Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1) - Preview
The 166th running of the Tenno Sho (Autumn) is upon us, with a post time set for 15:40 local time on Sunday, Oct. 30. The competition will be intense and the 2,000-meter turf event have attracted 15 nominees this year.
All nominated horses are graded-stakes winners. Agewise, they span five years - from a trio of 3-year-old hotshots to the 8-year-old longshot Cadenas, heading into his fifth Tenno Sho (Autumn). Two fillies and one mare are also in the mix and all will be vying for the top prize of JPY200 million or a lesser share of the purse totaling JPY432 million (approx USD3.7 million).
All final Tenno Sho (Autumn) runners will be Japan-born and bred, but there’s quite an international air to this year’s lineup. Four non-Japanese jockeys are expected to participate, with Japan regulars, the French Christophe Lemaire and Italian Mirco Demuro, likely joined by the latter’s younger brother, Cristian, and Cheltenham native Tom Marquand.
The Tokyo 2,000-meter course is known as one of the venue’s most difficult races. Its reputation arises largely from the starting gate’s location in the pocket to the right of the grandstand. With little time for maneuvering before turning into the backstretch, those on the outside are forced to cover extra ground. After the initial rush for position, the pace tends to drop, sometimes to a virtual crawl.
Halfway down the backstretch, the ground rises sharply, then descends steadily around the bend. Into the stretch, there’s another hill just before the 400-meter mark and horses must reach deep for every last bit down the longest homestretch of all Japan’s racetracks.
Here is a look at the likely top picks:
Equinox: The colt is a son of seven-time Grade 1 winner Kitasan Black, whose victories include the 2017 Tenno Sho (Autumn). Equinox won his first two starts, both to the left over 1,800 meters at Chukyo and the Grade 2 Tokyo Nisai Stakes at Tokyo. He finished second in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) by a length to Geoglyph before going to the Japanese Derby, where Do Deuce beat him by a neck. Jockey Christophe Lemaire, who has ridden all his four starts, said things had been a “bit too busy” in the Derby start, resulting in a position at the rear. Though Equinox rallied amid the day’s high temperatures, he fell just short of victory. Lemaire rode fast work last week and received high marks from all. If anyone can help him to win here, it’s Christophe Lemaire, who won the Tenno Sho (Autumn) three years in a row from 2018.
Shahryar: The Deep Impact colt Shahryar is making his first appearance in Japan this year. He has already quite the colorful career at the young age of 4. After finishing third in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai on his second start, he won the Grade 3 Mainichi Hai next out before going on to the Japanese Derby, which he pocketed a nose ahead of Efforia. He returned for a fourth in the Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai at Chukyo and headed into the Japan Cup facing tough competition, but was able to finish third behind 2020 Triple Crown champion Contrail and runner-up Authority. After returning from the Japan Cup, he won the Grade 1 Dubai Sheema Classic over 2,410 meters at Meydan, and followed that with a fourth-place finish in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot. Shahryar is refreshed and his record of one win and two thirds at Tokyo over a range of 1,800-2,400 meters indicates the distance is not a concern. Jockey Cristian Demuro, who rode both of the colt’s overseas starts this year, is pegged for the ride.
Jack d'Or: A 4-year-old son of Maurice (winner of the 2016 Tenno Sho (Autumn)), Jack d’Or has truly proved himself a gold mine for his owner Toshiyuki Maehara. The big chestnut colt has won seven of his 11 starts, and finished second in two others. He is a 2,000-meter specialist and it is the only distance he’s run over. Returning from a win in the Sapporo Kinen on Aug. 21, he now has two Grade 2 wins to his name (the other is the Kinko Sho at Chukyo). This will be his second Grade 1 bid and his first was a fifth-place performance in the Osaka Hai in April, where he finished 0.5 seconds off winner Potager. He has three wins over left-handed Chukyo, and has two wins at Tokyo as well.
Geoglyph: After finishing fifth in the 2-year-old Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, he finished second to Danon Beluga in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai, but rallied to capture the Satsuki Sho over 2,000 meters at Nakayama. Despite a solid effort in the 2,400-meter Derby, he finished in seventh place a second off the winner’s time. A lack of cover is cited as a likely factor in the loss. Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, who rode Geoglyph’s last two starts and won the Tenno Sho (Autumn) in 2013, is expected up.
Danon Beluga: Like Equinox, the Miho-based Danon Beluga also has two wins from his four starts. The 3-year-old son of Heart’s Cry aced his first two starts -going from a debut over 2,000 meters at Tokyo to a win in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai. From there, he took on the first two Classics, the Satsuki Sho and the Japanese Derby, and finished fourth in both. In the Satsuki Sho, a rough track and the far inside gate may have made the trip difficult for a colt weighing in at over 500kg. In the Derby, no apparent problems other than a bit of pressure under way, indicate the distance may have been too far for him. A return to Tokyo and 2,000 meters would bode well. Like Geoglyph, he is returning after a five-month layoff, but is looking good in trackwork.
Panthalassa: A 5-year-old by Lord Kanaloa, Panthalassa and jockey Yutaka Yoshida went wire to wire to score a dead-heat against Lord North and Frankie Dettori in the 1,800-meter Dubai Turf at the end of March. Panthalassa then took on the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen over 2,200 meters at Hanshin and finished eighth. Two months later on Aug. 21, he missed the winner’s circle by a neck in the Sapporo Kinen. He has won over 2,000 meters at Tokyo, albeit at a lower-level race. The draw will be key this time.
Also of interest are: