The win by Capital System Co. Ltd.’s four-year-old Mozu Ascot, ridden by Christophe Lemaire, in Sunday’s 68th running of the 1600m, US$2,170,000 Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse earned an automatic berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 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 this year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on November 2-3.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Mozu Ascot to start in the US$2m Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf, and will also provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.
A chestnut son of Frankel (GB) out of India, by Hennessy, Mozu Ascot, trained by Yoshito Yahagi and bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, claimed his first Group 1 win after being sent off ninth favorite in a field of 16 tying the race record of 1:31.3 set in 2012 by Strong Return (JPN).
Mozu Ascot won his first race of 2018 following three consecutive second-place finishes, including the seven furlong Azuchijo Stakes just one week ago.
This was trainer Yoshito Yahagi’s first Yasuda Kinen victory and fourth JRA-G1 title, his latest was with 2012 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner Deep Brillante (JPN). Jockey Christophe Lemaire landed his 17th G1 title after claiming the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) with Almond Eye (JPN) two weeks earlier.
Mozu Ascot and Christophe Lemaire, picture Yuki Shimono for Breeders' Cup
Before a crowd of 61,215 on Sunday, the field broke at the top of the backstretch with Win Gagnant (JPN) gunned for the lead from the farthest stall with Reine Minoru (JPN) stalking the pace. Mozu Ascot made steady progress in mid-pack but was checked briefly before the far turn and on the rails up to the top of the straight. Steadily chasing half of the field up the stretch hill and on the heels of 2.8-1 favorite Suave Richard (JPN), the 4-year-old made most of the opening just as the Suave Richard shifted outside with a furlong to go and charged strongly to the line catching the favorite, and then the 4-year-old filly Aerolithe, in the final strides for a neck win. Suave Richard finished third, followed by Satono Ares (JPN) in fourth and second choice Sungrazer (JPN) in fifth.
“I didn’t have any specific plan before the race,” said winning jockey Lemaire. “The only thing I wanted to do was to have my horse relaxed and to follow a good horse in the straight. I also didn’t plan whether to go inside or outside. As a result, the space became narrow and we were bumped and pushed towards the inside, I didn’t want him to lose his balance so I waited for a clearing and a good horse to follow, once I found a gap I asked for full power from the horse and he responded very well and kept on strongly to the finish line.”
Said trainer Yoshito Yahagi: “After so many misses (in second) in my previous attempts in this race, I am truly happy to have finally won this title. (Regarding running the horse two weeks in a row) In a normal situation we would gallop him on a Wednesday and again on the Sunday before the Yasuda but my judgement was that he needed a stronger run (in the Azuchijo Stakes on May 27) and it ended up being the spot on decision.
“I wasn’t able to concentrate as much with two other horses running in the race (Lys Gracieux (JPN) 8th and Real Steel (JPN), 15th), but seeing how he ran the last 100 meters, I was pretty sure that he would make the finish line first. I have to say though that for a colt with just under a year of racing experience, he’s quite an amazing horse. While still winless in graded races into this race, he was strong in defeat and I was pretty confident that there was much more in him.”
Mozu Ascot improved his career record to five wins in 11 starts. Prior to his runner-up finish in the Azuchijo Stakes, Mozu Ascot was second by 1 ¼ lengths in the Yomiuri Milers Cup (G2) at Kyoto on April 22, and second by a neck in the seven furlong Hankyu Hai (G3) at Hanshin on February 25.
The Yasuda Kinen was the fifth Breeders’ Cup Challenge race to be run in the Mile Division this year. In addition to Mozu Ascot, the Breeders’ Cup Mile qualifiers thus far are Legal Eagle (SAF), winner of the L’Oramins Queen’s Plate (G1) at Kenilworth in South Africa; Happy Clapper (AUS), who captured the Star Doncaster Mile (G1) at Royal Randwick in Australia; Nuevo Maestro (CHI), who won the Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella (G1) at Club Hipico in Santiago, Chile and Hunt (IRE), winner of last Saturday’s Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in California.
Edited article by Masahiro Usuda of Japan Racing Association