Familiar rivals Strong Return and Grand Prix Boss are among the early favorites for the $2,401,686 Mile Championship (Jpn-I) at Kyoto Nov. 18.
Teruya Yoshida’s Strong Return and Grand Prix Co. Ltd.’s former champion Grand Prix Boss finished first and second, respectively, in the Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) June 3 at Tokyo. Strong Return, who won by a neck, is seeking to add second group I to his record.
The Yasuda Kinen is the only win in three starts this season for the 6-year-old Symboli Kris S horse, who subsequently was off for four months. He returned in the Mainichi Okan (Jpn-II) Oct. 7 at Tokyo and finished seventh in the 1 1/8-mile (1,800-meter) test while leaving his connections hopeful the race sharpened him for the Mile Championship.
Strong Return has seven wins from 20 career starts, four of which have come at a mile (1,600 meters), and three of those victories came at Tokyo.
“Now we finally have a shot,” trainer Noriyuki Hori said of Strong Return. “Looking at the way the two racetracks are laid out, Kyoto is a better course for him than Tokyo. He should be able to run to the best of his ability here. We've won the Yasuda Kinen, but I think the Mile Championship should be an even better race for him."
Grand Prix Boss enters off a win in the Mainichi Broadcast System Sho Swan Stakes (Jpn-II) at seven furlongs (1,400 meters) Oct. 27 at Kyoto. His 1 1/4-length victory snapped an eight-start winless stretch that followed a disappointing effort behind Frankel in the 2011 St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot. Following his close second to Strong Return in the Yasuda Kinen this spring, he outfinished that opponent when sixth in the Mainichi Okan. Japan’s champion 2-year-old male of 2010 will try for the third group I win of his career in the Mile Championship.
“He's bulked up since the spring, and can come off any pace,” jockey Hiroyuki Uchida said. “With Grand Prix Boss, the faster the pace, the better. I've got a lot of faith in his ability to finish out a race. I really want to try to make up for the loss in the Yasuda Kinen here."
The 18-horse field for the Mile Championship also includes last year’s winner, Eishin Apollon, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred by Giant’s Causeway who is aiming for his first win since then, and Donau Blue, a full sister to 2012 filly Triple Crown winner Gentildonna. The 4-year-old Deep Impact filly, a multiple group III winner this year, was a close second to Whale Capturein the Victoria Mile (Jpn-I) in May at Tokyo and will try for a breakthrough at the top level.