Maurice completes Yasuda Kinen/Mile Championship double
Unraced since his success in the June 7 Yasuda Kinen (G1), Maurice persuasively rebuffed any concerns about his sharpness going into Sunday’s Mile Championship (G1) at Kyoto, and became the first since Daiwa Major (2007) to sweep both of Japan’s marquee mile events. The international stage now beckons for the son of Screen Hero, who boasts a perfect five-for-five mark in 2015.
Normally, a horse of Maurice’s profile would have been all the rage, especially with all-world jockey Ryan Moore picking up the mount. But after Maurice missed his prep due to back problems, there was just enough of a hesitation to make him go off as the 9-2 fourth choice. Last year’s Japanese champion three-year-old colt, Isla Bonita, was favored at 2-1, while the near-misser in the 2014 Mile Championship, Fiero, came next in the market at 4-1, and the progressive Satono Aladdin was the slight third pick at 9-2.
In the early going, three-year-old filly Let’s Go Donki showed her typical speed to lead the way, shadowed by Clarity Sky. Tosen Stardom and Keiai Elegant were also prominent. Maurice, breaking from post 16 of 18, was reserved at about midpackon the outside, in the vicinity of Fiero. But Isla Bonita cost himself by failing to get away alertly at the start, and thereby ended up a little further back.
As the closers launched their attacks on Let’s Go Donki down the stretch, Tosen Stardom loomed, and Fiero emerged between foes, but neither could cope with Maurice wider out. Lengthening stride to stamp his authority by 1 1/4 lengths, the Noriyuki Hori charge clocked the firm-turf metric mile in 1:32.8.
“I knew that he was probably going to be the best miler in the race,” Moore said, “and it was just a question of getting a clean trip and hopefully if we kept things straightforward, he would be able to show that he’s the best horse, and he did. He showed a really good turn of foot in the last 400 meters. I rode him when he was a two-year-old but he’s developed into a fast strong horse.”
Fiero had to settle for second once again, just holding by a neck from the fast-finishing Isla Bonita. Once kicking into gear along the inside, Isla Bonita rattled off his final three furlongs in a race-best :33.0. Maurice’s final split, while covering extra ground, was :33.1.
Satono Aladdin rallied for fourth, followed by Albiano, Let’s Go Donki, Tosen Stardom, the winner’s stablemate Real Impact, Logotype, defending champion Danon Shark, Arma Waioli, Clarity Sky, Curren Black Hill, Vincennes, Red Reveur, Keiai Elegant, Daiwa Maggiore and Red Arion.
Maurice showed promise from the very beginning, when debuting in a record 1:20.6 for 1400 meters as a juvenile at Kyoto. But he was unplaced in several graded stakes attempts, and headed to the sidelines in the second half of his sophomore campaign in 2014. As a four-year-old, however, he’s come into his own. Kicking off the season with a pair of allowance scores at Nakayama, Maurice proved that he was on an upward curve when landing the April 5 Lord Derby Challenge Trophy (G3) at the same venue. He flaunted a touch of class the way he went about the Yasuda Kinen, and he brings an exciting portfolio to his international ventures.
The December 13 Hong Kong International Day could be next, with the Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night also reportedly on the proposed agenda.
The usually laconic Moore was quite complimentary of Maurice, emphasizing how deep a field this was, and rating him as a proper horse to go to war with internationally.
“I think Maurice would hold his own in any major Group 1 race,” Moore said.
“Any horse would struggle to do what Maurice has done today."
Photo courtesy of Tomoya Moriuchi/Horsephotos.com.