Champion Deep Impact will make his last appearance in Japan late Saturday night in the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I) before embarking on an overseas trip to France for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) at Longchamp Oct. 1.
After leaving Japanese and international racing fans reaching for superlatives with his amazing Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) win in April, Deep Impact lines up in the Takarazuka Kinen looking to win his fifth grade 1 race. That would complete his domestic preparation for his next major goal – the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Deep Impact's races this year have been at the longer distances of 3,000 and 3,200 meters. He cuts back to 2,200 meters Saturday, but trainer Yasuo Ikee was not concerned. "At the moment, he'd win at a mile," he said. After he ran his last half mile in 44.8 seconds when circling the field in the Tenno Sho, very few people would disagree.
Interest in the Takarazuka Kinen will not only be in how many lengths Deep Impact can win by, but also how the son of Sunday Silence will be ridden by champion jockey Yutaka Take. In both starts this year, Take has made his move very early, and some have suggested he will try and ride the champion closer to the lead, to prevent a repetition of his loss to Heart's Cry in the 2005 Arima Kinen (Jpn-I).
Lincoln has established himself as one of the top middle distance horses in Japan. He will be a clear second favorite in the Takarazuka Kinen, but a defeat of Deep Impact would be a major shock. Lincoln showed he was reaching his peak when beaten by only Deep Impact and Heart's Cry in the Arima Kinen in December. This year, Lincoln began his campaign with a decisive win in the Nikkei Sho (Jpn-II) over 2,500 meters before finishing a clear second behind Deep Impact in the Tenno Sho.
There were no international entries this year, with the full field expected to be 13. Other potential starters include Balance of Game, Chakra, Company, Cosmo Bulk, Daiwa Major, Eye Popper, Fast Tateyama, Hat Trick, Narita Century, Silk Famous, and Tokai Come Come.
Although the race is named Takarazuka after the location of the Hanshin track, this year's running will be held at the Kyoto Racecourse due to major construction being carried out at the Hanshin track.
Wagering on the Takarazuka Kinen is available on TVG or at select simulcast locations across North America. Emerald Downs hosts wagering, which will be part of a three race card imported from Kyoto Racecourse on Saturday night.
First race post time is 11:00 p.m. Pacific.