NHK Mile Cup (G1) - Preview
Cruzeiro do Sul
Sing That Song
Tamamo Black Tie
This week’s Grade 1 race is the NHK Mile Cup, which begins five consecutive weeks of top-level action at Tokyo Racecourse throughout May and early June, and will include the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby).
The big mile race this Sunday is for 3-year-olds, both colts and fillies (but no geldings), and was added to the calendar in 1996, in order to give horses another option apart from the longer distances of the fillies and colts’ Classics that follow. King Kamehameha (2004) and Deep Sky (2008) managed to win the race before going on to win the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), but they would certainly be considered out of the ordinary for achieving wins in both races.
This year sees twenty nominations for the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup, including five fillies, so there’s plenty of interest in running over the shorter trip, particularly given that Liberty Island and Sol Oriens both look set to be tested next over 2,400 meters. Colts carry 57kg in this week’s big race, with fillies claiming a 2kg allowance, and the final field will have a maximum of eighteen runners. The last filly to win was Aerolithe in 2017.
Two official trial races for the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup have been the Grade 2 New Zealand Trophy, run over a mile at Nakayama in April, and the Grade 3 Arlington Cup, run over a mile at Hanshin, also in April. First favorites have won the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup just twice in the last 10 years, with Major Emblem being the last one to win in 2016. Record time for the race was set in 2010 when Danon Chantilly won in a time of 1 minute, 31.4 seconds. This year’s winner’s check is JPY130 million (in the region of USD1 million).
The 28th running of the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Tokyo, with a post time in Japan of 15:40. Final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.
Here’s a look at some of the runners expected to take on the race:
Dolce More: The colt by Rulership was unbeaten until his last race, when he had to settle for seventh place in a race that didn’t quite work out for him. Despite this, he was the winner of last year’s Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes over a mile, and trainer Naosuke Sugai hopes things go better for him in this next race. “He was leading out in the New Zealand Trophy last time, but the pace was a bit too quick in the backstraight and it became difficult for him to maintain his lead at the end, so he eventually had to settle for seventh place. Since that race, things have gone smoothly with him, and he’s been working well uphill with stablemate Sodashi,” Sugai said. Kosei Miura gets the chance to ride Dolce More this time, in the jockey’s bid to win his first ever JRA Grade 1 race.
Eeyan: Winner of the Grade 2 New Zealand Trophy last time, the colt by Silver State has now won his last three races, and with his experience at Tokyo, trainer Daishi Ito thinks the horse can run well again. “He drew inside in the New Zealand Trophy, but he started well and wanted to get on with things and had plenty of room turning for home. He was driven out well in the closing stages to go on and win. Even though he hasn’t won at Tokyo, he ran well enough there on his debut, and I don’t see a problem with the course,” Ito said. Keita Tosaki will ride Eeyan in this Sunday’s race.
Obamburumai: Starting to really improve, the colt by Discreet Cat was given a good ride last time by Yutaka Take to win the Grade 3 Arlington Cup over a mile at Hanshin in April. Comments from trainer Keiji Yoshimura were: “He got into the race well last time, and although I wasn’t sure about how he might finish off, he came with a good late run and caught the others just before the line. Thinking about Tokyo with him, this kind of run seems to suit him.” Yutaka Take is set for the ride again this time.
Umbrail: One of the fillies nominated for the race, Umbrail seems headed in the right direction after her disappointing run in last year’s Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, where she could only finish in fifteenth place. In her most recent race, she finished second to Eeyan in the Grade 2 New Zealand Trophy, and connections think she can do better still. Assistant trainer Yu Ota said: “In her last race she had blinkers on, and from the fourth corner she lost a bit of interest in things. After this, we need to just reconfirm her ability and will work on things in training to get the best out of her.”
Cruzeiro do Sul: The Godolphin owned and bred colt by Fine Needle has burst onto the scene after just one run as a 3-year-old, when he ran away with a listed race at Nakayama in January. Suddenly in at the deep end, it will be interesting to see what he can do in this next race. Trainer Yoshitada Takahashi commented: “He had a break at the farm after his last race, with a view to running in the NHK Mile Cup next. He’s very well, and has returned to the stable in plenty of time before this race. It took him just a little while to get going in his recent work, but the jockey is putting him through his paces and bringing him along well.” Mirco Demuro is that jockey, and he’s looking to win the race for a third time after victories on Admire Mars in 2019 and Lauda Sion in 2020.
All Parfait: The colt by Real Steel ran over 1,800 meters last time and finished seventh to Bellagio Opera in the Grade 2 Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes at Nakayama in March. Trainer Yuji Wada thought things didn’t go his way in that race. “It was over 1,800 meters on heavy ground last time and he didn’t take the bit correctly, so for these reasons he didn’t run so well. He’s been at the stable since and we’ve taken care with him. He seems to be running a lot smoother now,” said the trainer. Jockey Takuya Ono has ridden the horse in all five of his starts so far and is set for the ride again.
Session: Stallion Silver State looks like being well represented in the race, and Session was brought back in distance to run over a mile last time when he finished second to Obamburumai in the Grade 3 Arlington Cup in April. His one career win came as a 2-year-old over 1,800 meters at Hanshin. Trainer Takashi Saito said: “He handled the shorter distance of the Arlington Cup well last time, but just lost a bit of concentration at the end. It was good experience for him and we can now think about how to get the best out of him in this next race at Tokyo.”
Sing That Song: Another one of the fillies nominated, Sing That Song is by Duramente and won the Grade 2 Fillies Revue over 1,400 meters at Hanshin two starts ago, before finishing a creditable seventh in the Grade 1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) last time, 0.8 seconds off the winner Liberty Island. Trainer Tomokazu Takano commented on the filly: “She’s run well in her last two races and her balance was good in the Oka Sho. Two starts ago she won, but with her gate practice she has tended to lose some energy, so given that we know she can run well, it’s more important to have her in the best condition going into a race.”
Tamamo Black Tie: It is two consecutive wins now for the colt by Declaration of War, and his latest one came in the Grade 3 Falcon Stakes over 1,400 meters at Chukyo in March. Jockey Hideaki Miyuki has struck up a good partnership with the horse, and trainer Koichi Tsunoda thinks the colt has plenty of upside. “He did well on the heavy ground last time, and since his second win which came at Kokura, his condition has improved. He’s a horse with a big stride and he should be suited to a mile,” the trainer said.
Two other horses that should be mentioned are Carro Veloce and Danon Touchdown. The first-mentioned is another runner for trainer Naosuke Sugai and will be ridden by the very much in-form Damian Lane, and Danon Touchdown should be much better suited to a mile, and connections are hoping for better ground this time with him, when Yuga Kawada will take the ride again.