Wilson Aims For Group 1 Ring At Tokyo

Wilson Tesoro | Japan Racing Association

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A 16-strong field sporting several Group 1 horses will fill the stalls at Tokyo on Sunday for the ¥233,160,000 G1 February S. over the metric mile on dirt. The race is a Breeders' Cup “Win And You're In” qualifier for the GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar in November.

One of the leading fancies is Wilson Tesoro (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}), winless on turf, but a seven-time scorer on the main track from 1500m to 2100m. The three-time listed winner lines up for his 5-year-old bow off of back-to-back runner-up performances in both the G1 Champions Cup–to G1 Saudi Cup-bound Japanese Champion Dirt Horse Lemon Pop (Lemon Drop Kid) on Dec. 3–and in the G1 Tokyo Daishoten to G1 Dubai World Cup winner and fellow Saudi Cup entrant Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) on Dec. 29. Perched in gate 14-of-16, the entire faces the re-opposing 2022 G1 Hopeful S. winner Dura Erede (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}), third in each race, who will be cutting back to a mile for the first time in his career. He leaves from stall four under German Champion Jockey Bauyrzhan Murzabayev.

Said Wilson Tesoro's trainer Hitoshi Kotegawa of his charge who has accepted an invite to the Dubai World Cup in March, “His workload's been good with training uphill, and I think he's a horse that can still get better. He looks like a dirt horse and he's really switched on. The stable hasn't had a winner this year, so I'd really like to win this one.”

The connections of Dura Erede were similarly bullish, and trainer Manabu Ikezoe said, “He's a powerful horse and I think is suited to dirt. He's refreshed in between races and has kept his condition. We've had him run over a long distance on the woodchip course in training, and this should be good for him in this next race. He should do well against the other strong horses, as he hasn't had any problems with what he's experienced so far, including his races over longer distances.”

Several NAR dirt specialists have signed on to lock horns with their JRA counterparts, and Mick Fire (Jpn) (Sinister Minister) posts one of the most intriguing records–seven-for-eight lifetime. He ran eighth last out in the Tokyo Daishoten behind Ushba Tesoro et. al at Oi on Dec. 29 after he fluffed his lines when the gates opened. The Listed Japan Dirt Derby hero will break from stall three.

Trainer Kazuo Watanabe said, “He didn't break well in his last race, and that meant that he didn't really run to his best. I think the surface didn't help his chances either. He's a horse with a lot of speed and power, and has already broken two records in his races. He should break better with the start on turf this time, and the lighter dirt surface should be better for him.”

The lightly raced Champagne Color (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}), although a winner of the G1 NHK Mile Cup on this turf course in May, was 14th behind champion Songline (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) in the G1 Yasuda Kinen a month later and has been missing since.

Group 3 winner Red Le Zele (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) will be competing in his fourth consecutive February S., with his best finish 1 1/2 lengths second to Lemon Pop in last year's edition. He was third in the G3 Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino S. in November, his most recent start.

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