Titleholder Fortified For Tenno Sho Spring Title Defence

Hiroshi Yamada’s Titleholder (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}) looms large in Sunday’s G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) at Kyoto. The accomplished 5-year-old entire, if he defends his crown in the 3200-metre affair, will be the sixth horse to pull off the double in consecutive years.

Successful in the 3000-metre G1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) as a 3-year-old, the versatile bay added the 2022 edition of this race and the G1 Takarazuka Kinen, cutting back 1000 metres, last June. An attempt at the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in boggy ground was met with an unplaced run in October, and Titleholder was also out of the first three in the G1 Arima Kinen to end his year on Christmas Day. In rude health when romping by an imperious eight lengths in the G2 Nikkei Sho at Nakayama on Mar. 25, the morning line favourite will break from stall three under Kazuo Yokoyama.

“I had jockey Kazuo Yokoyama ride him in work last week on the 19 [of April] and he confirmed that the horse had improved following his win by eight lengths in the Nikkei Sho,” said trainer Toru Kurita. “In that race, his result may have been greatly affected by the going and the lineup. I’m not really sure what he would look like to be at peak, and that is meant in a good way as I’m not sure just what he’s capable of. I do hope that he’ll be able to run his own race and show us his best.”

Right next store to Titleholder is his diminutive older half-sister Melody Lane (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in stall four for Makio Okada and trainer Naoyuki Morita. Fifth in the 2019 Kikuka Sho, she warmed up for this with an 11-place run behind Justin Palace (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in the G2 Hanshin Daishoten over 3000 metres on Mar. 19. The latter, who ran third in the 2022 Kikuka Sho, is second favourite in the wagering and races for Masahiro Miki from gate one. Star Frenchman Christophe Lemaire is at the controls.

Ask Victor More (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) could give Titleholder a run for his money from barrier six, as long as he improves from his ninth-place finish in the Nikkei Sho. Trained by Yasuhito Tamura, the third-priced favourite won the 2022 Kikuka Sho over Boldog Hos (Jpn) (Screen Hero {Jpn}) and Justin Palace.

“With the Nikkei Sho as a preliminary, he is definitely sharper, both mentally and physically,” said Tamura. “His results in that race were really unfortunate and this time I’ve been fine tuning him and fixing anything that needed fixing.”

Titleholder isn’t the only horse with a half-sibling in the field, as the long shot and multiple group-placed  Iron Barows (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) is a half-brother to the aforementioned Justin Palace.

Another worthy of mention is the globetrotting G3 Red Sea Turf H. hero Silver Sonic (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}), who appeared ageless with his victory at King Abdulaziz Racetrack at the end of February. The ghostly grey will have no problem navigating the 3200-metre trip, as he claimed the 3600-metre G2 Sports Nippon Sho Stayers S. at Nakayama in December.

“His lungs are good and I don’t see any fatigue from the trip abroad,” said assistant trainer Yuki Iwasaki. “He had the accident at the break in last year’s Tenno Sho (Spring), but he had never had problems before. At seven years of age, I have the impression that he’s even stronger than before, so I’m looking forward to things.”

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