Five Group 1 Winners Set To Contest Takarazuka Kinen

Led by the international stakes-winning mare Vivlos (JPN), Japanese St. Leger (G1) winner Kiseki (JPN) and defending champion Satono Crown (JPN), a field of 16 has been entered, including five Group 1 winners, in a wide open 59th running of the 1 3/8-mile, $2,950,521 Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin Racecourse for an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 82 stakes races, whose winners -receive automatic starting positons and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 2-3.

As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Takarazuka Kinen to start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at 1 ½ miles.  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 October 22 to receive the rewards.

Among the contenders, Kazuhiro Sasaki’s 5-year-old mare Vivlos (Yuichi Fukunaga, post 10) won the 2017 Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan, and returned there this year to post a second-place finish behind Benbatl (IRE) on March 31. Although beaten by three lengths, her Dubai defense was a major improvement over her 2018 debut when she finished eighth of 10 runners in the 1 1/8-mile Nakayama Kinen (G2). Trained by Yasuo Tomomichi, Vivlos, a bay daughter of Deep Impact (JPN), finished second in last October’s Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2) at Tokyo Racecourse. In December, Vivlos finished fifth in the 1 3/8-mile Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup (G2).

“Last year she went abroad for the first time and after returning from Dubai,” said Tomonichi. “I thought she would be tired so I had decided to give her the entire spring off. When she came back to Japan though, she was in pretty good shape, so with that in mind, this year I thought I could run her in the Takarazuka Kinen. She was in even better shape this year after Dubai than she’d been last year, so it was decided.”

Kiseki, a 4-year-old dark bay son of Rulership, defeated 17 rivals in winning last October’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) at Kyoto for owner Tatsue Ishikawa and trainer Katsuhiko Sumii.  That race completed a successful summer-fall run for Kiseki, which included a win in the Shinanogawa Tokubetsu Stakes at Nigata at 1 ½ miles on August 5, and a subsequent second-place finish in the Group 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai. But he did not fare well after the Japanese Derby. Shipped to Sha Tin in December for the Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1), Kiseki finished ninth of 12. He opened 2018 with another ninth-place finish in the 1 9/16-mile Nikkei Sho (G2) at Nakayma. Kiseki will break from post 16 under Micro Demuro.

Satono Crown, a 6-year-old son of Marju, owned by Satomi Horse Company and trained by Noriyuki Hori, is another entrant seeking to return to last year’s winning form. Ridden by Shu Ishibashi from post 9, Satono Crown captured the 2017 Takarazuka Kinen by three-quarters-of a length at 8-1 odds. He was off for the next four months and returned to run a very strong second-place finish behind Kitasan Black (JPN) in the 1 ¼-mile Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1) over a soft course. But Satono Crown was not the same after that, finishing ninth in the 1 ½-mile Japan Cup (G1) at Tokyo and 13th of 16 in the 1 5/16- mile Arima Kinen at Nakayama at the end of last year. In his only start of 2018 Satono Crown finished seventh in the 1 ½-mile Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan.  Hori believes the international travel probably took its toll on his runner.

“On June 7, his breathing still wasn’t good and his heart wasn’t in his work yet either,” Hori explained. “But with a workout on June 14 and then one just before the race, I think he’ll be in good shape. The venue is the best one for this horse, but this year I felt some difficulty getting him ready after the overseas trip. Here’s hoping he can be in good shape on race day.”

Satomi Horse Company has also entered the 5-year-old Satono Diamond (JPN), a son Deep Impact, who defeated Kitasan Black in the 2016 Arima Kinen (G1) after running third in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho and second in the Japanese Derby. Trained by Yasutoshi Ikee and ridden from post 3 by Christophe Lemaire, Satono Diamond won over this course in March of last year in the Group 2, 1 7/8-mile Hanshin Daishoten Stakes.  He was rested for a French campaign in the fall. While he was fourth as the 19-10 second choice in the Qatar Prix Foy (G2) at Chantilly, he regressed in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), finishing 15th.  In two starts this year, both at 1 ¼ miles, Satono Diamond finished third in the Kinko Sho (G2) at Chukyo, and was seventh as the 3-1 second choice- in the Osaka Hai (G1) at Hanshin on April 1.

In from Hong Kong is the 7-year-old Werther (NZ), a son of Tavistock (NZ), who was the 2016-17 Hong Kong Horse of the Year. Owned by Johnson Chen and trained by John Moore, Werther won the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup (G1) in 2016, and two Group 1 races at Sha Tin in 2017: the 1 ¼-mile Citi of Hong Kong Gold Cup in February and the 1 ½ mile Standard Charter Champions and Charter Cup in May by three lengths. This year, Werther, ridden by Hugh Bowman on Sundayfrom post 13, wound up second defending his title in the City of Gold Cup, and in his most recent start, was sixth in the one-mile Lion Rock Trophy Stakes (G3), at Sha Tin on June 3.

The Takarazuka Kinen is the fourth Breeders’ Cup Challenge race in the Longines Turf Division this year. On Wednesday, the 5-year-old Poet’s Word (IRE) became the third horse to earn an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf by winning the Prince of Wales Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot in England. The first two horses to qualify were the filly La Extrana Dama (ARG), who won the Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1) at San Isidro in Buenos Aires, and Quarteto de Cordas (BRZ), who captured the Grande Premio Brasil (G1) at Gavea in Rio de Janeiro on June 10.

The post Five Group 1 Winners Set To Contest Takarazuka Kinen appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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