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Horse Racing

Mile Championship Preview: Serifos Returns to Defend His 2022 Title

In the 40th running of the Mile Championship, 16 thoroughbreds are set to compete at Kyoto Racecourse for the lucrative top prize of ¥180 million yen.

Japan Racing Association top-level action remains at Kyoto Racecourse this weekend with autumn's big mile event. The Mile Championship will be held on Sunday, November 19, and feature 16 nominees ranging in age from 3 to 5.

A turf contest over 1,600 meters, the Mile Championship sports a first prize of ¥180 million JPY ($1.2 million USD) and a total purse of over ¥388 million JPY (nearly $2.6 million USD). Like the November 12 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, the Mile Championship is returning to its usual venue for the first time in three years.

Six names repeat from 2022's 17 runners and all six of those were among the top seven finishers, including winner Serifos, at Hanshin Racecourse. Though it comes a week ahead of the international gala Japan Cup, the 40th running of the Mile Championship will have its own international air about it. Jockeys Ryan Moore and Joao Moreira will be in Kyoto on short-term licenses. They are scheduled to join year-round Japan regulars Mirco Demuro and Christophe Lemaire.

French native Lemaire cruises to the Mile Championship after an amazing sweep of the Kikuka Sho on October 22, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) on October 29, and the Queen Elizabeth Cup on November 12. Now Lemaire eyes his sixth Grade 1 victory in 2023. 

Lemaire has captured the Mile Championship twice. This time he is set to be partnered with Schnell Meister, one of the top contenders. The 44-year-old has won all but one (the Yasuda Kinen) of the other big mile events, including the NHK Mile Cup twice, the Victoria Mile three times, and the Mile Championship twice.

Information on the Mile Championship

The Mile Championship is run to the right over the Kyoto outer course. Gate positions are not a major concern as the mile turf starts at a lead-in to the backstretch and has a long initial run of some 500 meters before the first, fairly relaxed first turn. Here, as the course drops and speed picks up, the inside tends to open up, facilitating successful attacks down the inside. This race tends to favor those with late speed who can travel close to the front or in midfield.

The Mile Championship is the 11th race on the Sunday card of 12 at Kyoto. Post time is 3:40 PM JST.

Here's a look at the expected top choices.

Mile Championship
Schnell Meister exercises on November 8 at the JRA Miho Training Center in Miho, Ibaraki Prefecture. (ⒸSANKEI)

Trainer is Confident Schnell Meister Can Win

The 5-year-old Kingman-sired Schnell Meister heads into his third Mile Championship. From his previous runs, he finished second in 2021 and fifth in 2022. 

Highly consistent in his six top-level bids in Japan, he has made the top 3 in all but one. In the spring he captured the Grade 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup (run over the same course and distance as the Mile Championship), then scored a very close third in the Yasuda Kinen in June. Returning after four months, he recorded an even closer third in the Grade 2 Mainichi Okan over 1,800 meters at Tokyo in October. 

Trainer Takahisa Tezuka attributes the loss in the Mainichi Okan to a poor break and traffic at the finish. 

"He should have been able to land it as he's in much better condition than he was last fall," the trainer said.

As he did before the Yomiuri Milers Cup, the Miho, Ibaraki Prefecture-based trainer shipped the horse west a week early for final preparations. He said, "It'll depend on the trip, but if he's able to access his powerful turn of foot in the final stage, he definitely has a chance."

Mile Championship
Damian Lane rides Serifos to victory in the 39th Mile Championship on November 20, 2022, at Hanshin Racecourse. (ⒸSANKEI)

It's just a shoe!

Serifos Returns as Defending Race Champion

A 4-year-old by Daiwa Major, Serifos surprised in 2022 when he sprang from a win of the Grade 2 Fuji Stakes over 1,600 meters at Tokyo to a win of the Mile Championship. He finished fourth in the two spring Grade 1 mile events ― the NHK Mile Cup for 3-year-olds and the Yasuda Kinen (only a month apart). That took the spotlight off him heading into the Mile Championship despite his prep win. But he was nonetheless primed and ready for victory. A mile specialist, he has been given 1,600 meters for all but one of his 10 starts and has won five.

His schedule in 2023 has been somewhat more relaxed with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Dubai Turf, followed by the Yasuda Kinen. In the latter, on June 4, he was no match for Songline but did score second and beat Schnell Meister to the wire by a head. 

With Songline out of the picture, Serifos has ample chance of landing his second Mile Championship. The key will be whether he can do so without a sharpener this year. 

Damian Lane had the ride in 2022, but this time Yuga Kawada will ride Serifos. Kawada, who has yet to win the Mile Championship, rode the first two career starts of Serifos and scored wins in both.

Read the rest of this article about the Mile Championship as well as the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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