World Premiere returned to action at Hanshin on Sunday with his second Grade 1 success, winning the Tenno Sho (Spring), the longest Grade 1 race in the Japanese racing calendar.
The 2019 Grade 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) winner, a son of Deep Impact, who had an extended period off the racetrack during 2020, was a three-quarter length winner at a crowd-less Hanshin Racecourse
The Yuichi Fukunaga-ridden five year-old World Premier broke slowly from gate one but was soon well placed on the rail about eight lengths behind the race leaders as they passed the grandstand on the first circuit.
The race favourite Deep Bond was just off the pace with multiple Group 1-placed mare Curren Bouquetd’or on his inside. When Curren Bouquetd’or struck the front Deep Bond and the Northern Racing-bred World Premiere made their moves as the field headed for the final turn of the Hanshin racetrack.
Deep Bond and World Premiere both passed Curren Bouquetd’or inside the final furlong before the eventual winner World Premiere took the race lead 100 metres from home in the 3,200 metre race.
The Ryoichi Otsuka-owned horse held on for a three quarters of a length success from favourite Deep Bond, ahead of Curren Bouquetd’or and Aristoteles in third and fourth places respectively.
“We had a weak start but recovered well with the advantage of breaking from stall No. 1” said the winning rider, Yuichi Fukunaga, who was taking a 29th Grade 1 in Japan.
“We kept our eyes on the favourites from behind throughout,” Fukunaga stated. “I shifted him outside a little earlier than planned to secure a good striking position. He responded incredibly with a good turn of foot. It’s a great honour to have won such a prestigious race like this,” he added, as he won the Tenno Sho, a race his father won in 1976, for the first time.
Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, who was winning a 13th Japanese Grade 1 race, had indicated prior to Sunday that the long distance of the Tenno Sho would suit his horse.
“I’ve no concerns with the distance, as he’s not a horse that goes through the gears quickly,” he was quoted as saying. “It should suit him. The wider Hanshin course is also better than the smaller oval at Nakayama. I expect him to come on for his last race, as he’s the type to get better with a run under him,” the handler had confidently predicted.
A debut winner in October of his juvenile campaign, World Premiere had bypassed both the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho and Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun. In autumn 2019 he took the final leg of the Japanese Triple Crown when successful in the Kikuka Sho, before claiming a third place in the 2019 Grade 1 Arima Kinen.
He was then off the track for most of a year before returning to finish a credible sixth place in the Grade 1 Japan Cup, beaten five lengths by Almond Eye.
He went on to run fifth in the latest edition of the Arima Kinen and used the Grade 2 Nikkei Sho last March, where he finished third, as his prep race for this Grade 1. The Nikkei Sho at Nakayama seemed too short for World Premiere, hinting that the longer Kikuka Sho would be more to his liking in terms of distance.
World Premiere’s dam Mandela is a half-sister to the German-bred Manduro, a winner of three Group 1 races. Mandela was a Listed-race winner in Germany and was third in the Group 1 Preis der Diana. She was placed in the Group 2 Prix de Pomone in France and later in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Stakes in the US when handled by Hall of Fame trainer, the late Bobby Frankel.
Photo: World Premiere, (Japan Racing Association)