Hot on the heels of Hawkish’s dazzler in the Penn Mile (G2), a Japanese-based colt from the same extended family, Mozu Ascot, flew late to secure a Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) berth in Sunday’s Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo. Under a heady ride by Christophe Lemaire, the 14-1 shot found a few extra gears to nail Aerolithe by a neck and equal the stakes record of 1:31.30 over the metric mile.
Bred by Summer Wind Farm in Kentucky, the son of Frankel and Grade 2 queen India had been described by trainer Yoshito Yahagi as “still just a kid” in the pre-race comments on japan.jp. Hence despite Lemaire’s presence in the saddle, Mozu Ascot was the least fancied of Yahagi’s three runners, eclipsed by 2016 Dubai Turf (G1) winner Real Steel and dual fillies’ classic-placed Lys Gracieux.
Mozu Ascot was brought along methodically after a belated start to his career last summer. The chestnut flashed talent when winning four straight, a streak halted with a fourth in his graded debut in the December 23 Hanshin Cup (G2). Mozu Ascot continued to look progressive with a trio of seconds in his ensuing starts – the February 25 Hankyu Hai (G3), April 22 Yomiuri Milers Cup (G2), and the listed Azuchijo S. just a week ago on May 27.
The “kid” grew up on the quick turnaround Sunday and earned his first stakes victory in a coveted Grade 1. Lemaire settled Mozu Ascot in a ground-saving spot in the latter part of the field. Up front, Win Gagnant was winging it until hitting the stiff homestretch. Gray filly Aerolithe, a course-and-distance winner over males in the 2017 NHK Mile Cup (G1), launched her bid and appeared to be standing her ground despite challenges from 9-5 favorite Suave Richard and Satono Ares.
Then Mozu Ascot, who wasn’t in the front rank of contenders, suddenly went into overdrive when he saw daylight between horses. Knifing through in the final strides, he denied Aerolithe in the shadow of the post.
Suave Richard did well to finish a close third, just three-quarters of a length back, against divisional specialists in his first try at the trip. Last year’s Japanese Derby (G1) runner-up was dropping back sharply in trip following his success in the about 1 1/4-mile Osaka Hai (G1).
Satono Ares put up a bold show on the far outside after a tardy start. Crossing the wire a half-length off Suave Richard, Satono Ares tied with Mozu Ascot for the fastest closing sectional of :33.30. Sungrazer reported home fifth, while 5-1 second choice, Persian Knight, was on hold until finding room belatedly. Win Gagnant tired to seventh, trailed by Lys Gracieux, Red Falx, Hong Kong shipper Western Express, Campbell Junior, Reine Minoru, He’s in Love, Dashing Blaze, the disappointing Real Steel, and the ever-trailing Black Moon.
Mozu Ascot, who RNA’d for $275,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, improved his record to 11-5-3-0. He is the second stakes winner produced by India, after Kareena, victorious in the 2016 Jersey Girl at Belmont Park.
India is a half-sister to stakes-winning Pilfer, the dam of Grade 1 stars To Honor and Serve and Angela Renee as well as Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Elnaawi. This is also the family of Canadian champion Rahy’s Attorney, a cadet branch of the line responsible for Memories of Silver, Winter Memories, and the aforementioned Hawkish.
Quotes from the Japan Racing Association
Winning rider Christophe Lemaire: “I didn’t have any specific plan before the race. The only thing I wanted to do was to have my horse relaxed and to follow a good horse in the straight. I also didn’t plan whether to go inside or outside. As a result the space became narrow and we were bumped and pushed towards the inside. I didn’t want him to lose his balance so I waited for a clearing and a good horse to follow, once I found a gap I asked for full power from the horse with my whip and he responded very well and kept on strongly to the finish line.”
Trainer Yoshito Yahagi in his first Yasuda Kinen: “After so many misses (seconds) in my previous attempts in this race, I am truly happy to have finally won this title.
On coming back on a week’s rest: “In a normal situation we would gallop him on a Wednesday and again on the Sunday before the Yasuda but my judgment was that he needed a stronger run (in the Azuchijo Stakes on May 27) and it ended up being the spot-on decision. Of course, the recovering process in addition to the transport and such, it’s not an easy task, but it just proves how well my stable staff has handled everything – they’ve done a great job.
“I wasn’t able to concentrate as much with two other horses running in the race (unplaced Lys Gracieux and Real Steel), but seeing how he ran the last 100 meters, I was pretty sure that he would make the finish line first.
“I have to say though that for a colt with just under a year of racing experience, he’s quite an amazing horse. While still winless in graded races into this race, he was strong in defeat and I was pretty confident that there was much more in him. While there are more to expect from him, he has a history of being rather weak at an early age and we had to delay his debut until the June of his three-year-old season, so we can’t push him too much.
“Of course, being a Frankel colt there are lots of expectations for bigger titles and later becoming a great sire. Many of the fillies sired by Frankel tend to be rather highly strung, but this colt is easy to handle and great to work with.”