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May 27, 2024


The 74th Yasuda Kinen - Handicapper's Report on the Japanese Contenders
Mile Championship (G1)

Yomiuri Milers Cup (G2)
Soul Rush

Mile Championship (G1)

Gaia Force
Gaia Force

Mainichi Okan (G2)
Elton Barows

Stella Veloce
Stella Veloce

The Yasuda Kinen (G1) is an event named after Izaemon Yasuda who became the first President of the Japan Racing Association in 1954 and is also well known for his unwavering commitment in establishing the Horse Racing Act in 1923 and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) in 1932. The race was called the “Yasuda Sho” in its first running in 1951 and then was changed to “Yasuda Kinen” (Yasuda Memorial) after his death in 1958.

The race was given G1 status in conjunction with the new grading system in 1984, the year in which the Mile Championship was established and regarded as the mile playoff of the latter half of the year, while the Yasuda Kinen stood as the top mile race of the first half. The Yasuda Kinen was designated as an international race in 1993 and accepted its first foreign-trained contenders that year, Lotus Pool from U.S.A., and Kitwood from France, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively. UAE-based Heart Lake became the first foreign-trained horse to win the race in 1995 and has been followed by two Hong Kong-trained winners, Fairy King Prawn (2000) and Bullish Luck (2006). In 2004, the race assumed Part I status and became an international G1 event.

The 74th running of the Yasuda Kinen will welcome foreign-trained horses for the first time since 2018—seven-time G1 winner Romantic Warrior and this year’s Stewards’ Cup (G1, 1,600m) champion Voyage Bubble, both representing Hong Kong. The new international stables at Tokyo Racecourse, completed in autumn 2022, allow horses to enter directly from the airport and undergo quarantine procedures while training without the burden of traveling to and from the quarantine facility within the Horse Racing School as was the case before. With these facility improvements, we look forward to seeing more competent foreign horses come to Japan in the future.

Now, let’s take a look at the key Japanese horses that will take on the challenge of the two Hong Kong contenders. This year’s field will include G1 winners—Namur, Serifos, Geoglyph (JPN, H5, by Drefong) and Danon Scorpion (JPN, H5, by Lord Kanaloa)—as well as several proven milers who are expected to demonstrate a high leveled contest. With the two Hong Kong runners outranking their Japanese rivals in ratings, the focus is on   whether the home team can capitalize on their home advantage and produce an exciting battle.

Namur (JPN, M5, by Harbinger, out of Sambre et Meuse): 115M, 5 wins / 16 starts
After landing her first G1 victory in last year’s Mile Championship (1,600m) with intimidating speed from the rear, Namur closed well once again in notching a third in the following Hong Kong Mile (G1, 1,600m). The five-year-old then dug in strongly in a close runner-up effort in her seasonal debut, the Dubai Turf (G1, 1,800m), this spring. Hopes are high that she will bounce back from a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m), in which the cause of defeat is assumed to be a slow break and that it was her first start since returning from an overseas campaign. She is currently rated 115 following her victory in the 2023 Mile Championship and runner-up effort in the 2024 Dubai Turf.

Soul Rush (JPN, H6, by Rulership, out of Eternal Bouquet): 118M, 7 wins / 19 starts
Soul Rush took command near the wire in last year’s Mile Championship but was deprived of the win in the final strides by a fast-closing Namur and was a neck second. He then showed a tenacious drive for a good fourth-place finish in the following Hong Kong Mile. The six-year-old has continued to prove himself a predominant miler winning the 2022 Milers Cup (G2, 1,600m), the 2023 Keisei Hai Autumn Handicap (G3, 1,600m) and this year’s Milers Cup, his most recent triumph in April in which he easily took command before the 200-meter marker. Teaming up with Joao Moreira once again, he hopes to land his first G1 title in the Yasuda Kinen. The son of Rulership is rated 118 as of his runner-up effort in the 2023 Mile Championship.

Serifos (JPN, H5, by Daiwa Major, out of Sea Front): 118M, 5 wins / 13 starts
Following his first G1 victory in the 2022 Mile Championship, winning impressively with a tremendous drive from behind, Serifos was rated 122 in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings which was the highest mark in the three-year-old turf miler category that year. In last year’s Yasuda Kinen, the son of Daiwa Major was unable to beat the defending champion Songline but held off the fast-closing race favorite Schnell Meister in a good runner-up effort. Although he struggled to display his signature turn of foot in his two starts that followed, he bounced back tenaciously in his kick-off start this season to finish second in the lead-up race, the Milers Cup, and will now aim for his second G1 triumph. In the saddle will be three-time Yasuda Kinen winning jockey Yuga Kawada, who is at the top of the jockey rankings so far in wins and winning average. Serifos is rated 118 as of his runner-up effort in the 2023 Yasuda Kinen.

Gaia Force (JPN, H5, by Kitasan Black, out of Natale): 117M, 3 wins / 13 starts
In his three-year-old season, Gaia Force was a reliable runner in middle to long distances, outdueling the race favorite right before the wire in his first graded victory in the St. Lite Kinen (G2, 2,200m). He then promptly exhibited high potential as a miler when switching to the shorter distance last year, finishing a neck behind the winner in second in the Milers Cup and marking a fourth in the Yasuda Kinen last year. In an impressive debut on dirt in this year’s February Stakes (G1, dirt, 1,600m), while failing to tag the winner, the gray closed in strongly to snatch the runner-up seat at the wire. His aptitude for the mile distance is remarkable with a fourth and second in two G1 starts as well as a second-place finish in a G2 event. Three career wins may be considered moderate, however, the son of Kitasan Black is a proven runner and has seldomly failed to put up a good fight against top-level opponents. He is rated 117 for his fourth-place finish in the 2023 Yasuda Kinen.

Elton Barows (JPN, C4, by Deep Brillante, out of Shonan Carat): 115M, 4 wins / 11 starts
Elton Barows came off a four-race winning streak last October which included the Mainichi Okan (G2, 1,800m) where he held off two-time Yasuda Kinen victor Songline at the wire for a nose win. In the following Mile Championship, the colt closed eagerly with good speed from the outside, placing himself in fourth. Although failing to show his true strength in his last two starts, especially in his first overseas challenge in Hong Kong in which the race was slow paced and that he had to travel near the rear, Elton Barows is hoped to retrieve his form and duplicate his performances seen last autumn. The colt was rated 115 as of his victory in the 2023 Mainichi Okan and his fourth-place finish in the 2023 Mile Championship.

Stella Veloce (JPN, H6, by Bago, out of Oh My Baby): 115I, 4 wins / 15 starts
Stella Veloce showed consistent performances in the 2021 Classics, putting in a good third-place effort in both the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m), while he was fourth in the last leg, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m). He also finished fourth in the Arima Kinen (G1, 2,500m) that year and was regarded a high-class runner of his generation. Following an overseas endeavor to the Middle East in the spring of his four-year-old campaign, the son of Bago was sidelined for a lengthy nineteen months due to a leg problem but made his awaited comeback last autumn. Demonstrating his regained form, he kicked off the present season nosing out his rival to win the Osakajo Stakes (Listed, 1,800m) and launched a strong late drive to finish a good fourth in the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m) that followed. Distance wise, Stella Veloce won the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3, 1,600m) and finished second in the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (G1, 1,600m) as a two-year-old which could be added as another promising factor. He is currently rated 115 as of his fourth-place finish in the 2024 Osaka Hai while he earned a rating of 119 following the 2021 Arima Kinen in which he was fourth.

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