February S. Kicks off Japanese Group 1 Season

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Group 1 racing action returns to Japan with Tokyo's G1 February S., a 'Win and You're In' event for the Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be held at Del Mar this fall. Heading the 16-horse field is Café Pharoah (Jpn) (American Pharoah), who aired by 10 lengths in an 1800-meter maiden race at Nakayama in December 2019 before reeling off three consecutive wins, including Tokyo's G3 Unicorn S. (1600m) last June. Favored in the 2000-meter G1 Japan Dirt Derby at NAR-Oi in July, he finished an even seventh over the muddy track before returning from a three-month layoff to win the G3 Sirius S. at Chukyo in October. Jumping up in class for his latest, he came home sixth in the 1800-meter G1 Champions Cup at Chukyo Dec. 6.

Red le Zele (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}), who has registered seven wins between 1200-1400 meters, rounded off last term with a runner-up finish in the 1200 meter-G3 Capella S. at Nakayama in December. Stepped up to 1400 meters for his latest, the 5-year-old took the Jan. 31 G3 Negishi S. at Tokyo.

The February S. will be the bay's first appearance at the 1600-meter distance, but trainer Takayuki Yasuda is unconcerned.

“The stretch-out in distance is not a worry,” he said. “I am very exciting to see his performance over the distance.”

Auvergne (Jpn) (Smart Falcon {Jpn}) comes into this event off a three-race win skein, including the 1800-meter G2 Tokai TV Hai Tokai S. at Chukyo Jan. 24.

“Last time out, he was able to run 1,000 meters in :59.3, and asserted well at the end to go on and win,” said assistant trainer Eiko Umeuchi. “He's quite easy to control and has good racing sense, as can be seen by him getting into good positions early in a race without too much effort.”

Sunrise Nova (Jpn) (Gold Allure {Jpn}) makes his fourth attempt on the February S., a race in which he finished third last year. Winner of the G3 Procyon S. at Hanshin last July, he was fourth in Morioka's Listed Mile Championship in October before returning to score in the 1600-meter G3 Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino S. Nov. 14. In his final start of the seaon, the chestnut finished 12th in Chukyo's G1 Champions Cup.

Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi said, “He doesn't seem suited by Chukyo for some reason, but the mile at Tokyo is good for him. On returning from a short break at the farm, he's been working with stablemate Danburite, and he's been moving well.”

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