Mile Championship: Japan's Year-End Honors Up For Grabs

Japan's Autumn Festival of group 1 events centers on Kyoto Nov. 19, where a rather wide-open field tackles the Mile Championship with year-end honors on the line.

Satono Aladdin, a 6-year-old son of Deep Impact, won the one-mile Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo in June and would be a clear pick for top Japanese miler of the year should he win the race. But over the somewhat tighter Kyoto course, the free-running Satono Aladdin was able to manage only a fifth-place finish behind winner Mikki Isle in last year's Mile Championship.

Isla Bonita was second in last year's Mile Championship and third in the 2015 edition. The 6-year-old, by Fuji Kiseki, started his career with a bang, winning six of his first eight races. But since a group 2 win in September of 2014, he has visited the winner's circle only once in 15 tries.

Air Spinel, a 4-year-old by King Kamehameha, also has been on the fringes at the top level but rates a chance to post his second consecutive win after taking the Fuji Stakes (G3) at Tokyo Oct. 21 over the same mile distance in his last start. Isla Bonita was second in that heat while coming off a long layoff.

Red Falx steps up to a mile after experiencing most of his success at pure sprint distances, including consecutive wins in the prestigious Sprinters Stakes (G1). The 6-year-old, light gray son of Swept Overboard was third in the Yasuda Kinen.

Progeny of Harbinger have been performing well recently in Japan, marking Persian Knight one to watch, especially with Mirco Demuro set to ride the 3-year-old. He returned from a five-month layoff to finish fifth in the Fuji Stakes over heavy turf and should be sharper.

The race has a history of upsets as the last winning favorite was Company in 2009. It also has been a prolific producer of runners for the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1) the following month. This year, Red Falx, Satono Aladdin, and Persian Knight all hold nominations to the Hong Kong race.