The 2022 Breeders’ Cup Challenge returns to Japan on Sunday with an outstanding re-run of the $3.75 million Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse
With Japan’s historic successes last year at Del Mar still faintly remembered, the Breeders’ Cup challenge ‘Win and You’re In’ returns to the powerhouse of the Far East this weekend when a star-studded renewal the Takarazuka Kinen brings down the curtain on the spring season.
Five G1 winners and a squad of high-profile winners from overseas are taking part in the highly prestigious event, which is endowed with a prize money of US$432 million (US$3.75 million) and a fee-paying place in the Longines Breeders’ Cup on November 5th Turf in Keeneland offers.
This 1m3f competition at Hanshin racetrack, just outside Osaka, has been won by top racer Chrono Genesis for the past two seasons and is a designated ‘all-star’ event, with fans voting for the majority of the field .
A whopping 2,232,089 votes were cast for the 63rd edition on Sunday, with seven-length defending champion Tenno Sho (Spring) leading the poll with a record 191,394 votes – just ahead of Arima Kinen heroine Efforia, the reigning horse of the year, which received 188,525 votes.
Both are question marks. Defending champions cut the drive short while Efforia was beaten well behind rival Potager in his season debut at the Osaka Hai venue on Sunday.
By the way, there is a bit of sibling rivalry here as Kazuo Yokoyama rides the defending champion while younger brother Takeshi rides Efforia.
An impressive 18-starter line-up also includes Daring Tact, the 2020 filly Triple Crown winner, as well as several horses who have already made their mark on the international stage in 2022, such as Fool, who competed in both Saudi and Dubai won a lucrative stayer race.
The Takarazuka Kinen is the fourth JRA race included in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge. There are also Win and You’re In races in Peru and Brazil this weekend.
Efria (Yuichi Shikato/Takeshi Yokoyama) – Japan’s reigning Horse of the Year after a nearly flawless 3-year campaign in which the only loss in five races came when she touched down in Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby); The three-time G1 winner landed Satsuki Sho (2,000 guineas), Tenno Sho (Fall) and Arima Kinen (season-ending Grand Prix, the nation’s most popular race), but on the return to G1, disappointment is likely behind Potager, rival at Sunday Osaka Hai; ahead of the title holder in each of the three clashes.
defending champion (Toru Kurita/Kazuo Yokoyama) – the front-line four-year-old looked better when he slammed Deep Bond in Tenno Sho (Spring) on May 1 with 7 liters over 2m; unbeaten in two starts at this distance, also easy winner of last year’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger); performs in the ride now and may also have to compete with other horses who like to lead, notably Panthalassa who went wire to wire in Dubai.
Daring tact (Haruki Sugiyama/Kohei Matsuyama) – went unbeaten through the mares’ Triple Crown campaign as a three-year-old in 2020 before taking a solid third place behind the magnificent Almond Eye in the red-hot Japan Cup; hasn’t won since but promises to return after a 13-month layoff due to insufficient driving in G1 Victoria Mile last month.
Shall we talk about it?
Toru Kurita, Coach of Defending Champion: “He came back to the training center on June 1st looking good and refreshed and probably better all round than when he came back before Tenno Sho. He moved well in his last training session. There might be another horse that is going to want to run the race, but the jockey knows the horse well and what’s best to do. We leave it to him.”
Yuichi Shikato, Efforia’s trainer: “I think Efforia is the most talented horse here. His preparation has gone well and he’s probably in better shape than his last race. He was more attuned to wearing blinkers in training and running between two other horses. He now has experience of transporting long distances onto a track and I see no problem racing the 2,200 meters on the inside track this time. His last race was too bad so this time I want to see the real Efforia and hope he can show what a talented horse he is and do his best in the race.”
Haruki Sugiyama, Trainer of Daring:“She should definitely improve for her last race – she came back after her long break and it was a tough mile race. “She came back after her long break last time and it was a tough mile race. It had rained quite a bit before the race and she pulled the inside gate which was not to her advantage. Still running well, she clocked a final three-meter time of just over 33 seconds. The extra distance is a plus this time.”
Yasuo Tomomichi, Potager coach: “He showed how good he is in the Osaka Hai and his weight should be about the same this time. I think he can cover any distance up to 2,400 meters which is good considering the tough last part of the race in Hanshin. He always gives his best in a race and even when things don’t go well I think he can run well.”
The Judgment by Nicholas Godfrey
Reducing the distance is a concern for the title holder, and by all means EFFORIA finished in front of him every time they met in the past. The Horse of the Year is set to get back into shape; there were excuses for his poor return to action.
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