Led by the brilliant 4-year-old filly Almond Eye (JPN), a five-time Group 1 winner and 2018 Japanese Horse of the Year, a field of 16 runners has been entered for Sunday's one-mile, US$1.965 million Yasuda Kinen (G1) on turf at Tokyo Racecourse, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile 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 the Yasuda Kinen winner 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. If not Breeders' Cup eligible, the Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders' Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 21 to receive the rewards.
Owned by Silk Racing Co., and trained by Sukae Kunieda, Almond Eye will be making her first start in Japan this year following her convincing seasonal debut triumph against male rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan in the United Arab Emirates on March 30. A bay daughter of Lord Kanaloa (JPN), (who won the 2013 Yasuda Kinen) out of Fusaichi Pandora (JPN) by 1989 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Sunday Silence, Almond Eye, ridden on Sunday by Christophe Lemaire from post 14, finished 2018 with a flourish winning the Japan Cup (G1) last November, adding to her many laurels, which included the Oka Sho (G1) (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and the Yushun Himba (G1) (Japanese Oaks).
Bred by Northern Racing, Almond Eye lost her debut race at 2, but has reeled off seven straight wins. Silk Racing has alluded to more ambitious overseas adventures in store for its star filly, including a possible run against two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner and Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) winner Enable (GB) in the “Win and You're In” Juddmonte International (G1) at York in August, but the Yasuda Kinen is her first order of business.
Almond Eye is one of seven Group 1 winners in Sunday's race, as is Danox Co. Ltd.'s 4-year-old Danon Premium (JPN), who is 6-of-7 lifetime and 3-for-3 at the mile distance, among those being the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup (G3) over the Tokyo course. Trained by Mitsumasa Nakauchida, Danon Premium captured the Asashi Hai Futurity (G1) at Hanshin in course-record time as a 2-year-old and has since won three Group 2 stakes including two scores this year; first in the 1 ¼-mile Kinko Sho at Chukyo on March 10, and shortening up to the mile distance, taking the Yomiouri Milers Cup at Kyoto by 1 ¼ lengths at Kyoto on April 21. Danon Premium's sole defeat was a sixth-place finish in the 1 ½-mile Japanese Derby (G1). The brown son of Deep Impact (JPN), ridden by Yuga Kawada from post 15, is one of four colts sired by Deep Impact in Sunday's field.
Sunday Racing's 5-year-old mare Aerolithe (JPN) finished second by a neck to Mozu Ascot in last year's Yasuda Kinen. Trained by Takanori Kikuzawa, Aerolithe won her next start, the Group 2, 1 1/8-mile Mainichi Okan over the Tokyo course. Aerolithe, a gray daughter of Kurofune (JPN) opened 2019 in the United States, finishing ninth in the 1 3/8-mile Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) on January 26 at Gulfstream Park. Returning to Japan, she fared better in the Victoria Mile (G1) at Tokyo on May 12, leading the field until the final half-furlong, where she gave way and wound up fifth. Aerolithe finished fourth in last year's Victoria Mile prepping for the Yusada Kinen. Her Group 1 triumph came in the NHK Mile Cup in 2017. She will be ridden by Keita Tosaki from post 2.
Sunday Racing has also entered the 4-year-old Stelvio (JPN), a winner of four races in 11 starts, including his lone Group 1 win in the 2018 Mile Championship. Also sired by Lord Kanaloa, Stelvio has made two starts this year for trainer Tetsuya Kimura, finishing third in the 1 1/8-mile Nakayama Kinen (G2) on Feb. 24, but wound up 14th in the 1 ¼ mile Osaka Hai (G1) at Hanshin on March 31. Damian Lane rides, starting from post 8.
Another Silk Racing runner is the consistent 4-year-old Indy Champ (JPN), who has won five times in nine starts. Trained by Hidetaka Otonashi, Indy Champ, by Stay Gold (JPN), won two allowance races at the mile distance to close out 2018, and opened the new year by winning the Tokyo Shimbun Hai (G3) over Sunday's course by a half-length on Feb. 3. He followed that win with a fourth-place effort as the 4.7-1 second choice in the Yomiouri Milers Cup. Breaking from post 5, Indy Champ will be ridden by Yuichi Fukunaga.
Last year's winner, Capital System's Mozu Ascot, bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, is a 5-year-old bay son Frankel. Mozu Ascot secured his first Group 1 win one year ago, and has finished first five times in 15 starts. Following the Yasuda Kinen score, Mozu Ascot did not start again until Oct. 27 and finished second by a nose in the six-furlong Swan Stakes (G2) at Kyoto, but he lost his form after that, finishing 13th as the favorite in the Mile Championship and seventh in the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1) to close out the year. In his first start of 2019, he finished seventh of 10 runners in the Yomiuri Milers Cup. He will be ridden by Ryusei Sakai from post 7.
The Yasuda Kinen, first run in 1951 as the Yasuda Sho, is named for the Japan Racing Association's founding chairman Izaemon Yasuda.
The Yasuda Kinen will be 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 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 Monday (May 27) of this week.
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