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Takarazuka Kinen Preview: Do Deuce Places First in Fan Voting

Kyoto Racecourse is staging the All-Star race for the first time since 2006, when legendary thoroughbred Deep Impact won the 2,200-meter Takarazuka Kinen.

The final Japan Racing Association Grade 1 of the first half of 2024 will be held on Sunday, June 23, when the Takarazuka Kinen will be run at Kyoto Racecourse. It's a switch from its usual Hanshin Racecourse venue, due to renovation work at the Kansai track near Kobe. 

And it's one of the two so-called "All-Star" races in the year, where fans get to vote for the horses they'd like to see race against each other.

The first Takarazuka Kinen was run in 1960. It was originally run over 1,800 meters, before taking on its current distance of 2,200 meters in 1966. For the most part, the race has been run at Hanshin Racecourse. Exceptions have been when renovation work has transferred the race to Kyoto, as is the case this year. 

The last time Kyoto staged the race was in 2006, when Deep Impact won.

Open to 3-year-olds and up, the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen became an international Grade 1 in 1997, but there have only ever been two runners from overseas. Seto Stayer from Australia ran it in 1997, and Hong Kong's Werther ran a strong race to take second in 2018. No foreign horses are running in the race this year.

Key Information about the Takarazuka Kinen

There are 13 nominations for Sunday's race, and topping the fans' vote is Do Deuce (with just over 238,000 votes), who obligingly takes part in the race.

Four-year-olds and up carry 58 kg, while there is a generous weight allowance for 3-year-olds with a 53-kg set weight, and a 2-kg allowance for fillies and mares. No 3-year-olds are among the nominations, however, and just one mare holds an entry.

A couple of races leading up to this week's big race were the Grade 1 Osaka Hai, run over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in March, and the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring), run over 3,200 meters at Kyoto in April.

The past 10 years have seen just three first favorites win the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen. In that same timespan, seven 5-year-olds have won. Record time for the race is held by Titleholder, who stopped the clock in a time of 2 minutes, 9.7 seconds in 2022. 

Takarazuka Kinen
Kazuo Yokoyama and Titleholder zoom to victory in the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse on June 26, 2022. (WEEKLY GALLOP)

This year's winner's check is ¥220 million JPY (about $1.4 million USD), and the first past the post also receives an automatic entry to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf in the United States and the Grade 1 Cox Plate in Australia.

The Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen will be race 11 on the Sunday card at Kyoto, with a post time of 3:40 PM. 

Here's a look at some of the runners expected to line up on Sunday.

Do Deuce Set to Make Japan Racing Debut in 2024

The now 5-year-old Do Deuce is the one racing fans want to see run. It will be his first race in Japan in 2024, after taking on the Grade 1 Dubai Turf in March, when he finished fifth. 

"In the home straight last time, he wasn't able to find a way through and get a good finish in," trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said. "He returned to Japan without any problems, and has had a break at Northern Farm Shigaraki."

Tomomichi added, "In training at the end of in May, his times were faster than I thought. More recently, he's been moving well in his work with other horses, despite the pace not being that quick." 

Four-time winner of the Takarazuka Kinen, jockey Yutaka Take looks set to partner with Do Deuce once again.

Takarazuka Kinen
Bellagio Opera works out at the JRA Ritto Training Center on June 19 in Ritto, Shiga Prefecture. (©SANKEI)

It's just a shoe!

Bellagio Opera Vying for Sixth Win in Ninth Career Start

Lord Kanaloa-sired Bellagio Opera, a 4-year-old colt, finally broke through at the Grade 1 level last time, when he won the Osaka Hai over 2,000 meters on March 31. He now has five wins from just eight starts. And in one race at Kyoto, he finished second in the Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen in February, which was run over the same course and distance of this week's race. 

Trainer Hiroyuki Uemura commented: "In the Osaka Hai, when I looked at the other horses in the race and the [barrier draw] on the day, I thought he would do well running from a forward position. The jockey also thought the same and was able to go through with the plan very well."

Uemura continued: "The horse had a break at the farm after that race, and since returning to the stable, it's been as usual with him. He's been moving well in recent training."

Takarazuka Kinen
Justin Palace exercises on June 5 in Ritto, Shiga Prefecture. (©SANKEI)

Justin Palace Showed Solid Form in Most Recent Race

Winner of the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) in 2023, and third to Equinox in last year's Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen, 5-year-old Justin Palace's recent form also shows that he's not far off another big race win.

His latest run was in the Grade 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, where he finished a respectable fourth.

Trainer Haruki Sugiyama said: "He's having his usual training routine, now that he's recovered from the trip to Dubai."

Sugiyama then said, "He's more mature mentally now, and if he stays calm, we'll be able to increase his workload a bit more from now."

Riding Justin Palace for the first time since their triumph in the 2023 Tenno Sho (Spring) will be Christophe Lemaire.

Read the rest of this article about the Takarazuka Kinen and the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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