Indy Champ beats Almond Eye for first Grade 1 Title in the Yasuda Kinen

Japan's star mare Almond Eye (JPN) was defeated on Sunday when the four-year-old was third to Indy Champ (JPN) in the ¥ 238,600,000, Grade 1 69th Yasuda Kinen (1600m) at Toyko.

Indy Champ (JPN) winning the 69th Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo, picture Japan Racing Association
Indy Champ (JPN) winning the 69th Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo, picture Japan Racing Association

Indy Champ, the fourth favourite, not only defeated Almond Eye who was going for her sixth consecutive Grade 1 win, but he set a new race record of 1:30.9, 0.4 seconds shorter than previously set by Strong Return in 2012. The fast time materially impacked on Almond Eye who came home very quickly in the fastest time of the field but had too much ground to make up under the fast pace.

The four-year-old Stay Gold colt Indy Champ broke his maiden in his debut start in December as a two-year-old and registered three wins out of six starts last year. This season, he claimed his first graded win in his kick-off start, the Tokyo Shimbun Hai (Grace 3, 1,600m), and came off a fourth in his latest Milers Cup (Grade 2, 1,600m) start in April.

For trainer Hidetaka Otonashi, this is his 10th JRA-Grade 1 triumph following the Takarazuka Kinen with Mikki Rocket last year. Since his latest victory with Mr. Melody in this year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen, jockey Yuichi Fukunaga is now the winning jockey of 24 JRA-Grade 1 races, two of which are Yasuda Kinen titles—the other with Strong Return in 2012.

Indy Champ broke well and secured a rail trip in fifth up to the top of the straight. After struggling behind a wall of horses in the early straight, the four-year-old bay threaded out 400m out, displayed a good turn of foot up the hill and stretched strongly, overtaking the pacesetter in the final strides to clear the wire first.

“He was tuned up well, was in great shape, and had a good draw, so I just tried hard not to miss our break. He tends to get distracted when he’s up front so I kept him off the pace. We were up against fierce competition, but I believed that he had a good chance as long as I didn’t make any mistakes and he certainly responded beautifully to our expectations,” commented Yuichi Fukunaga.

Sent off third favorite, Aerolithe (JPN) under Keita Tosaki went right to the front after a good break and set a solid pace with Guanciale within a couple of lengths behind in second. Demonstrating good stamina, the five-year-old daughter of Kurofune stubbornly held on to the lead only to be caught a few strides before the finish line by Indy Champ for a neck second.

Heavily favored filly Almond Eye under Christophe Lemaire immediately met traffic after breaking from stall 14 and was forced to settle between horses in the latter half of the field, a half-length behind second favorite Danon Premium. Failing to shift out at the last corner, the Lord Kanaloa filly finally found room 300 meters out and unleashed her trademark burst of speed, which was timed the fastest of the field, but had too much ground to make up and was a nose short for third.

Combined with the new overall race record time the final 600m was covered in 33.9.

Indy Champ, out of the King Kamehameha mare Will Power, has now won six of his 10 starts for owners Silk Racing earning stakes of ¥ 231,120,000.