Katsumi Yoshida’s defending champion Gold Dream (JPN) and Masatsugu Takezono’s TM Jinsoku (JPN) lead a field of 16 horses in Sunday’s 35th running of the one mile US$1,833,632 February Stakes (G1) on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse, the first automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Challenge series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held this year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, November 2-3.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the winner of Sunday’s race to start in the 1¼ mile, US$6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and will also provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 22 to receive the rewards.
Gold Dream, a 5-year-old son of Gold Allure (JPN), trained by Osamu Hirata and ridden by Ryan Moore from post 14, will be making his 2018 debut following a victory in the about 1 1/8-mile Champions Cup (G1) at Chukyo on December 3 by a neck over TM Jinsoku. Gold Dream won last year’s February Stakes by a neck over Best Warrior as the 5-1 second choice. He was then sent to Meydan for the 1 ¼-mile Dubai World Cup (G1) but trailed the field of 14 over a muddy track. He was off the board again over a muddy surface in June in the Teio Sho at Ohi and finished fifth in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai at Morioka in October. Gold Dream, bred by Northern Farm, has won six of his 13 career starts.
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The 6-year-old TM Jinsoku, trained by Kazuyoshi Kihara, has finished first or second in his last five starts, including a three-quarters-of a length victory in the 1 1/8 mile Tokai Stakes (G2) on Jan. 21 at Chukyo. Prior to his second-place finish to Gold Dream in the Champions Cup, TM Jinsoku, a gray son of Kurofune out of My Discovery (JPN) by Forty Niner, won the 1 1/8-mile Miyako Stakes (G3) at Kyoto by 2 ½ lengths on Nov. 5. He was second to London Town (JPN) in the about 1 1/16-mile Elm Stakes (G3) at Sapporo on Aug. 13, and captured the listed Marine Stakes at Hakodate on July 9.
Another contender on Sunday could be Kazumasa Yamada’s 6-year-old gelding Nonkono Yume (JPN), winner of the about seven furlong Negishi Stakes (G3) on Jan. 28 at Tokyo Racecourse. Bred by Shadai Farm, this chestnut son of Twining, trained by Yukihiro Kato, was second in the 2016 February Stakes, but finished seventh in last year’s race.
Takao Matsuoka’s 4-year-old Sunrise Nova (JPN) was a just a nose behind Nonkono Yume in the Negishi Stakes. A chestnut son of Gold Allure, Sunrise Nova’s last victory came in the seven-furlong Green Channel Cup at Tokyo on October 9.
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London Town (JPN), a 5-year-old by Kane Hekill (JPN) seeks to improve upon his fifth place finish in the Group 1, 1¼ mile Tokyo Daishoten on Dec. 29 at Ohi. Owned by Toru Makiura and trained by Kazuya Makita, London Town won two races last year, the 1 1/8-mile Korea Cup in Seoul and the Elm Stakes. Kazuyoshi Takimoto’s 5-year-old KT Brave (JPN), winner of the Jan. 31 Kawasaki Kinen, and third in the Tokyo Daishoten (G1) last Dec. 29, and Turf Sport’s 8-year-old Incantation (JPN), who won the one-mile Hai Musashino Stakes (G3) last November over the Tokyo track, have also been entered. Since his runner-up finish in last year’s February Stakes, Yukio Baba’s 8-year-old Best Warrior, ridden by Christophe Lemaire, has been winless in four starts.
Post positions from the rail out for the February Stakes, with rider assignments, is as follows: Nishiken Mononofu (JPN), Norihiro Yokoyama; KT Brave (JPN); Yuichi Fukunaga; Nobu Baccara (JPN), Syu Ishibashi; Awardee, Yutaka Take; Sound True (JPN), Filip Minarik; Incantation (JPN), Kosei Miura; Lalabel (JPN), Daisuke Mashima; Meisho Sumitomo (JPN), Daisuke Mashima; King’s Guard (JPN), Yusuke Fujioka; TM Jinsoku (JPN), Yoshihiro Furukawa; London Town (JPN), Yasunari Iwata; Nonkono Yume (JPN), Hiroyuki Uchida; Let’s Go Donki (JPN), Hideaki Miyuki; Gold Dream (JPN), Ryan Moore; Best Warrior, Christophe Lemaire; Sunrise Nova (JPN), Keita Tosaki.