Takarazuka Kinen (Group 1)
THE annual JRA racing calendar includes two ‘all-star’ races, the season ending Arima Kinen and the Takarazuka Kinen. The field for these all-star races are determined by a public vote.
In excess of two million votes were cast for the 2022 and 63rd renewal of the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen. Titleholder won the popular vote with almost 10% of the total ballot.
Efforia, Stay Foolish, Daring Tact and Titleholder’s half-sister Melody Lane had all proved popular in the fan’s selections.
A field of 17 lined up and, breaking like a sprinter from stall six, Titleholder was poised to assume front-running tactics. However, Dubai Turf-winner Panthalassa was urged on and eventually take the lead. Titleholder, with Kazuo Yokoyama aboard, was forced to concede the position and settle in second behind a furious gallop.
The first four-furlong sectional time of 57.6 drew audible gasps quickly followed by a crescendo of cheers from the crowd as the field hurtled across Hanshin’s back straight.
Passing the 600-metre marker, Titleholder loomed large on the outside of the quickly tiring Panthalassa. Surging to the lead approaching the final furlong, he powered clear to hit the line a clear and comfortable two-length winner.
Largely thanks to the brutal gallop, Titleholder stopped the clock in 2m 09.7secs, smashing the 11-year-old course record.
Hishi Iguaza stayed on to finish second, with Daring Tact finishing a further two lengths behind in third. Race favourite Efforia broke slowly and never posed a serious threat, finishing sixth, beaten six lengths.
The JRA handicapper has subsequently given the colt an official rating of 124 for his record-breaking Takarazuka performance. Deep Impact and Gold Ship received the same rating for their past efforts. Orfevre was given a mark of 1lb higher for his performance in 2012.
Titleholder becomes the first horse since Deep Impact (2006) to win both the Tenno Sho (Spring) and the Takarazuka Kinen in the same year.
In a post-race interview, trainer Toru Kurita was quick to declare the owner’s intention to travel to ParisLongchamp for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with his stable star.
Titleholder has been given quotes of as low as 10/1 by leading European bookmakers to become the first Japanese winner of the race.
His success provided a second Group 1 win for jockey Kazuo Yokoyama. Kazuo is brother to Takeshi who partnered Efforia here, while their father and veteran JRA jockey Norihiro finished last of the 17 runners.
The Takazaruka Kinen marks the end of the first half of the year’s top-tier races on Japan’s fixture list. The race is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, the winner receives automatic entry and a lucrative expense package to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
After a summer hiatus, JRA Group 1 action is set to return on October 2nd with the Sprinter Stakes which is the eighth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
TITLEHOLDER is now a three-time Group 1 winner varying in distances from 11 furlongs to 16 furlongs. The versatile four-year-old has won six of his 12 career starts amassing earning of €5.3 million.
Bred by Okada Stud, Titleholder is by Duramente (King Kamehameha) and is the second foal out of the stakes-winning 14-year-old Mowen (Motivator). The English-bred mare was purchased as a yearling for 30,000gns at Tattersalls’ Book 1 Sale in 2009 by the Japan-based Lex Stud.
Mowen has produced just two living foals from eight seasons as an active broodmare. Her first, stakes winner Melody Lane, arguably enjoys a greater fan following than her more accomplished half-brother.
A four-time winner from 29 starts, Melody Lane is better known for her diminutive stature and her tenacious style of racing rather than her on-course ability. Her weight for the Takarazuka Kinen was 354kg, 122kg less than her half-brother.
Duramente died in September 2021 as a result of complications from an acute colitis; he was just nine years old. Since his premature death, his results as a stallion have been nothing less than remarkable.
At the time of writing, Duramente sits in fourth place in the overall Japanese stallion rankings. Deep Impact, Lord Kanaloa and Heart’s Cry occupy the first three spots. Duramente covered a book of 131 mares in his final season.
The Oka Sho (1000 Guineas) and Yushun Himba (Oaks) winner Stars On Earth is also by Duramente. Despite suffering a pastern fracture in the latter, she is expected to return for the final leg of the Triple Tiara, the Group 1 Shuka Sho on October 26th.