Daiwa Major won his fourth grade I race Sunday with an impressive performance in the US$1.9 million Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Racecourse, which also sewed up the 2007 Asian Mile Challenge for the 6-year-old Sunday Silence horse.
Closing on the rails with 200 meters to go, second choice Daiwa Major gradually reeled in the leader Kongo Rikishio and the pair fought head-and-head for the last 100 yards, with Daiwa Major and jockey Katsumi Ando prevailing by a neck.
It was Daiwa Major’s first appearance since finishing third in the second leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) March 31, but he was able to close out the Mile Challenge with a win in Sunday's finale of four legs.
The pace of the 1,600-meter race was led by grade II winner and third favorite Kongo Rikishio. Hong Kong visitor Able One came across and sat outside the leader from his wide barrier, while jockey Katsumi Ando settled Daiwa Major beautifully on the rails behind the leader. Most of the other fancied runners including favored Suzuka Phoenix and Joyful Winner settled well back in the field.
Kongo Rikishio led comfortably through the first 1,000 meters of the race and as the field entered the straight it was soon clear he was going to be difficult to run down. As the back markers made their way to the outside, Ando calmly guided Daiwa Major off the back of the leader out into the clear and began to ask the horse for an effort.
Several horses on the outside of the field including outsider Super Hornet looked as if they may finish on well, but as the field reached the 200-meter mark, Daiwa Major and Kongo Rikishio separated themselves from the 18-horse field. As they battled to the wire, Daiwa Major eventually gained the upper hand to win convincingly in the end.
"The main point of this race was that the pace of the race was only middling and he was in a good position behind the leader," Ando said. “He hasn't got the most explosive turn of foot and had it been any slower, he might not have been able to quicken up. I wasn't sure that we could catch the leader but we got there in the end."
The 6-year-old mare Jolly Dance had raced handily on the outside from barrier 18 and did well to stick on for third place, 2 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up, while Admire Kiss and Suzuka Phoenix closed fairly to finish fourth and fifth respectively.
Daiwa Major is the first son of Sunday Silence to win the Yasuda Kinen. The chestnut horse is out of Scarlet Bouquet, by Northern Taste, who is also the dam of this year’s Oka Sho (Jpn-I) winner Daiwa Scarlet. He was bred by Shadai Farm, is owned by Keizo Oshiro and is trained by Hiroyuki Uehara.
Uehara, who said his leading light had taken the trip to the UAE in stride.
“He had kept in good form after his return to Japan so I was confident that he would be well up to the race,” said Uehara. “However, I am relieved in knowing that I have done my part in meeting the expectations of the Japanese fans.”
The Asian Mile Challenge carries prize money of approximately $12.5 million in stakes and bonuses spread across four of the world's great mile races.
The challenge started with a win for Aqua D'Amore in the Futurity Stakes (Aus-I) in Melbourne on March 3 before Japanese raider Admire Moon landed the second leg, the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free run on Dubai World Cup night. Able One collected the third leg, the Champions Mile (HK-I) on April 29, in his native Hong Kong, but failed to scoop the bonus on offer to the winner of any two legs when finishing a disappointing 12th Sunday.