Duramente's Lugal Aiming For Takamatsunomiya Kinen Glory

Lugal is trying top company for the first time | Japan Racing Association

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The consistent Lugal (Jpn), by the much lamented reigning Japanese Champion Sire Duramente (Jpn), has never contested a Group 1 race, but that is all about to change in Sunday's G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo over 1200 metres.

Bearing the burden of favouritism in this fully subscribed 18-strong affair, the 4-year-old will leave from stall six. Never worse than fourth in his past 10 trips to the post, Lugal ran second in the G3 Keihan Hai to Toshin Macau (Jpn) (Big Arthur {Jpn}) in his sophomore finale in November, with that rival returning to add the G3 Ocean S. to his ledger at Nakayama, defeating Big Caesar (Jpn) (Big Arthur {Jpn}) on Mar. 2. The favourite, too, made a winning 2024 bow, taking the G3 Silk Road S. going this trip at Kyoto on Jan. 28.

Trainer Haruki Sugiyama said of Lugal, “He was in great shape for the Silk Road S. and he started well. Two weeks ago, his fast work up the hill was very impressive. Last week, even with the bad ground, his footwork was almost too good. He's still a bit heavy, but I think with one more workout he'll be ready.”

Mama Cocha (Jpn) (Kurofune), winner of the G1 Sprinters S. in October defeating Mad Cool (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) in the process, finished her year with a fifth-place effort to Win Marvel (Jpn) (I'll Have Another) in the 1400-metre G2 Hanshin Cup in December. That rival, meanwhile, made a winning 2024 start in the G3 Hankyu Hai over the 1400-metre trip and will be cutting back to that distance for the first time since finishing sixth to Mama Cocha in the Sprinters.

Yasutoshi Ikee, trainer of the Mama Cocha, said, “She's heading into the race without a prep mainly due to the fact that I didn't see a race that suited her regarding such things as the weight she'd have to carry or the distance. However, she is a horse that does well with a sharpener, so I brought her back to Ritto early and the work she has been getting should be enough to cover for the lack. I think she's in the same condition as she was for the Sprinters S. As for the race strategy, I'm leaving all the details up to Yuga Kawada. I think she can handle the distance. I'm just hoping the weather will hold.”

The Takamatsunomiya Kinen also features Hong Kong raider Victor The Winner (Aus) (Toronado {Ire}) (Friday's gallop), who leaves from stall 10 under Derek Leung for trainer Danny Shum. Hong Kong's Aerovelocity (NZ) (Pins {Aus}) first scooped the prize in 2015. The 5-year-old, who will be racing left-handed for the first time, claimed the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin going this trip on Jan. 28.

“He arrived late on Monday after quarantine,” Leung told the Hong Kong Jockey Club notes team. “There was a traffic jam, so he was spent a lot of time on the truck. At first, he was a little bit tired but after that, he was fine. The first time he galloped, he had a look around–same as at Sha Tin, he always looks around. It was a bit exciting for him because it was quite new.

“In the gallop, when I asked him for a little effort, he did it for me. The last 200 [metres], he gave me a good finish–not too tough for him. It was good.”

The G3 Kyoto Himba S. one-two of So Dazzling (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}) and Namura Clair (Jpn) (Mikki Isle {Jpn}), who ran second in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen and third in Mama Cocha's Sprinters S. both in 2023, will leave from gates eight and three, respectively. Last year's G1 NHK Mile Cup heroine Champagne Color (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}) will be trying the shortest trip of her career on Sunday, and is to the immediate outside of So Dazzling.

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