Danox Co. Ltd.'s 4-year-old Danon Smash (JPN) and Godolphin's Tower of London (JPN), lead a field of 16 entered for Sunday's six-furlong, $1,991,659 Sprinters Stakes (G1) at Nakayama Racecourse, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint through the international Breeders' Cup Challenge.
The Breeders' Cup Challenge is an international series of 86 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, California, Nov 1-2.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Sprinters Stakes to start in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, which will be run at five furlongs. Breeders' Cup also will provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
Danon Smash, trained by Takayuki Yasuda and ridden by Yuga Kawada, closed strongly down the center of the course in the final 100 yards to win the Keeneland Cup (G3) on Aug. 25 at Sapporo in his last start, defeating Tower of London by three-quarters of a length as the 13-10 favorite. It was the sixth win in 13 starts for the bay son of Lord Kanaloa, who won this race in 2012 and in 2013.
“It was a big result last time, when you consider the draw he had and that he had to take the outside route all the way,” said Yasuda to JRA.com. “He showed a lot of class to hold the horse on the inside at the finish. He's been working well back at the stable since that trip to Sapporo.”
Danon Smash also won the six-furlong Silk Road Stakes (G3) at Kyoto back in January. In his next start, he finished fourth in the Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Kyoto, 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner, Mr Melody.
Following his defeat in the Keeneland Cup, Tower of London, trained by Kazuo Fujisawa and ridden by Christophe Lemaire, was in command of the Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes at Hanshin on Sept. 8, winning in course-record time by three lengths as the 17-10 favorite. A bay son of 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass out of the Dalakhani (IRE) mare Snow Pine (JPN), Tower of London has won six of 13 races, and also captured the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup at Tokyo Racecourse in May.
Mr Melody, bred in Kentucky by Bell Tower Thoroughbreds, made the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March his shining moment of 2018, winning by a half-length at 6-1. Trained by Hideaki Fujiwara, Mr Melody is a 4-year-old bay son of Scat Daddy out of the Deputy Minister mare Trust Lady. He did not race again until Sept. 8 in the Centaur Stakes, where he ran a non-threatening eighth.
“He didn't quite manage to run on at the end last time, and even though he was in good shape,” said assistant trainer Nobuyuki Tashiro. “I put it down to him not having had a run for a while and not quite being so sharp. He's come out of that race fine, and I think he'll be different for this next race.” Mr Melody's jockey, Yuichi Fukunaga, has won 23 JRA Group 1 races.
Seven of the 16 starters in Sunday's race are females, and two prominent ones could by Silk Racing's 3-year-old Dirndl (JPN) and Capital Systems' 4-year-old Mozu Superflare. Dirndi, a bay daughter of Rulership (JPN), trained by Yusuke Fujioka and ridden by Yutaka Okumura, will be stepping into Group 1 company for the first time. The dark bay has won five times in seven starts, with two of those scores at Nakayama. Dirndl had her four-race winning streak stopped when she finished third last time out in the Group 3 Kitakyushu Kinen at Kokura on Aug. 18.
Mozu Superflare, bred in Kentucky by Alpha Delta Stables, won twice at Nakayama during the winter, including the Group 3 Ocean Stakes at seven furlongs for trainer Hideaki Fujiwara. Mozu Superflare, a chestnut daughter of Speightstown, will be ridden by Fuma Matsuwaka.
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