Winner to Receive First Automatic Berth into 2022 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland
TOKYO (Feb. 18, 2022) — Defending champion Cafe Pharoah and multiple graded-stakes winner Red le Zele (JPN) headline 16 runners entered for Sunday’s US$2.25 million February Stakes (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse, with the winner receiving the first automatic berth into this year’s US$6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
Now in its 15th season, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 4-5.
The February Stakes, run at 1 mile on dirt, will be televised live on TVG at 10:40 p.m. PT on Saturday, Feb. 19.
The 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar was historic for Japanese racing when Loves Only You (JPN) in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Marche Lorraine (JPN) in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) became the first two Japanese based horses to win races at the World Championships. Last week, Loves Only You became the first Japanese horse to win a North American Eclipse Award, as she was voted the Champion Female Turf honor.
In 2015 at Keeneland, U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic to close out a brilliant career. Last year, Koichi Nishikawa’s Cafe Pharoah became the first son of American Pharoah to win a Graded/Group 1 race on dirt, when he captured the February Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Air Spinel (JPN) as the 2-1 favorite.
Trained by Noriyuki Hori, Cafe Pharoah, bred in Kentucky by the late Paul Pompa, is unbeaten in three starts at Tokyo, including the Unicorn Stakes (G3) in 2020 and the listed Hyacinth Stakes. Cafe Pharoah went winless in three starts following his February Stakes win, including an 11th-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Champions Cup (G1) at Chukyo on Dec. 5. Now a 5-year-old, Cafe Pharoah, a winner of five races in 10 starts, will be making his 2022 debut on Sunday. Yuichi Fukunaga has the mount, breaking from post six.
“He came back to the stable on January 13, and that’s been the usual pattern with him, returning early from the farm,” said Hori to the Japan Racing Association website. “About two weeks ago he worked smoothly, without moving his head around and playing with the bit, and ran well right up to the end.”
Tokyo Horse Racing Co. Ltd.’s 6-year-old Red le Zele, fourth in last year’s race, has eight wins in 19 starts, including his final race of last year, the 7-furlong JBC Sprint at Kanazawa on Nov. 3. Trainer Takayuki Yasuda, who won the February Stakes with Transcend (JPN) in 2011 and Grape Brandy (JPN) in 2013, feels that Red le Zele’s recent win is a sign of more good things to come. “It was a bold run last time, when he got a clear run up the inside, where the dirt was deep, to win impressively,” said Yasuda to JRA. “He has been at the farm since, but this has been his target, and things have been fine with him. He is the type that’s good in winter.”
Last January, Red le Zele won the Negishi Stakes (G3) at Tokyo, and after the February Stakes the son of Lord Kanaloa (JPN) finished second in the 6-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) at Meydan. He finished third in the Tokyo Hai at Ohi on Oct. 6 prior to his win in the JBC Sprint. Yuga Kawada will ride Red le Zele, starting from post five.
One of two females entered in the field is Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co.’s 4-year-old homebred Sodashi (JPN), who defeated Loves Only You in last year’s Sapporo Kinen (G2) by three-quarters of a length. Noted for her distinctive white color, Sodashi, trained by Naosuke Sugai, won her first five races, including the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) at Tokyo last April. After an eighth-place finish in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1), the daughter of Kurofune rebounded with her win in the 1 ¼-mile Sapporo Kinen against older horses in August. However, her next two starts were disappointing. She finished 10th as the 9-5 favorite in the 1 ¼-mile Shuka Sho (G1) at Hanshin in October, and making her first start on dirt, finished 12th in the Champions Cup after leading the field through the top of the stretch. Breaking from post 11, Sodashi will be ridden by Hayato Yoshida.
“In recent training, she’s been showing plenty of power, particularly at the finish,” said Sugai to JRA. “She just wasn’t able to keep things going in the Shuka Sho and Champions Cup last year, but I’m pleased enough with the way she’s been moving recently, and running on dirt seems suitable for her.”
In January, Masatsuga Takezono’s 5-year-old T M South Dan (JPN) came from off the pace to win the 7-furlong Negishi Stakes (G3) by a length and earned his ninth win in 18 starts. Trained by Yuzo Iida, T M South Dan also won two 7-furlong sprints last year, taking the Tele Tama Hai Oval Sprint in September and the Hyogo Gold Trophy at Sonoda in December. T M South Dan will be ridden by Yasunari Iwata from post 15.
NICKS Co. Ltd.’s 7-year-old Suave Aramis (JPN) has also notched a win this year, taking the 1 1/8-mile Tokai TV Hai Tokai Stakes (G2) by a half-length at Chukyo on Jan 23. Trained by Naosuke Sugai and ridden from post 10 by Daisaku Matsuda, Suave Aramis captured one race in 2021, registering a half-length win in the Elm Stakes (G3) at Hakodate last August.
Minoru Murakami’s Soliste Thunder (JPN) was favored in last month’s Negishi Stakes, but did not make a serious bid and finished ninth of 16 runners. A 7-year-old son of Toby’s Corner, trained by Daisuke Takayanagi, Soliste Thunder won the Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino Stakes (G3) prior to the Negishi. Keita Tosaki will ride from post 13.
Last year’s runner-up, Lucky Field Co. Ltd.’s 9-year-old Air Spinel, finished second to Soliste Thunder in the Musashino Stakes. A four-time winner, trained by Kazuhide Sasada and ridden from post 16 by Mirco Demuro, Air Spinel closed out 2021 with a ninth-place finish in the Champions Cup.
Koichiro Yamaguchi’s 7-year-old Arctos (JPN) is a 10-time winner, who won his last two races of 2021, taking the Sakitama Hai at Urawa in June and the Mile Championship Nambu Hai in October at Morioka. Trained by Toru Kurita, Arctos finished ninth in last year’s February Stakes as the 4-1 second choice. Arctos will be ridden by Hironobu Tanabe from post four.
Also of interest is Shigeo Takeda’s homebred Inti (JPN), who won the 2019 February Stakes for trainer Kenji Nonaka. The 8-year-old son of Came Home finished 14th in the 2020 edition and was sixth in last year’s race. Inti will be ridden by Yutaka Take, a five-time February Stakes winner, from post three.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for the winner of the February Stakes to start in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 24 to receive the rewards.
Breeders Cup Press Release
Photo: Cafe Pharoah (JRA Photo)