Persian Knight, Mozu Ascot Among Major Names in Mile Championship

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 16th, 2018

If your weekend plans include handicapping high-class, ultra-competitive races with huge fields, then Sunday’s Mile Championship (Jpn-I) at Kyoto in should absolutely be on your radar.

Eighteen horses have been entered in the prestigious 1,600-meter turf test, and truthfully, drawing a name from a hat might give you roughly the same chance of picking the winner as actually handicapping the race. Yes, it’s that wide-open.

Among the main contenders is Persian Knight, a four-year-old who won this race last year with a last-minute rally from off the pace. The son of Harbinger has gone 0-for-4 since then, though trainer Yasutoshi Ikee told the Japan Racing Association that he believes Persian Knight was given too much to overcome when finishing fifth in the Fuji Stakes (Jpn-III) last month, his prep for the Mile Championship. “He got cut off in the straight in the Fuji Stakes, and he had to carry 59kg, as well as returning from a break. It was too bad that for a horse that needs to be running on strongly at the finish, he wasn’t able to do so.”

Mozu Ascot, winner of the 1,600-meter Yasuda Kinen (Jpn-I) in June, will seek a Group 1 double that would stamp him as clearly the best miler in Japan, though he came up a nose short against Lord Quest in the 1,400-meter Swan Stakes (Jpn-II) on October 27th, his first start of the fall racing season. “He didn’t quite find that extra gear last time and I put it down to him being off for a while,” assistant trainer Shigeki Miyauchi told the Japan Racing Association. “He’ll definitely be better with that race under him.”

The filly , winner of the 2017 NHK Mile Cup (Jpn-I) going 1,600 meters, finished just a neck behind Mozu Ascot in the Yasuda Kinen and looms a major contender based off her clear-cut triumph in the Mainichi Okan (Jpn-II) on October 7th, in which she defeated the capable Group 1-placed Stelvio by 1 ¼ lengths. Notably, the world-renowned jockey Ryan Moore will ride Aerolithe on Sunday.

Air Spinel, beaten just a nose in this race last year, finished ahead of Persian Knight when coming home fourth in the Fuji Stakes and could be in the mix once again, while Al Ain—victorious in the 2,000-meter Satsuki Sho (Jpn-I) in April 2017—will attempt to reach the winner’s circle for the first time since then while cutting back substantially in distance.

Logi Cry, the two-length winner of the Fuji Stakes while clocking 1,600 meters in a sharp 1:31.70, will try to continue his ascent through the class ranks along with Mikki Glory, who has won four of his last five starts against easier competition. Meanwhile, Keiai Nautique—a three-year-old who finished fifth behind Aerolithe in the Mainichi Okan—will try to regain the fine form that saw him win the NHK Mile Cup (Jpn-I) against his own age group back in May.

The complete field for the Mile Championship can be viewed on the Japan Racing Association website. The race is the eleventh of the day at Kyoto, with a post time of 1:30 a.m. Eastern.