The G1 Tenno Sho Autumn, open to 3-year-olds and up and run over 2000m, is widely considered as one of the most coveted races in Japan. The competition this year will be heated, with last year’s winner and many top-spot finishers from the Tenno Sho trials meeting this Sunday.
The 5-year-old Lovely Day, from the stable of Yasutoshi Ikee, is expected to be the favourite on Sunday. He has set himself apart from the rest with a stellar year thus far. On a three-race winning streak, he has bagged five graded wins from seven starts this season, including his first G1 -- the Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) in June. His only two defeats came from distances of 3000m or more, which makes him even more of a shoo-in for the Tenno Sho. A strong finishing drive saw him scooping the 2400m G2 Kyoto Daishoten last time. A winner at Tokyo over 2400m, the horse will be taking on the 2000m distance on this track for the first time.
Close behind Lovely Day at the betting windows will surely be the 4-year-old A Shin Hikari, who has won all but one of his nine career starts. He is another runner who has three wins on the bounce, including two latest wins over 1800m in G2 Mainichi Okan and G3 Epsom Cup at Tokyo. Always a talented colt, bigger things are expected of him in his first G1 challenge. In the saddle will be veteran rider Yutaka Take, who earlier this week was up for fast work. “He’s in good shape and was very energetic,” Take said of the gallop.
Big things are also expected of Shonan Pandora, a Deep Impact-sired 4-year-old filly who, coming off a 3-month layoff after her third in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen, produced a lightning-fast late drive to nab the G2 2200m All Comers in September. The Tenno Sho distance proved to be her favourite, though it will be the first time she ran over 2000m at Tokyo. Trainer Tomokazu Takano did express some concern. “There is definitely bias to the draw over the 2000m at Tokyo. If she can handle the first part, she’ll be very competitive in the latter stages where the track widens. She’s a very talented filly and I think she’ll be able to handle it, but we’ll just have to see if it suits her or not.”
Other names to watch are Decipher, who finished in the money in his last four starts, and Ambitious, who returned after three months off for a sixth in the G2 Mainichi Okan (1800m). The latter horse has four wins and two thirds from seven career starts. One of his wins was from the open-class Principal Stakes over 2000m at Tokyo in May.
2014 G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m) winner Isla Bonita ran third latest in the Mainichi Okan. It was the 4-year-old’s first placing run since his third in last year’s Tenno Sho Autumn. Having finished runner-up in G1 Japanese Derby (2400m) last year, it shows that he is well suited to the Tokyo track.
Satono Crown is a lightly raced 3-year-old that has tallied three wins and one third in his five starts. Two of his wins came over 1800m at Tokyo, one at 2000m at Nakayama. He will make his race return here since finishing third in the Japanese Derby in May.