King Hermes finishes 11th in Prix Maurice de Gheest
Following disappointment at Newmarket early last month, Japan’s King Hermes continued his overseas tour with a visit to northwest France, but was unable to find the acclaim he sought.
On Aug. 7, the 3-year-old son of Lord Kanaloa competed among a field of 14 in the Grade 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest, a turf event over 1,300 meters on the Deauville straight course, but once again went unrewarded for his efforts.
The race, the fourth of the day, got under way at 15:55 local time, shortly before 23:00 Sunday in Japan. Jockey Ryusei Sakai, who has ridden all of the colt’s starts, had chosen to track the leaders last out in the six-furlong July Cup, but this time went for the lead. Carrying 57kg (2kg less than the field top weight) and running under the No. 11 saddle cloth, King Hermes broke from the No. 8 gate. The colt led the field over the first 1,000 meters, then kicked into top gear, but was soon headed and faded quickly.
Highfield Princess, who was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Platinum Jubilee States at Royal Ascot, took home the first-place prize of just under
Yoshito Yahagi, trainer to King Hermes, was characteristically both matter-of-fact and optimistic. “The horse was in extremely good condition and I think he ran very well,” the trainer said. “Though he did respond when asked for more, with it being a straight course and this level of company, he may just not have been up to the competition. Despite his being in good shape, you still to acknowledge that.”
“I do feel that he has matured while on this excursion and I do hope to be able to use this to his advantage after returning to Japan,” the trainer added.
“He was relaxed and I felt he was in better condition than he had been for his last start,” the jockey Sakai commented after the race. “He traveled well but lost momentum early on. Still, his responses were better and, as the winner had raced in second position, it wasn’t a frustrating loss at all.
The race top six places were claimed by horses aged 4 and up, with the 3-year-old Perfect Power topping his age group in seventh place. Sakai acknowledged that youth was also likely a factor in the young King Hermes’s loss. “He is still only 3 years old and I think he’ll be able to use this to his advantage in future races.”
King Hermes, a bay colt owned by Hiroo Race Co. Ltd., was bred at the Hokkaido farm of Hidenori Kimura. He now has 2 wins from his 7 starts, with wins including the Grade 2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes over 1,400 meters at Tokyo Racecourse last November.
The Prix Maurice de Gheest was won by a Japan-based horse in 1998, when the Hideyuki Mori-trained Seeking the Pearl took honors under jockey Yutaka Take. Mori fielded four more runners in the race, with Air Thule’s second-place finish in 2002 Japan’s next-best performance. King Hermes was the first entrant from Japan in 18 years and Yahagi’s first.
King Hermes’s stablemate and travelling companion Bathrat Leon, who finished fourth in the July 27 Sussex Stakes, is next up in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville on Aug. 14. Wagering on the race will be available to fans in Japan.
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