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Tenno Sho Favorite T O Royal Storms to 2-Length Victory

Teaming up with veteran jockey Yuji Hishida, 6-year-old T O Royal surged to victory on the home stretch in the 169th Tenno Sho at Kyoto Racecourse.



Tenno Sho
T O Royal, piloted by Yuji Hishida, earns a two-length victory in the Tenno Sho (Spring) on April 28, 2024, at Kyoto Racecourse. (KYODO)

T O Royal extended his winning streak to three races with a two-length victory in the Tenno Sho (Spring) on Sunday, April 28.

Yuji Hishida piloted T O Royal to victory with a methodical surge to the front of the pack late in the 3,200-meter race. The 6-year-old race favorite finished strong with a time of 35.0 seconds over the final three furlongs (about 600 meters) at Kyoto Racecourse. For T O Royal, it was a convincing win in the Japan Racing Association Grade 1 event over runner-up and fifth favorite Blow the Horn (Akira Sugawara's ride).

Second favorite Durezza (Keita Tosaki) and third favorite Saliera (Yutaka Take) placed 15th and 11th, respectively, before an announced Golden Week crowd of 60,479.

In each of T O Royal's last four races, the distance was 3,000 meters or more. The horse's stamina proved to be one of his strengths in this quartet of competitions.

T O Royal placed second in the 3,600-meter G2 Stayers Stakes on December 2, 2023, with Sugura Hamanaka holding the reins. In his last three starts, all in 2024, Hishida has ridden T O Royal, including back-to-back victories in the 3,400-meter G3 Diamond Stakes on February 17 at Tokyo Racecourse and 3,000-meter G2 Hanshin Daishoten on March 17 at Hanshin Racecourse.

Tenno Sho
T O Royal reaches the wire first, followed by Blow the Horn (5), Deep Bond (6) and Smart Phantom. (KYODO)

How T O Royal Secured the Tenno Sho (Spring) Title

In the 17-horse field, only three runners completed the final three furlongs in 35.0 seconds or less. T O Royal, Blow the Horn (34.6) and fourth-place finisher Smart Phantom (Mirai Iwata) in 34.7.

Eighth favorite Warp Speed (Koei Miura) rounded out the top five.

Closing speed was a big factor in the final outcome, and throughout the two-lap race, T O Royal was near the front of the pack en route to victory in 3 minutes, 14.2 seconds. (Watch the full race on the JRA's YouTube channel.)


Just beyond the 1-minute mark, Matenro Leo held a five-length lead, with T O Royal among the next wave of runners jockeying for position.

Deep Bond and Durezza were second and third as the race neared the 2-minute mark.

As the test of endurance entered its third minute, T O Royal made his move on the outside, picking up the pace and surging closer to the front. He then eclipsed the then-leader Deep Bond on the home stretch.

Blow the Horn zoomed past Deep Bond to secure a second-place finish.

After back-to-back-to-back runner-up finishes in this race in 2021, 2022 and 2023 ― along with veteran jockey Ryuji Wada each time ― 7-year-old Deep Bond, ridden this time by Hideaki Miyuki, placed third on Sunday, a half-length behind Blow the Horn.

Tenno Sho
Yuji Hishida enjoys the spotlight after winning the Tenno Sho (Spring) at Kyoto Racecourse. (©SANKEI)

A First Time for Everything

Kyoto native Hishida, 31, collected his first G1 victory on Sunday. For the 13th-year pro jockey, it was his eighth graded-race triumph.

Trainer Inao Okada also collected his first G1 win.

Looking back on the fast-paced action at Kyoto Racecourse, Hishida said in his post-race interview that T O Royal had a strong performance.

"The horse raced in good rhythm and responded well, going downhill after the third corner," Hishida commented. "So we were able to turn the last corner comfortably and slip out of the pack with ease."


The Tenno Sho (Spring) also holds a special place in Hishida's career, as he explained with delight.

"I'm really happy to have won this race because I decided to become a jockey when I saw this race 20 years ago," Hishida said.

In 2004, Ingrandire, ridden by Norihiro Yokoyama, was the Tenno Sho (Spring) winner.

On Sunday, Yokoyama placed 13th aboard Matenro Leo.

A trio of Heart's Cry progeny competed in the race: Scar Face (who placed 11th), Matenro Leo and Chuck Nate (14th).

Offspring of the beloved thoroughbred, who died in March 2023, represented the largest number for any single sire in Sunday's Tenno Sho (Spring).

Tenno Sho
Yuji Hishida and T O Royal compete in the 169th running of the Tenno Sho. The race is held twice a year. (KYODO)

Tenno Sho Tidbits

The Tenno Sho is held twice a year, in the spring and in the autumn (at Tokyo Racecourse, it's over a distance of 2,000 meters). Both races are G1 events. Sunday's race was the 169th running of the Tenno Sho.

Up Next

The JRA's spring G1 season continues with the NHK Mile Cup on May 5 in Tokyo.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven