The JRA’s approach to calendaring Group 1 races is very much one of quality over quantity. Japan has only two Grade 1 sprint races each year and the first of those is the tongue-twisting Takamatsunomiya Kinen over six furlongs in late March.
The race is usually scheduled to be contested the day after Japan’s overseas raiders have rattled the Europeans and Americans at the Dubai World Cup shindig at Meydan. It kicks off the domestic ‘spring’ season’s elite programme of 11 Grade 1 races, which runs through to the Takarazuka Kinen in late June.
The race is run left-handed at Chukyo, making it the only Grade 1 staged away from the JRA’s ‘big four’ tracks and it is not unusual for the going to be easier than the rattling firm ground experienced commonly in Japan. The race is named for the Takamatsu-no-miya branch of Japan’s imperial family.
Featured winner: Aerovelocity
Aerovelocity was a battling, bull-headed, brute of a horse who left more than one stable-hand with a broken bone or two. But for a spell of several months straddling 2014 and 2015 the Hong Kong champion was also the best sprinter in Asia.
The Paul O’Sullivan-trained gelding ascended Hong Kong’s handicap system to win the 2014 Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin and so set in motion a remarkable Group/Grade 1 treble.
Three months later Aerovelocity headed to Chukyo where he beat Japan’s best short runners in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen to become the race’s first overseas winner, and then, in May of 2015, he flew to Singapore and trounced international rivals in the KrisFlyer Sprint at Kranji.
Zac Purton lifts Aerovelocity home for Hong Kong in the 2015 Takamatsunomiya Kinen. (Photo by JRA)