The racing action in North America might be quiet this week (understandable since the Breeders’ Cup is just one week away), but across the globe in Japan, Sunday is shaping up to be a massive day with the Tenno Sho Autumn (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Racecourse pitting some of Japan’s best middle-distance runners against each other in a 2,000-meter test of class and heart.
Over the last ten years, the Tenno Sho Autumn has been won by some of Japan’s best horses, including Vodka (2008), Buena Vista (2010), Just a Way (2013), Maurice (2016), and Kitasan Black (2017). This year’s renewal might be lacking in pure star power, but it’s nevertheless shaping up to be a very competitive race with thirteen starters vying for victory.
Since the race features a very short run to the first turn, I’ll favor runners drawn toward the inside, which includes the two expected favorites #4 Rey de Oro and #5 Suave Richard, who demonstrated their class by finishing 1-2 in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, Jpn-I) at Tokyo last year. They’ve gone their separate ways since then, but both have repeatedly reiterated their class, with Rey de Oro finishing second in the prestigious Japan Cup (Jpn-I) at Tokyo and Suave Richard prevailing in the 2,000-meter Osaka Hai (Jpn-I) at Hanshin in April.
Of the pair, my preference is for Rey de Oro, who seems to be clearly at his best when running at Tokyo. It’s possible that 2,000 meters could be a little short for Rey de Oro, but he did win the 2,200-meter Sankei Sho All Comers (Jpn-II) at Nakayama last month with a sharp rally from off the pace, which should serve as a perfect prep for Sunday’s race. For good measure, Rey de Oro will have Japan’s leading rider Christophe Lemaire in the saddle.
Another logical contender is #9 Sungrazer, narrow winner of the 2,000-meter Sapporo Kinen (Jpn-II) two months ago. A three-time Group 2 winner, Sungrazer was all-out to hold off the late rallies of #6 Makahiki and Mozu Katchan, but take note, the early pace of the Sapporo Kinen was very fast over a course labeled “good” and Sungrazer raced significantly closer to the lead than his late-running rivals, so from a pace perspective, Sungrazer was probably better than his bare margin of victory suggests. The world-renowned jockey Joao Moreira is scheduled to ride.
#7 Al Ain, runner-up in the Sankei Sho All-Comers, is another runner that I’ll include in the exotics, though I’ll be focused primarily on Rey de Oro and Suave Richard: