Silk Racing Co’s 4-year-old Indy Champ (JPN) defeated the 5-year-old mare Aerolithe (JPN) by a neck in track-record time, with the winner’s favored stablemate Almond Eye (JPN) finishing third, to win the 69th running of the about one mile US $2,075,000 Yasuda Kinen (G1) on turf at Tokyo Racecourse, and earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge. The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 stakes races whose winners receive free berths and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on November 1-2.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Indy Champ to start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Trained by Hidetaka Otonashi and ridden to victory by Yuichi Fukunaga, Indy Champ completed the mile in 1:30.9 over a firm course, lowering the course record by 0.4, set by Strong Return (JPN), also under Fukunaga, in the 2012 Yasuda Kinen.
Before a crowd of 74,008 and sent off as the 19-1 fourth choice in the 16-horse field, Indy Champ, a bay son Stay Gold (JPN), secured a rail trip in fifth up to the top of the straight. After struggling behind a wall of horses in early stretch, he threaded out with two furlongs remaining, displayed a good turn of foot up the hill and stretched strongly, overtaking the pacesetter in the final strides to clear the wire first.
Yasuda Kinen Replay
“He was tuned up well, was in great shape, and had a good draw, so I just tried hard not to miss our break,” said Fukunaga. “He tends to get distracted when he’s up front so I kept him off the pace. We were up against fierce competition, but I believed that he had a good chance as long as I didn’t make any mistakes and he certainly responded beautifully to our expectations.”
As the third favorite, Aerolithe (12.5-1) went right to the front after a good break and set a solid pace with Guanciale (JPN) within a couple of lengths behind in second. Demonstrating good stamina, the 5-year-old daughter of Kurofune (JPN) stubbornly held on to the lead only to be caught a few strides before the finish line by Indy Champ for a neck second. Guanciale finished fourth.
Almond Eye Finds Traffic
The 2018 Japanese Horse of the Year, Almond Eye (1.7-1), aiming for her sixth consecutive G1 victory, immediately met traffic after breaking from stall 14 and was forced to settle between horses in the latter half of the field, a half-length behind second favorite Danon Premium (JPN). Failing to shift out at the last corner, the Lord Kanaloa filly finally found room 300 meters out and unleashed her trademark burst of speed, which was timed the fastest of the field, but had too much ground to make up and was a nose short for third.
In registering his first career Group 1, Indy Champ improved his record to six wins in 10 starts. He won two allowance races at the mile distance to close out 2018, and opened this year by winning the Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3) at Tokyo by a half-length on Feb. 3. He followed that win with a fourth-place effort in the Yomiouri Milers Cup (G2) at Kyoto on April 21.
The Yasuda Kinen was the fourth Breeders’ Cup Mile “Win and You’re In” series race to be run on the fourth different continent this year. Do it Again (SAF) won the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1) at Kenilworth in South Africa on Jan. 5 to earn the first automatic Mile berth of 2019. The 4-year-old homebred Tamburo Di Oro (CHI) won the Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella (G1) in Santiago, Chile on May 26 and the 5-year-old Bolo won the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in California on May 27.