February Stakes on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse is First Automatic Qualifier for 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic
LEXINGTON, Ky. (February 17, 2017) – Defending champion Moanin, Kafuji Take (JPN) and Sound True (JPN) lead a field of 16 horses in Sunday’s 34th running of the one mile February Stakes (G1) on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse, the first automatic qualifier for the 2017 $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held this year for the first time at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, November 3-4, near San Diego, Calif.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the winner of Sunday’s race, and will also provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 23 to receive the rewards.
The Sei Ishizaka trained 5-year-old by Moanin, owned by Hiroshi Yamada and trained by Sei Ishizaka, set the Tokyo course record in last year’s February Stakes, finishing in 1:34 for his sixth career win. Since that race, though, the chestnut son of Henny Hughes has failed to make the winner’s circle in four starts. Moanin was runner-up by a head and five lengths ahead of third-place Sound True in the Nihon TV Hai at Funabashi in September. On Sunday, Moanin will be ridden by Ryan Moore, the 2016 Longines World’s Best Jockey, breaking from post 6.
“We gave him a bit of time off and returned to Ritto Training Center at the beginning of the year with this race as our target, “said Ishizaka. “He did have a bout of cellulitis (phlegmon) but after that all has gone well and he’s gotten ample exercise. It’s hard to say if he has improved or not but from his attitude, I’d say the cellulitis hasn’t had any adverse effect on him. He was champion last year and I think if he can run his own race he’ll have sufficient chance.”
Mamoru Kato’a 5-year-old Kafuji Take made a major impression three weeks ago when he came from more than 10 lengths back with less than a quarter mile remaining in the one mile Negishi Stakes (G3) at Tokyo to score a one length victory over Best Warrior (JPN), covering the final 3 furlongs in a 34.5 seconds for his first graded stakes win. Trained by Sachio Yukubo and ridden Akihide Tsumura from post 10, Kafuji Take finished third in the G3, 1,600-meter Musashino Stakes at Tokyo on January 29, a race that was won in record time. In December, in his first Group 1 attempt, in the 1,800-meter Champions Cup, he ran fourth only 0.2 seconds off winner Sound True. Assistant trainer Takayuki Yukubo expressed confidence going into Sunday’s race. “He came out of the race (Negishi Stakes) well and everything’s gone well since. He’s gotten stronger behind and he’s getting good times much more easily now. Unlike before, he’s not bothered by racing in with the other horses and I feel he’s matured mentally. This time again he’s only got the one turn and the long Tokyo stretch. I’m looking forward to the race.”
Sound True, a 7-year-old gelding by French Deputy, won the Champions Stakes at Chukyo last December and took top honors as JRA Best Dirt Horse for 2016. While this will be his first February Stakes, Sound True, owned by Hiroshi Yamada and trained by Noboru Takagi, is a highly consistent seasoned runner, registering nine wins, including three over the Tokyo dirt mile. In his previous start, the 1 3/8 mile Kawasaki Kinen, Sound True finished second to All Brush (JPN) as the 3-5 favorite. In the February Stakes, Sound True will be ridden by Yoshitomi Shibata from No. 1 post.
Sachiaki Kobayashi’s 7-year-old Copano Rickey (JPN), who won the 2014 and 2015 editions of the February Stakes, has also been entered. Trained by Akira Murayma, Copano Rickey, who was seventh-in last year’s race, will be ridden by Yutaka Take, from the fourth post position.
The field for the February Stakes, in post-position order and with rider assignments is as follows: Sound True (JPN), Yoshitomi Shibata; White Fugue (JPN), Masayoshi Ebina; Gold Dream (JPN), Mirco Demuro; Copano Rickey (JPN), Yutaka Take; Asukano Roman (JPN), Ryuji Wada; Moanin (USA), Ryan Moore; Brightline (JPN), Syu Ishibashi; Denin and Ruby (JPN), Hiroyuki Uchida; Best Warrior (USA), Keita Tosakig; Kafuji Take (JPN), Keita Tosaki; Nonkono Yume (JPN), Christophe Lemaire; Nishiken Mononofu (JPN), Norihiro Yokoyama; A Shin Bakken (JPN), Yasunari Iwata; King’s Guard (JPN), Yusuke Fujioka; KT Brave (JPN), Hideaki Miyuki and Incantation (JPN), Kota Fujioka.