Thursday, 21 June 2012
: The 53rd running of the Takarazuka Kinen, Japanese racing's spring grand prix and one of the two races where fans vote on which horses they would like to see compete, will be run at Hanshin on Sunday.
Photo by Whistlejacket
The G1 showpiece over 2200m on turf is again a part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge global series of races with winner qualifying for a start in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in November.
The first Takarazuka Kinen was run in 1960 and it became an international race in 1997.
This year's race will be made up of only Japanese runners but a full gate of 18 runners will include some of Japan's biggest stars including Triple Crown winner and 2011 Horse of the Year Orfevre and international G1 winner Rulership.
Orfevre will be under the microscope after defeats in his two starts this year, finishing second in the Hanshin Daishoten and most recently 11th in the Tenno Sho (Spring).
Regular jockey Kenichi Ikezoe partners Orfevre again and he will be under huge pressure after being criticised for his recent efforts on the horse.
It is in his favor that six 4YOs have won in the last ten runnings of the Takarazuka Kinen and Hanshin has suited Orfevre before as his three races at the venue - over 1800m, 2400m and 3000m – resulted in two wins and a half length second in the Daishoten on March 18.
The second favourite Rulership recorded a fine win in the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April in a great example of his immense ability.
Australian jockey Craig Williams will be jetting back from England's Royal Ascot to take the ride on Rulership, taking over from the now absent Italian rider Umberto Rispoli.
Rulership was fifth in last year's Takarazuka Kinen some 5.5 lengths off the winner Earnestly and this will be his first race since his Sha Tin victory.
In an interesting aside, Rulership's trainer Katsuhiko Sumii is currently Japan's leading trainer while Yasutoshi Ikee, Orfevre's handler, is number two in the standings.
Ikee is likely to have three other horses in the field - To the Glory, with leading jockey Yuichi Fukunaga riding, Trailblazer (Yutaka Take) and Mount Shasta, the only 3-year-old in the field.
Win Variation will be a first time ride for Melbourne Cup winning jockey Yasunari Iwata, who has already won three G1 races in Japan this year.
There is a possibility of a wet track on Sunday, adding another dimension to the race. Both Rulership and Orfevre have good form in the wet.
Other leading chances include Eishin Flash, winner of the 2010 Japanese Derby, third in this race last year and back from his sixth in the Dubai World Cup; last year's winner Earnestly; Win Variation, who was placed in two of the Triple Crown races behind Orfevre last season and also third in this year's Tenno Sho (Spring); and the four lengths Tenno Sho (Spring) winner Beat Black, a winner of three 2400m races at Hanshin.
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