Hong Kong’s champion Beauty Generation might not be there, but Sunday’s Group One Yasuda Kinen is still a hot contest with Japanese superstar Almond Eye taking on the talented Danon Premium.
It was initially going to be a clash between the three big guns, but with Beauty Generation’s connections opting not to make the trip to Tokyo, the race is now headlined by the two home-grown heroes.
Almond Eye, who has won her past seven starts, returns to racing for the first time since her victory in the Group One Dubai Turf and jockey Christophe Lemaire is confident she has overcome the issues that saw trainer Sakae Kunieda abandon a European campaign.
“Her workout last week sharpened her up and this week’s fast work was in a group of three and she picked up speed nicely in the stretch. I’d say she’s in top condition,” Lemaire said.
“Her footwork is a bit better than it was in the Japan Cup and she moves out smoothly, so her acceleration is better. She has matured and I’d say she’s pretty near perfect and I’m confident she can win.”
She is dropping back to 1,600m for the first time since the Ska So (Japanese 1,000 Guineas) and the jockey believes that is “no problem at all”.
“Not with the speed she showed over 1,800m in Dubai,” Lemaire said. “She was sharp in the stretch, reached the front easily and won pretty easily.
“I think the Tokyo 1,600m is perfect for her. The line-up is strong but I think she’s the best. She really showed her talent in the Japan Cup and in Dubai. I’m not worried at all. She can run from any position, front, back, no problem. That makes it easy for me.”
Danon Premium has won six of his seven starts – his only defeat came in last year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) – and has two Group Two wins under his belt this season.
“I’ve been very careful to get him here in good shape. I had the jockey [Yuga Kawada] ride last week because I wanted to push the horse fairly hard and I think he looked good,” trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida said.
“He’s had a lot of races with few runners in them we’ll just have to see how he does this time. He has good racing sense and I think he can give his best no matter what the conditions.”
The two dominate the market, but they will have to overcome wide barriers with Almond Eye jumping from 14 and Danon Premium next door in 15.
The Yasuda Kinen is one of two international races the Jockey Club is simulcasting on Sunday with France’s Group One Prix du Jockey Club being run at 10.25pm.