Titleholder led from start to finish in an exhilarating display of speed in the 82nd Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) at Hanshin Racecourse on Sunday, October 24.
Jockey Takeshi Yokoyama guided the Duramente-sired bay colt to victory in 3 minutes, 4.6 seconds to earn his second Japan Racing Association Grade I victory. Trainer Toru Kurita collected his fourth career G1 win and first since 2011.
Storming out of the gate from the No. 3 post position, Titleholder appeared to be in a hurry to get somewhere. He reached the 1,000-meter mark in 60 seconds, and didn’t let up over the final 2,000 meters of the 18-horse race in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, before an announced crowd of 4,798.
Titleholder won the race by five lengths over Orthoclase, who was guided by jockey Christophe Lemaire.
Yuichi Fukunaga rode Divine Love to a third-place finish, a head’s length behind Orthoclase. Hayato Yoshida, who was aboard Stella Veloce, just missed earning a top-three finish, taking fourth by the length of a nose.
Deep Monster, Yutaka Take’s mount, rounded out the top five.
Race favorite Red Genesis, steered by Yuga Kawada, was a non-factor and placed 13th.
Conversely, Yokoyama was thrilled with the outcome.
“We had a terrible race last time out so I was determined to win it this time and I’m glad it panned out,” the winning jockey told reporters. “I personally thought that the distance was maybe too much to ask from this colt, but he showed otherwise and performed well above my expectations so I’m ashamed for doubting him in any way.”
Titleholder’s no-doubt-about-it performance gave Duramente, a 2015 G1 double winner (Satsuki Sho and Tokyo Yushun), his first G1 victory as a sire.
As Yokoyama’s horse entered the final stretch, he stretched his modest lead with a burst of speed and extended the margin to five lengths by the finish. (Watch a replay of the race here.)
“As far as the race, I concentrated in keeping him comfortable in a long race like this — he’s an honest horse, in a way too honest and always gives his full effort — so knowing that once in front he would settle, I let him go as he liked and didn’t try to hold him back too much,” Yokoyama said. “He has a lot to look forward to in the future but it would require a little skill as a rider to conserve his energy depending on the situations.”
Author: Ed Odeven