Keiba Diary: Kyoto’s back online and Titleholder awaits
Manami Nagashima’s form at Fukushima caught the eye of Adrian Webber and he also liked what he saw of the redeveloped Kyoto racecourse, which hosts what could be an epic Tenno Sho Spring this weekend.
The big event last weekend was undoubtedly the reopening of Kyoto racecourse, which had been closed for two and a half years for a complete overhaul. It now has the name ‘Centennial Park Kyoto Racecourse’ (the course celebrates its centenary in 2025) and its welcome return gives fans the chance once more to revisit the venue of some of Japan’s great races.
Last Saturday’s crowd was unusually bigger than the Sunday attendance, and several of the day’s winners literally bounced off the dirt and turf surfaces like rubber balls being unleashed from a tightly packed box. The names of some of the winning horses were With Your Dream, Push On and Don Frankie, and these would have without doubt given satisfaction to the believers in the ‘science’ of ‘I bet on it because I like the name’ category.
A day’s racing at Kyoto wouldn’t be a day’s racing at Kyoto without a winner ridden by Yutaka Take, and he got on the board that first day back. It’s interesting to note for the future that before the course renovation, he was the leading rider at the track with 1,381 wins, followed by Yasunari Iwata in second with 505 wins and Hideaki Miyuki in third with 501 wins. In the two years before the closure, however, Yuga Kawada was top with 81 winners.
Talking of top jockeys, Christophe Lemaire guided the German-bred Schnell Meister to a narrow victory in Sunday’s G2 Yomiuri Milers Cup, steering clear of the trouble on his inside, for which Manabu Sakai picked up a two-day suspension for his ride on Shiny Rock.
— Team Iwata (@JayRAye02) April 23, 2023
At Tokyo, a cute grey daughter of Gold Ship, Golden Hind, led all the way to take out the G2 Flora Stakes over 2000 metres and earned herself a place in the Oaks. With dad up there in Hokkaido looking on, he’s probably well pleased with the big-striding, stamina-laden filly.
Titleholder to relish the ground
Although some rain is forecast during the week, the going at Kyoto, as reported by a number of jockeys on the first weekend, is likely to remain quick for this Sunday’s G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) and this should play into the hooves of last year’s dominant winner of the 3200m race Titleholder, who blew the opposition away last time out in the G2 Nikkei Sho in March. His recent final furlong time of 11.2 seconds on the woodchip course at Miho pleased his race jockey Kazuo Yokoyama. “He’s in good shape and he’s handling his workload well,” the jockey noted.
Boldog Hos and Silver Sonic are two that might possibly lower the reigning champ’s colours, but when things go right for Titleholder he’s a difficult horse to peg back.