July 16, 2024

Blow the Horn charges home in rainy Breeders’ Cup WAYI Takarazuka Kinen

Jockey Akira Sugawara smiles as Blow the Horn wins the Takarazuka Kinen (Photo by Tomoya Moriuchi/Horsephotos.com)

Challenging conditions at Kyoto on Sunday brought out the best in Blow the Horn, who charged through lashing rain over a yielding course to score his biggest win in the $3.628 million Takarazuka Kinen (G1). The about 1 3/8-mile test serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), although connections reportedly want him to keep developing at home this year.

The 6.5-1 third choice, Blow the Horn rallied from near the tail of the field to earn a Grade 1 breakthrough for trainer Tatsuya Yoshioka and jockey Akira Sugawara. Do Deuce, the 1.30-1 favorite, churned on for sixth, while 2.70-1 second choice Justin Palace couldn’t land a blow in 10th.

The Takarazuka Kinen, like the Arima Kinen (G1) around Christmastime, involves fan participation to determine the field. The top 10 vote-getters in an online poll are guaranteed spots, if connections accept, and the remaining contenders are decided by earnings.

Do Deuce ranked first in the vote count even before he was sent off as the post-time favorite. But the hero of the 2021 Asahi Hai Futurity (G1), 2022 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1), and 2023 Arima Kinen floundered on the ground. His only prior attempts on rain-softened going had come during his French sojourn as a sophomore, when he finished fourth in the Prix Niel (G2) and a tailed-off 19th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

In contrast, Blow the Horn sported a course-and-distance victory on soft ground last year, as he was beginning to progress for original trainer Eiji Nakano. The son of Epiphaneia placed in the Hakodate Kinen (G3) and captured the Sapporo Nikkei Open, only to have his momentum interrupted by atrial fibrillation that caused him to pull up in the Oct. 9 Kyoto Daishoten (G2). That’s his lone unplaced effort in his past nine starts.

Blow the Horn returned to Kyoto to win his first graded title in the Jan. 14 Nikkei Shinsun Hai (G2), his finale for the retiring Nakano. When the five-year-old was transferred to Yoshioka, he tried even  longer trips and placed twice to the classy stayer T O Royal. Third in the about 1 7/8-mile Hanshin Daishoten (G2), he was runner-up in the Tenno Sho Spring (G1) over two metric miles. He didn’t garner enough votes to make the Takarazuka Kinen field, coming in 24th in the poll, so he qualified by earnings.

Rouge Eveil, the only mare in the field, used her tactical speed from the outside draw to angle over and set the pace. Bellagio Opera and Pradaria were among the stalkers, but Do Deuce and Blow the Horn bided their time in the rear.

On the final turn, Pradaria and Bellagio Opera advanced to challenge Rouge Eveil. Ranging up wider out was Rousham Park, and Blow the Horn followed him as they fanned out in the stretch. Blow the Horn, racing nearest the stands’ rail, produced the strongest kick to clear away by two lengths in 2:12.

“We were able to win the race because the horse ran really hard despite the heavy going,” Sugawara said.

“Although we were positioned further back than planned and took the widest route, the horse seemed to have plenty of strength left when we turned the fourth corner, so I urged him to go at the stretch and he responded with a remarkable turn of speed.”

The closers opting to come wide fared better than those plugging away (including Do Deuce) more toward the inside. Sol Oriens matched Blow the Horn’s final 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :34.0, the fastest concluding sectional, to snatch second from Bellagio Opera. Pradaria checked in fourth, another neck back. There was a three-length gap back to Rousham Park, followed by Do Deuce, Deep Bond, Rouge Eveil, Yamanan Sympa, Justin Palace, Struve, Heat on Beat, and Karate.

Blow the Horn’s scorecard now stands at 21-7-3-4. A homebred for Makio Okada, the bay is out of the Durandal mare Halteclere, who won four of 50 starts. Her most valuable score came in a Tokyo allowance on soft ground.

Halteclere descends from two-time Delaware H. heroine Obeah, dam of Hall of Famer Go for Wand as well as multiple Grade 2-winning sire Dance Spell.