'Rocket' Bang on Target in the Takarazuka Kinen

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Mikki Rocket | Hong Kong Jockey Club

Mikki Rocket (Jpn) (Kingkamehameha {Jpn}) returned to the winner's circle in style at Hanshin on Sunday, with a gritty neck victory over Hong Kong Horse of the Year Werther (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}) in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen over 2200 metres, a “Win And You're In” for the GI Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November. It was the first win for the Hidetaka Otonashi trainee since the G2 Nikkei Shinshun Hai at Kyoto in January of 2017.

Sent off at 13-1, the 5-year-old entire was away to an alert beginning and secured a ground-saving trip in seventh over the good turf course, as Saimon Ramesses (Jpn) (Black Tide {Jpn}) scampered to an open-length advantage. By the half-mile pole, the dark bay had inched into fourth under Ryuji Wada. As soon as a hole opened one off the fence 500 metres out, Mikki Rocket dashed through, seized command and set sail for the wire. Werther, who had raced near the tail of the field for the majority of the race, wove his way toward the vanguard with a quarter mile to travel and let down strongly out in the center of the course. The Kiwi-bred's admirable late charge was a neck short at the line, three lengths to the good of Noble Mars (Jpn) (Jungle Pocket {Jpn}). Favoured Satono Diamond (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) could only manage sixth after racing well off the pace.

“Mikki Rocket was in great shape after a good fourth in the Tenno Sho [Spring] and in training towards this race so I was secretly thinking that maybe it was time that he deserved to be a Group 1 winner–I am relieved and happy,” said Otonashi. “He has overcome his bad habit of missing his break which gives him a better chance in the race, and his position in the race was up to my rider to decide as he knows the horse well. I just prayed that he'd make it to the finish as Werther came strongly from behind.”

Added Wada, “I was determined to choose a nice firm route as the turf dried off after the rainy weather and we were lucky to take hold of a nice position from a smooth break today. I wasn't aware of Werther coming from behind me, but I was awed by my horse's ability to maintain his speed all the way to the wire.”

Werther, who had just returned from a three-month ban after a bleeding episode with a sixth in the G3 Lion Rock Trophy H. on June 3, and is aiming for the G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup in December, had the services of Aussie Hugh Bowman. “To be honest, even though we didn't win, I couldn't have been happier with the horse's performance,” said Bowman. “At the top of the straight, I thought he was going to win, and I thought I had the winner covered at the 200m, but at the line, I felt the winner was going away from me. It's disappointing, you always want to win, but he's still run the race of his life even in defeat.”

Second in the Dec. 9 G3 Chunichi Shimbun Hai going 2000 metres at Chukyo, Mikki Rocket was only fourth in his 4-year-old baow, the G2 Nikkei Shinshun Hai at Kyoto on Jan. 14. Going this trip in the G2 Kyoto Kinen at Kyoto on Feb. 11, the dark bay was seventh, but when upped to two miles in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) rebounded slightly with a fourth on Apr. 29.

Pedigree Notes…

Mikki Rocket is the 12th Group 1 winner for his Shadai-based sire and also for his broodmare sire, the veteran Pivotal (GB), who stands at Cheveley Park Stud in England. Out of English MSW Moneycantbuymelove, he is followed by the winners Piece d'Or (Jpn) (Stay Gold {Jpn}) and Danon Poppy (Jpn) (Daiwa Major {Jpn}) and a 2-year-old filly by Lord Kanaloa (Jpn). His winning second dam Sabreon (GB) (Caerleon) is a half-sister to French Classic hero Landseer (GB), Danehill), as well as SW and G1 Prince of Wales's S. third Ikhtyar (Ire) (Unfuwain).

Sunday, Hanshin, Japan
TAKARAZUKA KINEN-G1, ¥290,800,000 (US$2,648,539/£1,997,357/€2,271,802/A$3,560,131), Hanshin, 6-24, 3yo/up, 2200mT, 2:11.60, gd.
1–MIKKI ROCKET (JPN), 128, h, 5, by King Kamehameha (Jpn)
1st Dam: Moneycantbuymelove (Ire) (MSW & G1SP-Eng, $142,634), by Pivotal (GB)
2nd Dam: Sabreon (GB), by Caerleon
3rd Dam: Sabria, by Miswaki
O-Mizuki Noda; (¥92,000,000 Ylg '14 JRHJUL). B-Northern
Racing (Jpn); T-Hidetaka Otonashi; J-Ryuji Wada;
¥153,360,000. Lifetime Record: 22-5-6-0, ¥362,478,000. Werk
   Nick Rating: C. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Werther (NZ), 128, g, 7, Tavistock (NZ)–Bagalollies (Aus), by
Zabeel (NZ). O-Johnsen Chen; B-C Allison, C & J Barnao, et al
(NZ); T-John Moore; ¥60,960,000.
3–Noble Mars (Jpn), 128, h, 5, Jungle Pocket (Jpn)–I And You,
by Silver Hawk. O-Nobuhiko Yoshiki; B-Tagami Farm (Jpn);
T-Hiroshi Miyamoto; ¥38,480,000.
Margins: NK, 3, NK. Odds: 13.10, 13.90, 39.00.
Also Ran: Vivlos (Jpn), Danburite (Jpn), Satono Diamond (Jpn), Staphanos (Jpn), Kiseki (Jpn), Perform A Promise (Jpn), Smart Layer (Jpn), Strong Titan, Satono Crown (Jpn), Albert (Jpn), Seewind (Jpn), Tatsu Gogeki (Jpn), Saimon Ramesses (Jpn).
Click for the Racing Post chart or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. JRA Video.

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