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Yasuda Kinen (G1) Race Preview: Tokyo - Sunday, 2nd June 2024

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The 74th running of the Yasuda Kinen will be held on Sunday, June 2nd and it is a 1,600m turf event at Tokyo Racecourse.

SONGLINE winning the Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo in Japan.
SONGLINE winning the Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo in Japan. Picture: Japan Racing Association

The five weeks of top-level action at Tokyo Racecourse finally come to an end this coming Sunday (June 2), when the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen will round out the feature races that have attracted so much attention these past few weeks, and have given racing fans a glimpse of what to expect in the latter half of the year.

This Sunday's Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen promises to be something special too, with two of Hong Kong's best horses traveling over for the race. Bidding to give Hong Kong its third win in the race, after wins by Fairy King Prawn (2000) and Bullish Luck (2006), Romantic Warrior and Voyage Bubble will do battle with the Japanese horses over the distance of a mile on the turf course at Tokyo.

The race was first run in 1951, and was named after the first president of the JRA, Izaemon Yasuda. It became a Grade 1 race in 1984, and an international Grade 1 in 1993, since when it has attracted over 50 horses from overseas. There are 18 nominations for this year's Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen, which will have a maximum 18 runner field, and the race is open to 3-year-olds and up, with the latter set to carry 54kg, while 4-year-olds and above carry 58kg. Fillies and mares receive a 2kg allowance.

The last 10 years have seen just two first favorites win the race, with the last one to do so being Maurice in 2015. During the same time period, 4-year-olds have been the most successful with five wins, and the last 3-year-old to win was Real Impact in 2011. Record time for the race was set by Indy Champ in 2019, when he won in a time of 1 minute, 30.9 seconds. This year's winner's check is JPY180 million (just over USD1 million), and the winner also receives an automatic entry to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile later this year.

A number of horses go into this Sunday's race having run in the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup, run at Kyoto in April, and the Grade 1 Victoria Mile, run at Tokyo earlier this month.

The 74th running of the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen will be Race 11 on this Sunday's card at Tokyo, and post time is 15:40 locally. The final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.

Here's a look at some of the Japanese horses set to take on the race:

Soul Rush: Expected to be one of the top picks among the Japanese runners, the 6-year-old by Rulership might not have tasted success at the very top level, but it's not for the lack of trying. Finishing fourth in last December's Grade 1 Hong Kong Mile, his one run this year in Japan saw him win the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup at Kyoto in April. Assistant trainer Yuki Iwasaki said: "He ran a strong race last time, even without having blinkers on, and it was good that he didn't need to rely on the running rail. He came out of the race well, and after a stay at the farm, things have been as usual with him back at the stable." Giving another boost to Soul Rush's chances is the booking of Joao Moreira for the ride.

Serifos: Jockey Yuga Kawada and trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida team up with Serifos in Sunday's race, and the horse has finished 4th and 2nd in the past two years of the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen. Assistant trainer Taku Fukunaga commented: "He might not have been in the very best condition for his last race, but he still put in a good run. He's been at the stable since, and there weren't any problems after his last race. There are strong horses in this next Grade 1, but he did finish second in the race last year, and he has won over a mile at Tokyo." Serifos finished second to Soul Rush last time in the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup, and will be looking to reverse the placings.

Namur: After a couple of good runs in Hong Kong and Dubai, Namur was sent off the second favorite for the recent Grade 1 Victoria Mile in Japan, but could only manage eighth in that race. She doesn't always get off to the best of starts, as trainer Tomokazu Takano explained: "She can get restless in the gate, and it doesn't help her jump smoothly," the trainer said. "Her front legs can go up, and it means her timing isn't smooth at the start. In the Victoria Mile, she ended up settling at the rear and found a good rhythm, but from the final corner she wasn't able to run on well in the way that she usually does." Yutaka Take once again rides the 5-year-old mare Namur.

Elton Barows: The 4-year-old by Deep Brillante is one of two likely runners for trainer Haruki Sugiyama, and the horse's last race was in the Grade 1 Champions Mile in Hong Kong in April, where he finished eighth. The trainer commented: "I'd have liked him to have run on good ground last time, but he still ran quite a good race. After returning to Japan and seeing out quarantine, he's been at Tokyo Racecourse, where he's recovered his condition and is getting back to himself again."

Gaia Force: Also trained by Haruki Sugiyama, Gaia Force was tried in the Grade 1 February Stakes last time, and put in a very good run to finish second, in what was the 5-year-old's first run on dirt. Comments from the trainer were: "Last time I thought we'd try him over a mile on dirt at Tokyo, and he ran very well. He returned to the stable not long ago after a break with an injury, and he's been his usual self since. He's been moving very well in his recent training."

Parallel Vision: It is two wins from two starts in 2024 for the 5-year-old, with the latest win coming in the Grade 3 Lord Derby Challenge Trophy over a mile at Nakayama in March. His raw form looks good, even though he has never run above Grade 2 level. Trainer Sakae Kunieda said: "We've tried racing him on dirt, but turf looks to be best for him. It was a good race last time, when he jumped well from the gate and got into a good rhythm. He had a break at the farm after that race, with this being his next target." Christophe Lemaire will ride Parallel Vision, and he has won on the horse five times already.

Geoglyph: Although he hasn't won since the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho in 2022, Geoglyph is always being tried in different races, including overseas, and more than not he's never too far off the mark. His last race was the Grade 1 Osaka Hai in March, when he finished fifth over the 2,000 meters of the race. Assistant trainer Yu Ota commented: "The distance of the Osaka Hai was a bit of a challenge for him, but he ran well. Just recently in training, he's shown that he can improve more, and one thing is to try and keep him from throwing his head around too much."

Stella Veloce: The 6-year-old is quite versatile when it comes to distance, and has some fair form at Tokyo, so he's one not to overlook, even in this strong field. He was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Osaka Hai over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in March, and unlike some of the other runners, he will have had more time between races. Trainer Naosuke Sugai said: "He ran behind the main leading group of horses last time, but still got a good result in the end. He's had a nice break in Hokkaido, and has come back in good shape. In a recent piece of work on the uphill, he posted a time of 50.7 seconds over four furlongs."

Red Mon Reve: The 5-year-old by Lord Kanaloa has produced some good results over a mile, and in his last race he finished second in the Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup over 1,400 meters at Tokyo just recently. Comments from assistant trainer Daisuke Tsumagari were: "He didn't break particularly well last time, but was able to make up for it with a good finish. In the Nakayama Kinen, he lost his concentration and he couldn't get a finish in. The key is for him to be able to show his turn of foot, and he seems to have to be in the right state of mind to do that." 

Japan Racing Association

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