Strong Return came from off the pace to capture the $2.6 million Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I), Japan's spring championship event for turf milers, in record time at Tokyo Racecourse June 3.
Sent off as the second choice in the field of 18 runners, Strong Return ran the 1,600 meters in 1:31.3 over firm ground to win by a neck over Grand Prix Boss before a crowd of 56,798. A 6-year-old son of Symboli Kris S, Strong Return ran second in last year's Yasuda Kinen to stablemate Real Impact.
The victory gave trainer Nobuyuki Hori consecutive wins in the Yasuda Kinen. Strong Return bounced back from a fracture of his right foreleg sustained last fall to register his first grade I win for owner Teruya Yoshida. Shadai Farm bred the bay horse, who is out of the Smart Strike mare Caught Out.
With Yuichi Fukunaga aboard, Strong Return (6-1) traveled in mid-pack alongside 25-1 outsider Grand Prix Boss. Silport, Real Impact, and Eishin Apollon led the field and Cosmo Sensor tracked the leaders in fourth after surrendering the early lead.
Silport, first to enter the straight, stubbornly held on to his lead dueling with Real Impact while pursued closely by Cosmo Sensor up the grueling hill. Grand Prix Boss and Strong Return, who were both late making the final turn, commenced their own duel down the middle of the stretch and picked off the tiring leaders at the furlong pole.
The pair battled it out until Strong Return finally wore down Grand Prix Boss in the final strides. Cosmo Sensor, at 35-1, also overtook the frontrunners at the furlong pole but finished two lengths farther back in third. Real Impact faded to sixth while race favorite Sadamu Patek finished ninth.
Strong Return, winner of last year's Keio Hai Spring Cup (Jpn-II), won for the seventh time in 19 starts.