2015 News

November 17, 2015


2015 Mile Championship (G1) - Preview
2014 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1)

Grade 1 action continues at Kyoto Racecourse this week, with the top mile race of the autumn campaign – the Mile Championship – set for Sunday, Nov. 22. Nominations for the full gate of 18 runners include nine G1 winners, and if all make the final cut, it will be biggest showing of G1 champs in the Mile Championship’s history. Winners from this year’s spring mile events, the Yasuda Kinen champ Maurice and Clarity Sky, winner of the NHK Mile Cup, will meet last year’s Mile Championship champ Danon Shark.

Recent years, however, have not favored the G1 winners in the lineup. If a G1 winner nabs the race this year, it will, in fact, be the first time in six years. Company, coming off a win of the Tenno Sho Autumn in 2009, was the last G1 winner to ace the Mile Championship. He was also the last favorite to win.

Key races following the Yasuda Kinen and leading up to the Mile Championship from the start of the fall season are the Sept. 13 G3 Keisei Hai Autumn Handicap, the G2 Mainichi Okan, held this year on Oct. 11. The G3 Fuji Stakes on Oct. 24 and the G2 Mainichi Broadcast. Swan Stakes on Oct. 31 are also considered important preliminaries.

Mile Championship runners who did well in those races include Isla Bonita, Danon Shark and Tosen Stardom. They ran third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Mainichi Okan. The Fuji Stakes saw Satono Aladdin finish second and Logotype cross the line in third. The Swan Stakes went to Albiano, with Fiero in second.

Last year, Danon Shark shaved 0.3 seconds off the previous record set in 2010 and holds the current best time of 1 minute 31.5 seconds.

The Mile Championship purse is worth 208 million yen. First-place prize money is 100 million yen, and 40 million yen goes to the runnerup. Prize money and incentive allowances are awarded up to eighth place. The Mile Championship is also part of the four-race Japan Autumn International series, and offers hefty bonuses to the top three finishers who have won selected overseas races.

Weights are set at 57 kg for four-year-olds and up. Three-year-olds carry 56 kg and fillies and mares receive a 2-kg allowance. The Mile Championship will be the 11th race on the Sunday card of 12 at Kyoto. Post time is set for 3:40 p.m.

The expected top choices for Sunday are:

Isla Bonita
Isla Bonita
Isla Bonita – Last year’s Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) winner Isla Bonita will be taking on the mile for the first time since the August of 2013 following his debut. It will also be his first time at Kyoto, but his connections are confident, “He won’t be fazed by it at all.” His third-place finish last time out in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), was an especially strong showing for the 4-year-old son of Fuji Kiseki. Not only was he disadvantaged by a wide draw over the Tokyo 2,000, which starts just before a turn, he also ran into interference coming out of the backstretch. Still, he managed to finish only 0.2 seconds off the winner. He will be a standout in the Mile Championship, likely the favorite, and that despite his lack of experience at the mile. Though he has finished in the top spots for all but two of his career starts, he has not made the winner’s circle since September of last year and his win in the St. Lite Kinen (G2, 2,200 meters). His usual position just within reach of the front indicates a little less distance may be just what he’s looking for these days. However, the long trip to Kyoto from the Miho stable of Hironori Kurita shouldn’t be any cause for concern, as Isla Bonita showed he could handle the road when he was shipped to Niigata. The last two Satsuki Sho champions to ace the Mile championship were Daiwa Major in 2006 and 2007 and Genuine in 1995.

Fiero – Fiero, a 6-year-old son of Deep Impact, missed the Mile Championship winner’s circle by a nose last year. It was an especially frustrating run in that it was the closest he’d come to winning a graded-stakes race after four bids at the time. Today, four starts later, in as many graded-stakes races, he still has not captured one. Eight successive starts over four G2s and four G1s, victory remains elusive. Last time out, he went to the gate as the favorite but after difficulty moving out for a clear run at the top of the stretch, ended up finishing a length and a quarter behind winner Albiano in the 1,400-meter G2 Swan Stakes at Kyoto. He shone in second place nonetheless, smoking over the final three furlongs in 33.2 seconds. An extra furlong this time out may help this frustrated fellow land his first big haul. Deep Impact progeny have won the last two versions of the race and six sons of the Triple Crown champ have been nominated for the final lineup of the Mile Championship.

Yasuda kinen (G1) 
Maurice – On a four-run winning streak that includes three mile runs, Maurice has not had a start since he copped his first G1, the Yasuda Kinen in early June. Initial plans were to run Maurice in the Mainichi Okan but back problems led to trainer Noriyuki Hori’s decision to pass on the race. The colt is now said to be “free of pain and fresh.” It will be Maurice’s first trip west since May of last year. The colt is familiar with the course, however, having won his debut race there over 1,400 meters in record time for 2-year-olds. Hori, who is also fielding Real Impact in the Mile Championship, has won three G1s this year, but has yet to win the autumn’s top mile. Ryan Moore, in Japan on a short-term license, is pegged for the ride. Moore has won seven JRA graded-stakes races, three of them for Hori, and has ridden in the Mile Championship on five previous occasions. In, 2007, Daiwa Major was the last horse to win both the Yasuda Kinen and the Mile Championship in the same year.

Satano Aladdin
Satono Aladdin
Satono Aladdin – The 4-year-old Deep Impact-sired Satono Aladdin has been run primarily in the 1,600-1,800 meter range in his last six starts since his sixth-place finish in last year’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger). His five races this year have seen him win two and finish second in the other three. He lost by a mere neck in his last two races. Impressive late speed is this colt’s forte and Christophe Lemaire, who has ridden him the last four times out, is also a strong factor in his favor. The last time out in the G3 Fuji Stakes (1,600 meters), Satono Aladdin had been returning from a 4-month layoff and will have surely sharpened up. Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee is looking to bag his fifth G1 victory this year. He says, “He had a perfect ride in the Fuji Stakes. The winner was also coming off a layoff but this guy is a big horse and he was also carrying 2 kg more.” Ikee says he’s looking for a fast track.

Danon Shark
Danon Shark
Danon Shark – The 2014 Mile Championship winner Danon Shark did make the Mainichi Okan lineup after a 4-month layoff and finished fourth some two lengths behind the winner. It was his best result in his three races since last year’s victory but the results were not bad considering the time off and that he was forced wide and was carrying 58 kg, 1-kg more than he’ll carry on Sunday. The 7-year-old Danon Shark has had good results at Kyoto, with four wins, four seconds and three thirds in 13 starts. Trainer Ryuji Okubo says age should pose no problem. “We’re treating him with care and I don’t see any signs of deterioration.” A successive win of the Mile Championship is certainly within reach.

Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3)
Vincennes – Second in the Yasuda Kinen a neck behind Maurice, this 6-year-old Deep Impact son returned to the track for the Mainichi Okan, then took on the Tenno Sho (Autumn). Vincennes ran ninth and 18th respectively, results that don’t necessarily foretell failure in the Mile Championship. Trainer Mikio Matsunaga writes off the Tenno Sho results. “The jockey moved him wide to avoid a horse that had hit the rail and that got this horse upset. The pace was slow, which made things more difficult.” Known to be a difficult horse, Vincennes will be returning to the mile, a distance over which he has won three of his five wins thus far, including the G3 Tokyo Shimbun Hai. He will also carry 1-kg less than he was asked to in the Tenno Sho. Though his last five starts were at Tokyo, Vincennes has experience and a win at Kyoto. He is said to be looking good and has been worked over the flat recently, not his normal training menu. Matsunaga says he would prefer the going on Sunday to be less than firm. “I’d like to see it rain.”

Mainichi Broadcast. Swan Stakes (G2)
Albiano – Albiano, an American-bred daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, has missed the top spots only twice in her seven starts thus far. The 3-year-old filly topped the field in mixed company last time out to scoop the Swan Stakes (G2, 1,400 meters), her second graded-stakes win following the G3 Flower Cup in March. That race was followed by a second-place finish in the NHK Mile Cup. Albiano, normally based at the Miho stable of Tetsuya Kimura, has remained at Ritto Training Center following her run in the Oct. 31 Swan Stakes. “She was a bit nervous at first, but she’s on her feed and handling her work well,” says Kimura. “She’s a talented filly and her balance has improved from the spring.” While the 4-kg weight advantage in the Swan Stakes surely helped Albiano top Fiero by a length and a quarter, she’ll have the weight advantage on Sunday too and a finish in the money is not a pipe dream.

Challenge Cup (G3)
Tosen Stardom
Tosen Stardom – Another son of Deep Impact, Tosen Stardom won his second graded-stakes race last December (the G3 Challenge Cup over 1,800 meters) and started this year with two top-level races Down Under. He ran second in the first, the 2,000-meter Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill Gardens, and fifth in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick over the same distance, then returned to Japan for a 12th in the Takarazuka Kinen before taking the summer off. Back for the Mainichi Okan, the 4-year-old colt ran fifth and, though he did enjoy a 2-kg weight advantage, Tosen Stardom’s fifth place was only 0.1 seconds behind Danon Shark, 0.2 seconds behind Isla Bonita. He then dropped down in class for a winning run in the 1,800-meter Cassiopeia Stakes at Kyoto on Nov. 1. Two turns seem to suit the colt and the Kyoto mile should as well, though it will be Tosen Stardom’s first time over the distance. Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee says, “It should be easier for him to focus over just two turns as opposed to four.”

Logotype – The 5-year-old son of Lohengrin ran third about a length and a half behind the winner last time out in the Fuji Stakes (G3, 1,600 meters) at Tokyo on Oct. 24. Though he wasn’t able to hold his ground against the final drive of the top two finishers (both of whom carried less weight), he was able to hold his own in a race that saw the winner clock 1 minute, 32.7 seconds over the mile. Logotype, winner of the 2012 G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes and the 2013 G1 Satsuki Sho, has not notched a win since. Seventh in the Mile Championship last year, he has been given a mixed bag of distances and even a run on the dirt in his six starts since. With two seconds and a third, he should be good for a wager. Trainer Tsuyoshi Tanaka is hopeful. “I think we can expect better results than what he got last year.”

Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1)
Let's Go Donki
Let's Go Donki – A darkhorse is this year’s Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) winner, Let’s Go Donki. Double digits and a fourth in her three starts following the Oka Sho, the daughter of King Kamehameha will be returning to the mile for the first time since her winning run in the spring classic. She had gone to the Oka Sho gate with five races in the money before that, three of them at the mile, two at 1,800 meters. The 2,400-meter Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the 2,000-meter Shuka Sho, on the other hand, were a bit too long. Her fourth-place finish came two starts ago in the G2 Kansai Telecasting Corp. Rose Stakes over 1,800 meters at Hanshin. Trainer Tomoyuki Umeda says he reset his sights on the Mile Championship following Let’s Go Donki’s last start. “At this distance, racing should be more straightforward and easier for her.” Umeda says his filly is in good shape. “Her movement is good and her breathing too. We just need to keep her relaxed up to the break.”

Those looking for an attractive return on their wagers may be wise to put money down on Clarity Sky, winner of this year’s NHK Mile Cup or Red Arion, winner of the Yomiuri Milers Cup at Kyoto in April. Both are expected to go off at long odds.

Source (comments): Keiba Book

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