Dual Japanese classic winner Gold Ship earned a Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) berth when shaking off Gentildonna and charging past leader Danon Ballade for a clear win in the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I) June 23 at Hanshin Racecourse.
The 4-year-old colt won by 3 1/2 lengths over 43-l longshot Danon Ballade, who edged 2012 Japan Horse of the Year and 2-1 favorite Gentildonna by a neck for second in the Takarazuka Kinen. The all-star race is a Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifying event for the $3 million Turf (gr. IT).
Guided by Hiroyuki Uchida, Gold Ship was timed in 2:13.20 for 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) to win as the 5-2 second favorite.
Under the "Win and You're In" format, the Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fee and provide a $40,000 travel allowance to the winning stable to start Gold Ship Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.
Gentildonna and Gold Ship raced in third and fourth, respectively, as Silport sprinted to the early lead and accelerated through the backstretch. Silport opened a lead by as many as 15 lengths from Danon Ballade, who pursued from second.
The top three favorites—Gentildonna, Gold Ship, and 3-1 Fenomeno—closed in on the front-runners entering the straight. As Danon Ballade took charge from tiring Silport at the 200-meter mark, Gold Ship unleashed a furious charge to secure the win, pulling away from Gentildonna and overhauling Danon Ballade. Fenomeno finished fourth, a half-length behind Gentildonna.
"The horse was in very good form, so I was able to take him toward the front while saving enough energy for the finish," Uchida said of Gold Ship. "I'm very glad we were able to win over the other two strong rivals and look forward to his further great performance in the future."
Trained by Naosuke Sugai for owner-breeder Eiichi Kobayashi, Gold Ship rebounded from a fifth-place finish behind Fenomeno in the Tenno Sho (Jpn-I) April 28 after winning his 2013 bow in the Hanshin Daishoten (Jpn-II) in March.
The gray colt closed 2012 as Japan's champion 3-year-old male with two-thirds of Japan's Triple Crown to his credit. Bookending a fifth to Deep Brillante in the Yushun Himba (Jpn-I, Japanese Derby) last May were wins in the Satsuki Sho (Jpn-I, Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) last April and Kikuka Sho (Jpn-I, Japanese St. Leger) in October. He closed the year with a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the Arima Kinen (Jpn-I), Japan's season finale in December.
Gold Ship has 11 wins, five seconds, and a third from 19 career starts. He is by Stay Gold, a 19-year-old son of Sunday Silence who stands at Shigeyuki Okada's Big Red Farm in Niikkap on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Gold Ship is one of four winners out of Japanese group III-placed Point Flag, by Mejiro McQueen.
The field for the Takarazuka Kinen, the final group I race of the spring season, is selected by race fans, who vote for runners from all distances. Topping the voting for this year's race was 2011 Horse of the Year Orfevre, runner-up in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Tiomphe (Fr-I) last October. He was pulled from the lineup just 10 days prior to the race due to exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage following a workout.
Gold Ship was second in the fan voting, and Gentildonna was third.