Namur captures first G1 against male foes in Mile Championship

Fifth favorite Namur captured her long-awaited first G1 title in this year’s Mile Championship, her eighth attempt at the highest level under last-minute replacement jockey Kota Fujioka who rode four-year-old filly in place of Ryan Moore who was due to ride but fell from his mount (race 2) and underwent a medical checkup. The Harbinger filly, after registering her first grade-race victory in the Tulip Sho (G1, 1,600m) as a three-year-old, was third in the following Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1, 2,400m) and second in the Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m).

While under par in her two G1 starts this spring, in which she finished seventh and 16th, she kicked off her fall campaign with a G2 triumph in the Fuji Stakes (1,600m) on October 21, prior to the mile G1. Trainer Tomokazu Takano, whose most recent JRA-G1 victory was with Stunning Rose in last year’s Shuka Sho, landed his fifth JRA-G1 with the win while jockey Kota Fujioka claimed his second JRA-G1 title after the 2009 NHK Mile Cup with Jo Cappuccino.

Breaking from the outermost gate, Namur bolted out of the gate under replaced jockey Kota Fujioka but was quickly under control and held back off the pace, two wide and positioned in front of Schnell  Meister near the rear. As the field began to close in on the leader approaching the final corner, Namur made headway together with the race favorite and came charging from behind with a terrific turn of speed along the outside path to mow down her rivals and in time to pin the leader right before the wire for a neck victory.

“(replacing Ryan Moore who fell earlier in the day) I’d seen how the filly raced before and was aware of her ability in addition to receiving advice and information from the trainer as well as J. Moreira who had ridden her in her last start, so I was positive going into the race and just concentrated on keeping her relaxed. The break didn’t go very smoothly but she was in good rhythm once settling into the race and responded well, so I knew we could get a good run as long as I did my job of getting her into a good spot at the straight—from there she really showed her strength,” commented Kota Fujioka after the race.

Third choice Soul Rush was rated in mid division, around 11th, just off the rails. The son of Rulership split horses and loomed into contention at early stretch, already assuming command at the 200-meter pole. The five-year-old maintained his lead while driven out then was caught just before the wire although holding off the fast-closing third-place finisher.

Seventh favorite Justin Cafe raced outside Soul Rush around 12th, parted with that foe as the son of Epiphaneia chose to go wider into the straight, losing some ground and slower to get into gear while showing equally good turn of foot to threaten the leader while outrun by the winner to finish a close third.

Race favorite Schnell Meister, despite showing calmness both in the paddock and in the post parade, was rank once inside the starting gate, standing on his hind twice then missed his break. Having to travel at the very rear early, the son of Kingman angled out passing the 800-meter pole to close the gap while still well behind entering the homestretch. Though driven to follow the winner who geared up for the stretch run in front of him, the five-year-old bay failed to respond and finished seventh.

THE 40TH MILE CHAMPIONSHIP (G1) – Japan Autumn International -
3-year-olds & up, 1,600 meters (about 8 furlongs), right-handed, turf
Sunday, November 19, 2023 Kyoto Racecourse 11th Race Post time: 15:40
Total prize money: ¥ 388,800,000 (about US$ 2,968,000 <US$1=¥131>)
3-y-o: 57kg (about 126 lbs), 4-y-o & up: 58kg (about 128 lbs),
2kg allowance for Fillies & Mares, 1kg allowance for Southern Hemisphere-bred born in 2020
Course Record: 1:31.3 Race Record: 1:31.5 [Danon Shark (JPN, by Deep Impact), 2014]
Safety factor: 18 runners Going: Good to Firm Weather: Fine

FP BK PP Horse Jockey S&A Color Wgt Odds (Fav) Margin (L3F) Sire Dam (Dam’s Sire) Owner Breeder Trainer

1 8 16 Namur (JPN) Kota Fujioka F4 b. 56.0 17.3 (5) 1:32.5 (33.0) Harbinger Sambre et Meuse (Daiwa Major) Carrot Farm Co., Ltd.
Northern Farm Tomokazu Takano

2 1 1 B Soul Rush (JPN) Joao Moreira H5 d.b. 58.0 5.8 (3) Neck (33.6) Rulership Eternal Bouquet (Manhattan Cafe) Tatsue Ishikawa Shimokobe Farm Yasutoshi Ikee

3 3 5 Justin Cafe (JPN) Ryusei Sakai H5 b. 58.0 27.5 (7) 1/2 (33.6) Epiphaneia Casino Boogie (Workforce) Masahiro Miki Shadai Farm Shogo Yasuda

Other Horses:

4th: (7) Elton Barows—positioned wide around 7th, showed effort while no match for top finishers
5th: (6) Danon the Kid—settled around 11th, quickened in last 200m after finding opening
6th: (15) Elusive Panther—sat in front of eventual winner, passed tired rivals at stretch
8th: (11) Serifos—gradually advanced to 3rd, accelerated to rally briefly for lead, weakened in last 150m
9th: (12) Red Mon Reve—ran wide around 9th, checked 200m out, lost momentum
10th: (4) Eeyan—raced around 6th, showed brief effort until 200m pole
11th: (2) Be Astonished—saved ground around 9th, never fired
12th: (8) So Valiant—tracked leaders wide around 3rd, ran gamely until 200m pole
13th: (3) Danon Scorpion—traveled around 6th, showed little at stretch
14th: (10) Matenro Orion—chased leaders in 3rd, remained in contention until 200m pole
15th: (14) Bathrat Leon—set pace from wide draw, faded after 300m out
16th: (13) Selberg—pressed leader 2nd, outrun in last 300m

Fractional time (sec./furlong): 12.5 - 10.5 - 11.3 - 12.2 - 11.7 - 11.6 - 11.5 - 11.2  Last 4 furlongs: 46.0 Last 3 furlongs: 34.3