Katsumi Yoshida 4-year-old Gold Dream (JPN) held off Best Warrior (USA) by a neck to win the one mile, $1,909,000 February Stakes (G1) on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse and became the first horse this year to earn an automatic berth into the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic through the 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 for the first time at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, November 3-4, near San Diego, Calif.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders' Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the connections of Gold Dream to start in the 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.
Trained by Osamu Hirata and ridden by Mirco Demuro, Gold Dream demonstrated his aptitude and liking for the Tokyo dirt mile course as he marked his third victory out of four, which includes his first graded-race triumph in the G3 Unicorn Stakes last June. The Gold Allure colt was entered off a disappointing 12th in the December Champions Cup (G1) after being sent off second favorite, but displayed a sound and convincing performance this time scoring his first G1 win as if paying tribute to his sire who passed away the previous day. This is the second JRA-G1 win for trainer Osamu Hirata who claimed his first with Curren Black Hill in the 2012 NHK Mile Cup, while jockey Mirco Demuro notched his 19th JRA-G1 victory, his latest with Queens Ring in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup last season, and celebrated his second February Stakes title since his victory last year on board Moanin.
Before a crowd of 52,344, Gold Dream broke fairly from stall three and was reserved in mid-division behind Best Warrior down the backstretch as Incantation (JPN) headed the full field of 16 runners. As the bunched-up field fanned out rounding the final corner to secure room for their stretch-run, Gold Dream also floated out wide entering the lane in seventh to eighth but galloped confidently picking off his tiring rivals one by one, finally pinning the brief leader Nishiken Mononofu before the furlong pole, and held off a fast closing Best Warrior by a neck for the title.
Gold Dream, bred by Northern farm, completed the mile in 1:35.1 over standard going.
“In the Champions Cup, he broke poorly and was keen—he didn't stretch at all. But today he was relaxed even after entering the track. His start was good, he was positioned well and responded beautifully in the straight. He still had a lot left at the end,” commented Mirco Demuro.
Best Warrior, sent off fifth favorite, was also reserved in mid-pack but took an inner route making the final turns and was blocked behind horses in early stretch. However, the patient seven-year-old found a gap chasing Nishiken Mononofu who pulled away in front of him two furlongs out, and unleashed a strong late run to threaten the winner for a neck second.
Off slow as usual, race favorite Kafuji Take (JPN) sat unhurried near the rear and was last to enter the stretch but had no trouble finding his stride as he blew past the field clocking the fastest last three-furlong drive to finish three-quarters of a length from Best Warrior for third.
A Shin Bakken (JPN) finished fourth followed in order by Nishiken Mononofu (JPN), K T Brave (JPN), Nokono Yume (JPN), Sound True (JPN), White Fugue (JPN), Brightline (JPN), King's Guard (JPN), Moanin (USA), Incantation (JPN), Copano Rickey (JPN), Asukano Roman (JPN) and Denim and Ruby (JPN).
Watch the race replay here (courtesy JRA):
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