An exciting edition of the G1 Yasuda Kinen awaits on Sunday (3 June) with the addition of Hong Kong raider Western Express, who is looking to be the first foreign-trained horse to win the 1600m feature since Hong Kong’s Bullish Luck in 2006.
As always, this is a race full of talent with seven G1 winners set to line up, of which four won a top-line feature over a mile. Persian Knight comes into the Yasuda having been an impressive three-year-old winner of the G1 Mile Championship last year against older horses. He has continued to show his talent as a four-year-old, having extending to 2000m in his last start, the G1 Osaka Hai in early April. That day, he was a fast-closing second to fellow Yasuda contender Suave Richard.
Four-year-old filly Aerolithe has impressed throughout her career, including a win against the males in the G1 NHK Mile last year. While her last start, fourth in the G1 Victoria Mile on 13 May, wasn’t her best performance, she proved earlier in the season that she has no issues against the older males.
The other two G1-winning milers have a little more to prove this weekend. G1 Oka Sho winner Reine Minoru has not been in the winner’s circle since her upset win in the fillies’ classic last year, while 2016 champion two-year-old Satono Ares hasn’t won at Group level since his 2016 G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes win. Of the two, though, Satono Ares has performed quite respectably in his past two starts in the G3 Tokyo Shimbun Hai in February and the G2 Keio Hai Spring Cup on 12 May.
The likely favourite this weekend is Suave Richard, who won the G1 Osaka Hai over 2000m in impressive fashion in early April. This son of Heart’s Cry has never raced below 1800m in his three seasons on the turf and the question of distance will hang over him until he proves himself on Sunday.
Red Falx, a two-time G1-winning sprinter in Japan, was third in this race last year. In this year’s G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m), he trailed the field for most of the race but posted quick closing fractions and wasn’t as far behind the winner as his eighth would suggest.
The final G1 winner in the field is 2016 Dubai Turf (1800m) winner Real Steel. After his win at Meydan in 2016, he came back to run 11th in that year’s Yasuda Kinen. The question will be whether his third in Dubai this year took as much out of him as his win did two years ago. However, the Deep Impact six-year-old looked sharp during his final tune up at Ritto Training Centre on Wednesday.
Two horses of interest who are yet to break through the G1 barrier are both four-year-olds: Sungrazer and Lys Gracieux.
G2 winner Sungrazer ran third in the G1 Mile Championship last fall, only half a length or so behind winner Persian Knight. In his 2018 debut, he landed his second G2 win in the Milers Cup (1600m), posting even faster closing fractions than before. If he gets a similar run on Sunday, he could stamp himself a rising star with a win.
Lys Gracieux has everything going for her coming into the Yasuda Kinen. This talented filly has been second in more G1s than anyone else in the field, having run second in the G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (1600m) at two, second in the G1 Oka Sho (1600m) last spring, second in the G1 Shuka Sho (2000m) last fall and second in the G1 Victoria Mile on 13 May. Also, she is a two-time Group winner over a mile, the most recent of these in February in the G3 Tokyo Shimbun Hai over the same course.