Lightly regarded A Shin Forward took the lead 100 meters from the wire and held off favored Danon Yoyo and two others in a driving finish to win the $2.3 million Mile Championship (Jpn-I) at Japan's Kyoto Racecourse Nov. 21.
Yasunari Iwata, in his second week of competition after returning from an injury, picked up the neck victory aboard A Shin Forward for owner Eishindo Co. and trainer Masato Nishizono. Bred in New York by Edition Farm, A Shin Forward is a 5-year-old son of Forest Wildcat out of Wake Up Kiss, by Cure the Blues.
In winning his first grade I event, A Shin Forward stopped Danon Yoyo's winning streak at four while completing the 1,600 meters in a stakes-record 1:31.8 over firm ground. He bettered the mark of Hat Trick, who ran 1:32.1 in 2005.
Sent off as the 13th choice in a field of 18, A Shin Forward raced mid-pack as a fast pace developed. Iwata allowed A Shin Forward to advance midway on the turn, then exploited an opening as the field turned into the straight. After getting the lead, A Shin Forward dug in under strong urging in a four-horse finish. Danon Yoyo took second by a nose over Gorski, who finished a nose better than the French-based 5-year-old mare Sahpresa, the only foreign entrant in the field.
“I’ve only been back riding since last week and I never thought I’d win a grade I race so soon,” said Iwata, who was out of action for more than two months after breaking his collarbone and left ankle in a fall. “It was a really easy race. The pace and the trip were just right and the early high pace was perfect for (A Shin Forward). The inside turf wasn’t torn up, either.”
Iwata admitted the close call at the end had given him cause for concern. “I was out there alone thinking, ‘Isn’t it over yet?’ ... and the stretch seemed really long,” he said
A Shin Forward was purchased for $290,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training sale in 2007. He has competed exclusively in Japan during his four-year career, winning his first grade III race in February. He was dismissed by bettors following a disappointing 10th-place finish in this spring’s mile Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I).
The dark bay or brown horse sat the summer out, returning in late October for the about seven-furlong Swan Stakes (Jpn-II) at Kyoto as the favorite. He managed only an eighth-place finish under Belgian rider Christophe Soumillon, who rode runnerup Danon Yoyo in the Mile.
The victory was A Shin Forward's sixth in 23 lifetime starts and was the first in the Mile Championship for both both Iwata, 36, and Nishizono, 54.