An ideal draw and smaller than usual field has Brett Prebble pumped-up about his chances in Sunday’s Group One Yasuda Kinen on Contentment, 10 years after the Australian jockey notched a career highlight in the race aboard Bullish Luck.
Twelve runners represents the smallest field to contest Tokyo’s premier mile race since the contest was open to international entrants in 1993 – although the ¥222,080,000 (HK$15.8 million) event does include at least two world-class local hopes, Maurice and Real Steel.
Contentment will jump from gate five, with Maurice and Real Steel drawn awkwardly and out to defy history as the first winners from their respective barriers (eight and 11) since the race was elevated to Group One status in 1984.
“The draw looks perfect and I think he can run first three,” Prebble said after arriving in Tokyo.
“He gets his chance and it is just whether he is good enough to beat those other two. It is very unusual to have such a small field – and the obvious part of that is that there is less to beat, but a smaller field, and not having the capacity of 18, usually makes the races a little bit cleaner.”
Another anomaly for a Japanese feature – where there is usually pressure on throughout – is that on paper the race lacks an obvious outright leader.
Prebble indicated he would prefer a horse to follow after taking a handy position.
“A slower tempo looks possible and I am not sure if that helps or hinders his chances, he always makes his own luck and puts himself in the right race anyway,” Prebble said. “He likes a bit of guidance up the straight – so hopefully we have a bunny to follow. I also think he likes a good tempo, that’s why he likes 1,400m at home, and Japanese miles are usually run like a Hong Kong 1,400m tempo. But whatever happens, he always gives you his best.”
Contentment faces not only his last-start conqueror from the Group One Champions Mile, the mighty Maurice, but also the weight of recent history, with Bullish Luck’s win the last success for a foreign-trained runner in the Yasuda Kinen.
“I feel like that was yesterday, it was an amazing feeling, that was a full field and I put him a little bit handier than he would be normally but he was just explosive the way he won,” Prebble said. “It was the best feeling I’ve had on a miler, it is right up there with winning the Melbourne Cup.”
Since that famous win in 2006, 19 horses have tried and failed to win what is one of just two all-aged Group One miles in open to both sexes in Japan –three have been ridden by Prebble (Bullish Luck in 2008, Sight Winner in 2009, Lucky Nine in 2012) and all have been trained in Hong Kong.
Contentment’s trainer John Size has saddled up four horses on a total of seven occasions during that period.
His best finish being his first runner, Armada, in 2008, which is the last Hong Kong-trained horse to place in the race.
It seems as though dry conditions will prevail for this weekend’s double-header meeting and mean a typically hard and fast surface – albeit with some wear and tear from a torrid recent schedule.
“They raced on both days last weekend, again on Saturday and then the Yasuda Kinen is race 10 [on Sunday],” Prebble said.
“It usually gets a bit damaged by then and our horses aren’t used to that type of track, it’s not fresh ground and that can be their undoing.”