Fenomeno, making his second start of a comeback from injury, fought off two determined rivals to win the Tenno Sho (Spring) (Jpn-I) May 4 at Kyoto Racecourse.
Sunday Racing Co.'s 5-year-old son of Stay Gold won by a neck after taking charge just past the furlong marker in the stamina-sapping 3,200-meter (about two-mile) test. Urged on by jockey Masayoshi Ebina, he dug in from menacing runner-up Win Variation and Hokko Brave. The latter mounted a powerful late rally before finishing third, a just a nose behind Win Variation.
Fenomeno covered the distance in 3:15.01, claiming this year's edition of the race after defeating Tosen Ra and British invader Red Cadeaux last year. Of those two, Ronald Arculli's Red Cadeaux returned for another crack at Fenomeno, but in the days leading up to the race his connections expressed concern about the severely hard ground at Kyoto. Though there had been rain in the area, it was not enough to result in suitable conditions for the world-traveling 8-year-old Cadeaux Genereux gelding, who will return to England.
Red Cadeaux broke well from the post 5 and was settled in fifth or sixth by Gerald Mosse. He began to struggle with the extremely fast ground and dropped back, however, ultimately finishing 14th.
"We could tell that he hated that ground," said trainer Ed Dunlop's assistant Robin Trevor-Jones. "Gerald gave him a terrific ride and, at 8 years old, he can race on good to firm ground, but he just can't race on a ground like that.
"We had a little bit of rain during the week but it did nothing to that surface. I'm just thankful that he pulled up sound although he'll be sore tomorrow for sure."
Fenomeno started well from post 7 and eased back to around seventh or eighth behind early front-runner Satono Noblesse. Hokko Brave traveled right behind Fenomeno and Win Variation settled in near the rear of the pack. Favorite Kizuna relaxed in his usual position near the rear, second from Gold Ship, the second choice who broke poorly and raced last of 18.
Approaching the final turn with his aim on the leaders, Ebina guided Fenomeno to the outside for room. Win Variation pursued gamely but just failed to get to the winner, who is only the third horse to land back-to-back running of the Tenno Sho (Spring).
Kizuna, Japan's champion 3-year-old of 2013, got up to finish fourth, a half-length behind Hokko Brave.
Fenomeno developed an inflamed tendon and went to the sidelines for nine months after finishing fourth in the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I) following last year's Tenno Sho victory. He launched his comeback for trainer Hirofumi Toda with a fifth-place finish behind winner Win Variation and runner-up Hokko Brave in the Nikkei Sho (Jpn-II) March 20 at Nakayama.
Fenomeno's record improved to 7-2-0 from 14 career starts that also include a runner-up finish in the 2012 Tenno Sho (Spring).
Bred by Oiwake Farm, Fenomeno is out of the winning Danehill mare De Laroche a half sister to 1998-1999 Hong Kong Horse of the Year Indigenous. The family includes English group II winner and sire Sea Anchor.