July 24, 2024

T O Keynes delivers knockout in Champions Cup

T O Keynes drew off in a dominant Champions Cup victory at Chukyo (Copyright Japan Racing Association)

The progressive T O Keynes vaulted to the top of Japan’s dirt division with a dominant performance in Sunday’s $2 million Champions Cup (G1) at Chukyo. The son of Sinister Minister thereby earned an invitation to the Feb. 26 Saudi Cup (G1).

The market proved spot on, as bettors sent T O Keynes off as the 2-1 favorite over dirt debutante Sodashi, defending champion Chuwa Wizard, and Cafe Pharoah. Chuwa Wizard was the only one of that trio to run up to form, rallying for second, while front-running Sodashi faded, and Cafe Pharoah never factored.

The first JRA Grade 1 winner for trainer Daisuke Takayanagi, T O Keynes had been on an upward curve. The chestnut kicked off his four-year-old campaign Mar. 21 with a victory over this track and trip, swept to his first graded tally in the Apr. 18 Antares (G3) at Hanshin, and made it a hat trick in the June 30 Teio Sho at Oi. Unplaced behind him that day were Chuwa Wizard as well as future Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) upsetter Marche Lorraine.

T O Keynes did not reappear until the Nov. 3 JBC Classic at Kanazawa, where he blew the start and ended up fourth. Remedial gate work at home helped him get away well Sunday and secure good early position, nestled within striking range in sixth of 16.

Sodashi flashed speed from her rail draw, outgunning veteran Inti to set the pace. The popular white filly appeared to be taking to the surface well as she winged her way down the backstretch. But she could not sustain her gallop cornering for home, when Inti re-asserted himself and tried to put the race away.

Meanwhile, T O Keynes, who was full of run in the pocket, saw daylight. Surging to the fore in a couple of strides, the favorite rapidly extended his margin to six lengths in a final time of 1:49.7. His closing split of :35.5 (for about three furlongs) was by far the fastest in the field. Chuwa Wizard, along belatedly for second, was next-best at :36.2.

Regular rider Kohei Matsuyama confirmed that T O Keynes felt as strong as he looked.

“Though the JBC Classic result was disappointing due to the slow start, he broke smoothly today, thanks to the gate practice he went through at the stable,” Matsuyama said. “I was able to ride him in good rhythm, and he responded remarkably well turning the fourth corner, so everything was perfect. I think he’s a very strong horse and I’m glad I was able to bring out his strong performance.”

The stalking Another Truth checked in third, a neck up on the tiring Inti, who had been third in the past two Champions Cups. Sunrise Nova closed from well back to grab fifth from Auvergne. Meisho Hario, Suave Aramis, Air Spinel, Casino Fountain, Cafe Pharoah, Sodashi, K T Brave, Clincher, Sunrise Hope, and Danon Pharaoh concluded the order of finish.

Tomoya Ozasa’s T O Keynes has compiled a record of 15-8-2-2, exclusively on dirt. Runner-up in the 2020 Fukuryu on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, he earned his first black-type credit when just missing in last December’s Betelgeuse S. at Hanshin. Wheeling back nine days later in the Tokyo Daishoten (G1) didn’t pan out, as he finished sixth. But he renewed his relentless rise this spring.

T O Keynes has now established himself as an international-caliber performer. Judging by the collateral formline through Chuwa Wizard, who was second in the Dubai World Cup (G1) this March, T O Keynes would be a fascinating contender in Saudi Arabia or at Meydan, if his connections want to go global.

Bred by Yanagawa Bokujo, T O Keynes is out of the Manhattan Cafe mare Maxim Cafe. This is the further family of 2001 Japanese Oaks heroine Lady Pastel and 1980 Canadian International (G1) victor Great Neck.