2015 News

June 23, 2015


2015 Takarazuka Kinen (G1) - Preview
Takarazuka Kinen (G1)

Hanshin Racecourse

The curtain comes down on the spring Grade 1 season this weekend at Hanshin Racecourse with the 56th Takarazuka Kinen.

The 18-horse field for the 2,200-meter race is chosen largely by fan ballot like the year-ending Arima Kinen (the Grand Prix) at Nakayama in December. The top 10 vote-getters receive an automatic place in the field; 17 horses had been nominated before Vincennes pulled out.

From the top 10, only four are set to run this year - the race's two-time defending champion Gold Ship (first), Lachesis (third), Toho Jackal (seventh) and One and Only (eighth).

Established in 1960 and opened to foreign-trained horses in 1997, the Takarazuka Kinen became the first international G1 race to be held in western Japan and is named after the city in Hyogo Prefecture, which neighbors Osaka and is home to the famed musical theater troupe, the Takarazuka Revue.

Though open to horses from overseas, there has only been one participant from abroad, the Australian-trained Seto Stayer in 1997. No foreign runners are in the race again this year.

Running clockwise, the inaugural Takarazuka Kinen was held at a distance of 1,800 meters and assumed its current distance in 1966. The Takarazuka Kinen is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge, a global series of stakes races whose winners earn automatic starting spots in the Breeders' Cup World Championships to be held this year on Oct. 30-31 at Keeneland in Kentucky. The winner of the Takarazuka Kinen qualifies for a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at 1-1/2 miles (2,400 meters).

Earnestly set the Takarazuka Kinen race record of 2 minutes, 10.1 seconds in 2011. Weight assignments are set at 58 kg for 4-year-olds and up, 53 kg for 3-year-olds. Females receive a 2 kg allowance.

The following horses are some of the standouts:

Curren Mirotic
Curren Mirotic
CURREN MIROTIC: The runnerup in last year's Takarazuka Kinen, Curren Mirotic has had a solid spring with a fourth-place finish in the Hanshin Daishoten followed by a bronze medal in the Tenno Sho (Spring). In the Tenno Sho, the 7-year-old gelding, under Masayoshi Ebina, wasn't even a length behind champion Gold Ship and Fame Game. Trainer Osamu Hirata said Curren Mirotic has been a little worked up since the race but is starting to cool off. He returned to the stable on May 29 after unwinding at the farm, and is ready to have a go at his first G1 victory and his first win overall since November 2013. "He's a little edgy," Hirata said. "He ran his heart out in the Tenno Sho, and it took a lot out of him. But he's starting to simmer down now." With Japan thick in the middle of its monsoon season, the Takarazuka Kinen could be held on mud but Hirata is confident his horse, by Heart's Cry, will compete - rain or shine. "I wasn't sure how he'd handle the bad going but he worked through it," Hirata said, referring to last year's race. "He can certainly keep up in a fast race - as a matter of fact, the fast pace is probably better for him

Takarazuka Kinen (G1)
Gold Ship
GOLD SHIP: Barring the unexpected, the 6-year-old son of Stay Gold should be the overwhelming first choice at the morning line as he attempts to win the Takarazuka Kinen for an unprecedented third straight time. Gold Ship, coming off a resounding victory in last month’s Tenno Sho, his sixth at the top level, will bid to become the first horse in JRA history to win the same G1 race three times in a row. “We were surprised by his performance in the Tenno Sho more than anyone. I think the jockey did an incredible job of reading the horse as well,” trainer Naosuke Sugai said, referring to Norihiro Yokoyama who will continue to take the reins. “(Gold Ship) had a setback after the Hanshin Daishoten and we struggled to get him fit, but he did us proud. We're out to win a third consecutive Takarazuka Kinen title, and he seems to get fired up when he runs at Hanshin.” Gold Ship has an excellent track record at Hanshin, where he has won six of seven with a runnerup finish. Should he pick up his seventh win at the racecourse on Sunday, the dapple grey will match a couple of JRA records that will ensure his place in the record books – seven G1 wins, jointly held by legends Symboli Rudolf, T.M. Opera O, Deep Impact and Vodka; and 12 graded victories that belong to Speed Symboli, Oguri Cap and T.M. Opera O. With a full fall season to look forward to, a seventh G1 title will put Gold Ship in great position to become the JRA’s winningest racehorse by year’s end. “He drew the most votes again which means he's got a lot of support. I hope we can have him in good enough shape so we can come through for all the fans,” Sugai said.

2014 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1)
LACHESIS: While only two females have won the Takarazuka Kinen in the past, one has to like Lachesis’ chances given the makeup of the field and her performance in the April 5 Sankei Osakai Hai in which she beat Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Kizuna and Tenno Sho (Autumn) champion Spielberg on soft turf at Hanshin. “She used to lose her appetite easily as a 3-year-old and was difficult to train, but she’s matured with each year,” said Yasuyuki Tsujino, assistant trainer to the world renowned Katsuhiko Sumii. “She’s coming into her own, clearly. You look at the way she performed in the Arima Kinen last year and in her previous start in the Osaka Hai, she doesn’t take a backseat to the best of the boys. She’s getting better with each workout. She’ll be razor sharp on a good going but can handle the off track as well. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.” The 5-year-old Deep Impact mare, out of the Storm Cat mare Magic Storm, will again be ridden by Christophe Lemaire who believes the Takarazuka Kinen is the perfect fit for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup champion. “The 2,200 meters is just right for her, the distance is perfect,” the Frenchman said. “The long straight at Hanshin is good for her because she has a great closing rush.”

Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1)
Nuovo Record
NUOVO RECORD: Last season’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) winner missed the board for the first time in her career in the May 17 Victoria Mile where she finished sixth. Trainer Makoto Saito, however, is confident his 4-year-old filly by Heart’s Cry, out of the Spinning World mare Omega Spirit, will recapture the 2014 form that landed her the second jewel in the filly’s Triple Crown as well as second place in the Shuka Sho and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. Nuovo Record has also been tested against the boys and passed with flying colors; in March, she held off former Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) champion Logotype to win the Nakayama Kinen. “She ran in the Victoria Mile because it was a race against just females and because it was at Tokyo. But as it turned out, the result was disappointing. We let the fans down,” Saito said. “She didn’t have enough horse left in her for the finish. It was clearly a lack of distance; it wasn’t ideal but she still posted her best time down the stretch so we’re not too pessimistic. This race has been our goal for the spring from the start. We’re not worried if it rains or not, and we’re looking to bounce back in a big way.”

Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1)
One and Only
ONE AND ONLY: After rising to the top of his class with victory in the Japanese Derby last year, One and Only had a disappointing autumn in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (ninth), Japan Cup (seventh) and Arima Kinen (13th). Trainer Kojiro Hashiguchi, who is set to retire in next February, wants to make it clear that the performances in the fall are not what the Heart’s Cry colt is about, and that his third-place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March better gauge the promise of the 4-year-old. “He barely raced in the Arima Kinen and the result from that race does not reflect the quality of this horse,” Hashiguchi said. “We thought he is good enough to win in Dubai which is why we took him. We’re really proud of his performance there because he took it to them, against some of the best racehorses in the world.” Hashiguchi said if One and Only races well in the Takarazuka Kinen, the plan is to run the horse in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which would be the trainer’s first and last attempt at the Longchamp race. “We’re thinking of taking him to the Arc in the fall but it’s off if he has a bad result here,” Hashiguchi said. “We’re expecting him to convince us here.”

2014 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1)
Toho Jackal
TOHO JACKAL: The odds will certainly be stacked against the 2014 Kikuka Sho winner, who will be racing in the Takarazuka Kinen for the first time since capturing the Japanese St. Leger after a series of injuries grounded a career that was starting to take off. Trainer Kiyoshi Tani admits the buildup hasn’t been ideal but says the Special Week son is back on track. “He damaged his hoof in the workout ahead of the Hanshin Daishoten so we had to pull him,” Tani said. “His footwork just wasn’t right. He needed a bit of time to recover but everything is fine now.” Toho Jackal won the Kikuka Sho as the third choice, stunning prohibitive favorite One and Only in the process. Tani is counting on that potential to carry the colt through his first start in almost eight months. “When he trained two weeks ago he looked sharp, was really into it mentally,” said Tani. “It’ll be difficult going up against the older horses for the first time in a G1 race. But the distance is right for him and we’ll just have to see if his instincts are all the way back.”

Challenge Cup (G3)
Tosen Stardom
TOSEN STARDOM: The Deep Impact son, out of the End Sweep mare Admire Kirameki who fetched 250 million yen at the select sale three years ago was a virtual no-show in the Classic races last year, but a tour through Australia this spring may have awakened a sleeping giant. The Yasutoshi Ikee-trained Tosen Stardom was an impressive second in the Ranvet Stakes and fifth in the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and had been targeting the Sapporo Kinen in August. But the horse recovered faster than the trainer was expecting, leading him to throw his hat into the ring for the Takarazuka Kinen. “When he first came back, he looked worn out but once he started working again, he looked good enough to me for him to enter the race,” said Ikee, whose colt will be ridden by the race’s four-time winner Yutaka Take. “We never forced him at any point, just to be clear.”
Takarazuka Kinen (G1) related contents
Breeders' Cup Challenge Race