Cafe Pharoah defends February Stake title

February 20, 2022

TOKYO (Feb. 20, 2022) — Koichi Nishikawa’s 5-year-old Cafe Pharoah surged to the front in the final furlong and captured Sunday’s US$2.2 million, 1-mile February Stakes (G1) on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse for the second consecutive year with a 2 ½-length win over T M South Dan (JPN) intrack record time. With this victory, Cafe Pharoah, ridden by Yuichi Fukanaga, becomes the first horse to earn an automatic starting position 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.

Cafe Pharoah, a son of 2015 U.S. Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah, is the first horse to win the February Stakes title consecutively since Copano Rickey (JPN) in 2014 and 2015.

Trained by Noriyuki Hori, Cafe Pharoah bounced back remarkably after going winless in his three previous starts last season which included an 11th-place disappointment in the other JRA-G1 dirt event, the Champions Cup (dirt, 1,800m) last December. Cafe Pharoah now has four wins out of four starts in dirt mile races at Tokyo Racecourse. This triumph marked Hori’s 14th JRA-G1 title—his latest was last year’s February Stakes victory, and jockey Fukunaga’s 33rd overall JRA-G1 title following the Japan Cup (G1) triumph last autumn with Contrail (JPN). Fukunaga claimed the 2005 February Stakes title with Meisho Bowler (JPN).

Cafe Pharoah, who was bred in Kentucky by the late Paul Pompa, completed the mile in 1:33.8 over a muddy track, establishing a stakes and course record.

Last year, Cafe Pharoah became the first son of American Pharoah to win a Graded/Group 1 race on dirt, when he won captured the February Stakes by three-quarters of a length. Today’s win improved his record to six wins in 11 starts.

Under drizzling conditions for the 39th February Stakes, the 16-horse field broke evenly in the corner of the backstretch with T M South Dan eventually taking over the lead to set the pace. Running in sixth, Cafe Pharoah, the 5-1 second choice, made headway from the third corner and hit the straight three wide and in third place, a half-length behind the 4-year-old filly Sodashi  (JPN), who was in second. Promptly putting away Sodashi and then inheriting the lead from the  pacesetter right after the furlong marker, the defending champion romped to the line for the victory.

Mr. Hori and I went over the tactics before the race and everything went as planned,” commented winning rider Fukunaga. “Cafe Pharoah’s start wasn’t that sharp, but he recovered well and we were able to sit in a good position in third, where he didn’t have to bear too much sand in his face. After that I just tried to keep him focused, especially after taking over the lead in the final stages. I’m grateful to the connections who offered me this ride even before I had fully recovered from the fall in Hong Kong [Hong Kong Sprint (G1), Dec. 12] and am happy that I was able to do a good job.”

Fifth pick T M South Dan made headway after breaking from the 15th post, set the pace with 1,200 meters to go and sustained his lead. Although succumbing to the winner’s speed in the last furlong, he held on well to secure the runner-up position by half a length. Fourth choice Sodashi tracked the leaders in third, advanced to second rounding the final corner, ran willingly inside the eventual winner but was caught 300 meters out and while failing to pin T M South Dan, rejected the challenges by the late chargers to finish third by a neck. Red le Zele (JPN), the 3.9-1 favorite, was ridden most of the way in midpack, found himself in tight quarters in early stretch and was unable to fire thereafter, finishing sixth.

As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Cafe Pharoah to start in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be run a 1 ¼ miles on the main track at Keeneland. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the Championships.

Breeders Cup Press Release

Photo: Cafe Pharoah (JRA Photo)

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