One of Japan’s premier mile races, the G1 Yasuda Kinen, this year boasts five G1 winners, including two raiders from Hong Kong and 2016 winner Logotype. At the forefront are horses like Staphanos, Air Spinel and Isla Bonita, but it is an open race that could see the likes of Red Falx, Ambitious and Satono Aladdin receive a great deal of play at the betting windows.
Hong Kong’s Beauty Only and Contentment are the only overseas representatives in the mile contest this year, having arrived in Japan on 23 May. They have settled in well at Tokyo Racecourse.
Three-time Hong Kong visitor Staphanos drops to a mile for the first time since October, 2014. He has placed at three of his last four starts, twice finishing third to Maurice in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup before a last-start second to 2016 Japanese Horse of the Year Kitasan Black in the G1 Osaka Hai.
“As always, I’ve had jockey Ryota Samejima ride the final fast work before the race,” trainer Hideaki Fujiwara said on Wednesday (31 May). “Mainly it is to check his condition, especially now that he drops to a mile. Naturally, the horse is trained differently for this distance and I’ve asked for a workout that suits that.
“We put a horse before him and had him chase that horse, then ask for acceleration coming into the stretch. The jockey says the horse was very light on his feet and felt really good, so everything is going according to plan.”
Partnered with Staphanos for the Yasuda Kinen, however, is not Samejima, but Keita Tosaki, who rode the horse in a gallop on 24 May: “He felt good then. He’s had a number of races where he needed to find just a little bit more to win. But this horse’s strong point is being able to handle any kind of race.”
Air Spinel, who finished second to Isla Bonita in the G2 Milers Cup (1600m) on 23 April, worked up the hill course at Ritto training centre on 31 May.
“His last race came after a layoff (nearly three months) and the difference between us and the winner came mostly from the difference in the turf on the inside and the outside,” said trainer Kazuhide Sasada. “It wasn’t anything to get upset about. This race has been his target for the first half of the year and everything has gone according to plan.”
Consistent galloper Ambitious, one of two runners for trainer Hidetaka Otonashi, also worked up that same hill course on Wednesday.
“He often grabs the bit when you give him the go sign,” said Otonashi. “His best distance is 1800m, with only one turn, but he does have the ability to win a G1 race. I think the mile suits him better than stretching him out to 2000m.”
Speaking about his other charge, Milers Cup fourth Black Spinel, Otonashi said: “I’d have liked him to race from a more forward position last time out in the Milers Cup. The frontrunners held their ground and this horse did quicken nicely in the finish. He’s not a horse to change much over only a short period of time, but he’s been fine since then. He does have good acceleration. I’m hoping he can settle well in a good position.”
Logotype has been winless since his victory in this race last year, although he did not finish far behind Beauty Only in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, finishing fifth. He has not raced since February, but that day he was a good third behind subsequent G1 APQEII Cup winner Neorealism in the G2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m).