013 during which captured five sprint G1 titles in Japan and Hong Kong. Major sprint-race titles during 2014 were won by a number of runners so the G1 sprint title is wide open, making this year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen an exciting race to watch. While there is little to choose between the runners of this year’s field, here are some that are worth noting.
Copano Richard (JPN, H5, by Daiwa Major; 117S) makes his bid to defend his title after winning the same race last year—his rating is as of his victory in that race. Although winless since his dominating three-length victory, he has turned in an impressive runner-up effort in the Hanshin Cup (G2, 1,400m) last December in which he dueled tenaciously to just miss by a nose.
Straight Girl (JPN, M6, by Fuji Kiseki; 111S-M) proved to be the most consistent runner in her sprint G1 starts last year, finishing third in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, second in the Sprinters Stakes (G1, 1,200m) and third in the Hong Kong Sprint (G1, 1,200m). Racing in midfield and a tough mare to beat when rallied, she was rated 111lb when third in the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) and also in the Hong Kong Sprint.
Mikki Isle (JPN, C4, by Deep Impact; 114M) registered three straight grade-race titles including the NHK Mile Cup (G1, 1,600m) during his three-year-old spring campaign and progressed well to win the Swan Stakes (G2, 1,400m) when facing his senior rivals last autumn and second in the Hankyu Hai (G3, 1,400m) this year while carrying top weights in both events. Although the coming G1 will shorten his usual distance by another furlong, it may well prove to be his best distance. His rating is as of his victory in the NHK Mile Cup and Swan Stakes, and his runner-up effort in the Hankyu Hai.
Daiwa Maggiore (JPN, H6, by Daiwa Major; 112M) pinned down Mikki Isle just before the wire for a nose victory in the Hankyu Hai. Considered best over 1,800m until late last year, the son of Daiwa Major (JPN, by Sunday Silence) has begun to turn in impressive performances over shorter distances and will take a shot at claiming his first G1 title in his first start over 1,200 meters. His rating is as of his third-place finish in the Hanshin Cup in December.
Am Ball Bleiben (JPN, M6, by Rule of Law; 107S), comes off her second grade-race win in the Silk Road Stakes (G3, 1,200m) and has been especially consistent with three wins and a second out of her last four outings. She is quick out of the starting gate, and if allowed to dictate the pace at a slow to moderate tempo, she could be a threat in her first G1 challenge. Her rating is as of her G3 win in February.
Sakura Gospel (JPN, H7, by Sakura President; 110S) returned to form this season having won his first win in two years in the Ocean Stakes (G3, 1,200m) at Nakayama Racecourse and will be making his fourth straight Takamatsunomiya Kinen challenge. His best performance in the sprint G1 was in 2013 in which he finished a close fourth, 0.3 seconds behind Lord Kanaloa, and his rating as of his latest win is 110S.
Among others that could pose a threat this year, 2012 Best Two-Year-Old Filly Robe Tissage (JPN, M5, by War Emblem; 106M) appears to have regained her form with a third-place finish in the Hankyu Hai while Red Oval (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact; 109S) may well turn in another strong performance like she did when she finished third in the Sprinters Stakes last year.