Wilson Tesoro Headlines Tokyo’s February Stakes 

February 16, 2024

Wilson Tesoro (Japan Racing Association)

Winner To Receive First Automatic Berth Into 2024 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic

Japan Racing Association Release

TOKYO— Ryotokuji Kenji Holdings Co, Ltd.’s top miler Wilson Tesoro (JPN) leads the field of 16 entered for Sunday’s $1.8 million February Stakes (G1) on dirt at Tokyo Racecourse, with the winner receiving the first automatic berth into this year’s $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.

Now in its 18th 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 Nov. 1-2 at Del Mar in Del Mar, California.

The 41st February Stakes, run at 1 mile, will be televised live on FanDuel TV at 1:40 a.m. ET.  

The 5-year-old Wilson Tesoro, trained by Hitoshi Kotegawa, has won seven of 14 starts. A son of Kitasan Black (JPN) out of the Uncle Mo mare Chesutoke Rose, Wilson Tesoro comes into the race following a gallant second-place finish to 2023 Dubai World Cup winner (G1) Ushba Tesoro (JPN) in the Dec. 29 Tokyo Daishoten at Ohi. Attempting to take the 1 1/4-mile race gate to wire, Wilson Tesoro held the lead before being overtaken by Ushba Tesoro just yards from the finish.

“He drew widest in his last race and was the last to load, but he got off to a good start, and with no other horse wanting to lead, he went to the front,” Kotegawa told the Japan Racing Association. “He ran at his own pace but was eventually beaten by one of the world’s top horses, so it was a good race for him when you consider this, and he (also) beat home some other good horses. Everything’s gone smoothly with him since he returned to the stable after a break at the farm.”

Before the Tokyo Daishoten, Wilson Tesoro finished second to last year’s February Stakes winner, Lemon Pop, in the Dec. 3 Champions Cup (G1) going 1 1/8 miles at Chukyo.

Three H. Racing Co. Ltd.’s 4-year-old Dura Erede (JPN) seems to have found a home on dirt in his last two starts. Trained by Manubu Ikezo, the son of Duramente (JPN) finished second in last year’s UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan but lost three consecutive turf stakes back in Japan. He rebounded in December, finishing third, a neck behind Wilson Tesoro in the Champions Cup and in the Tokyo Daishoten.   

“He stumbled slightly at the start last time, and he didn’t pick up so well between the third and fourth corners,” said Ikezoe. “He was perhaps still a little tired after his run in the Champions Cup. Since being back at the stable, we’ve just confirmed that his condition is good. It will be his first time over a mile, so we’ll have to see what he can do.”

Yoichi Aoyama’s homebred 4-year-old Champagne Color (JPN), trained by Tsuyoshi Tanaka, will be making his dirt track debut after six turf starts, which produced three wins. His career highlight came last May when he came from far back to win the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup at Tokyo going 1 mile. But the son of  Duramante (JPN) could not find the same form in the Yasuda Kinen in June at Tokyo, finishing 14th.

King’s Sword (JPN), a 5-year-old owned by Hidaka Breeders Union Co. Ltd., has won seven of 14 races, all of them on dirt for trainer Ryo Terashima. A son of 2006 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner Sinister Minister, King’s Sword reeled off three straight wins last year at Hanshin, Kokura, and Ohi before finishing fifth in the Tokyo Daishoten as the 4-1 second choice.

“I would have liked him to have done a bit better last time, but he didn’t run on when it counted at the end of the race,” said Terashima. “This time he’ll be racing on a left-handed track, which he hasn’t done in a while, but the one turn in the race and the shorter distance should be in his favor.” 

Tokyo Horse Racing Co. Ltd.’s Red le Zele (JPN) closed strongly from 15th to finish second behind Lemon Pop in last year’s race for trainer Takayuki Yasuda. A nine-time winner, 8-year-old Red le Zele will be starting in his fourth consecutive February Stakes. In his two subsequent starts in 2023, he finished sixth in the 6-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) at Meydan and was third at Tokyo in the Nov. 11 Tokyo Chunichi Sports Hai Musashino Stakes (G3) at 7 furlongs.

Also of interest is Yoshiki Noda’s 6-year-old Igniter (JPN), trained by Masashi Atarashi. Racing primarily on the National Association of Racing (NAR) circuit, Igniter has won six races in 17 starts. A son of 2010 February Stakes winner Espoir City (JPN), Igniter closed out 2023 by taking the 6-furlong JBC Sprint Nov. 3 at Ohi.

As a part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the February Stakes to start in the 1 1/4-mile Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 21 to receive the rewards.

@jonathanstettin eaaaaaaaaaazy winner.

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