T O Royal Bids For First Top-Level Success In Tenno Sho

T O Royal | Japan Racing Association


A bumper field has been declared for Sunday's G1 Tenno Sho (Spring), with 18 runners set to do battle over the 3,200-metre distance at Kyoto Racecourse. The race is run over a longer trip than any other Group 1 in the JRA calendar and staying was typically the name of the game last year when Justin Palace (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) ground his rivals into submission with a dominant performance under Christophe Lemaire.

Justin Palace is a notable absentee from this year's line-up, but the likes of Deep Bond (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) and Silver Sonic (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) are back for more having finished second and third, respectively, 12 months ago. Stamina certainly won't be an issue for either horse, though both need to bounce back from below-par efforts in the G2 Hanshin Daishoten last time. T O Royal (Jpn) (Leontes {Jpn}), on the other hand, looked better than ever when winning that race by five lengths, identifying himself as a leading contender as he tries to improve on his third-place finish in the 2022 edition of the Tenno Sho (Spring) when it was run at Hanshin.

“He was raring to run in the Hanshin Daishoten and the jockey had a lot of horse under him the whole way,” said Atsushi Obayashi, assistant trainer to Inao Okada. “When he urged him on T O Royal responded with some very solid running.

“Everything about his prep has gone smoothly. The competition will take a step up but there's nowhere this horse comes up short. He has come into his own now. He has ample stamina and with the condition he's in presently I think he has ample chance. I'm really looking forward to the race.”

The placed horses from the Hanshin Daishoten, Warp Speed (Jpn) (Drefong) and Blow The Horn (Jpn) (Epiphaneia {Jpn}), are in opposition again, but it's a couple of four-year-olds who appeal as potentially the biggest dangers to T O Royal on Sunday, namely the Classic winners Durezza (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}) and Tastiera (Jpn) (Satono Crown {Jpn}), both horses owned by Carrot Farm Co Ltd.

Tastiera enjoyed his day in the sun when winning last year's G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) at Tokyo, but he was later no match for Durezza when the pair met in the G1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) at this track. Durezza ran on willingly in the closing stages to win by three and a half lengths and trainer Tomohito Ozeki is cautiously optimistic of an improved showing on Sunday following his runner-up finish in the G2 Kinko Sho at Chukyo last time.

“The Kikuka Sho really took a lot out of him, so his second place in the Kinko Sho was in part due to the time needed to get him back to his best,” said Ozeki. “He's still immature physically, too soft in places, too tight in others, so we had to prepare him for the race while being careful he doesn't tense up.

“On April 17 he worked under Keita Tosaki and alongside another horse. That horse could move so it was a good hard workout. He should have improved after that–he is definitely improving as he heads toward the Group 1. I can't say the distance is welcome, but with the way he's looking now, I think he'll be able to handle it.”

On Tastiera, who finished down the field on his return to action in the G1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin, trainer Noriyuki Hori said, “Looking at his condition and his body, I still can't find a reason for him losing his last race. Looking at his last result, I can't really say how he'll do. I'll just keep my thinking cap on as we head in to this race.”

Of the rest, the consistent Chuck Nate (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}) isn't one to underestimate following his last-time-out victory in the G2 American Jockey Club Cup at Nakayama, while Savona (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) was only sixth in the Hanshin Daishoten but has some good efforts at Kyoto to his name, including when pushing Blow The Horn all the way in the G2 Nikkei Shinshun Hei H. here in January.

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