No need for me to belabor the virtues of heavy favorite #5 Almond Eye going into tonight’s Yasuda Kinen (G1) (2:40 a.m. ET), a Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) “Win and You’re In,” where the seven-time Group 1 champion is entitled to make it eight. If not for being hampered at the start in this race last year, she arguably would be the defending champion rather than the unlucky third aiming to set the record straight.
The one potential question mark is Almond Eye’s wheeling back after a stunning success in the May 17 Victoria Mile (G1) – the shortest turnaround in a career characterized by well-spaced races. Trainer Sakae Kunieda’s comments on japanracing.jp are reassuring:
“The Fuchu (Tokyo Racecourse) 1,600 (meters) is an easy race for her and if she runs normally I think it’ll go well. And we’ll likely have a fast track, which is good.
“After the Victoria Mile, I waited to see how she was doing. She looked good and it had been an easy win for her, so she’d come out of the race well. So, I figured she could run again with only 2 full weeks for training in between. I decided to come here.
“It’s her first time with so little time between starts but mentally she’s very relaxed and very calm. Looking at her fast work this week, I’d say there’s nothing to worry about.”
The next-best is the attractively priced #9 Admire Mars (12-1), whose morning line obscures his first-rate credentials. Japan’s 2018 champion 2-year-old colt has beaten champion filly Gran Alegria in both prior meetings, including the 2019 NHK Mile Cup (G1) here. Admire Mars proved himself against elders in last December’s Hong Kong Mile (G1), defeating three other Yasuda Kinen rivals in Normcore, Indy Champ, and Persian Knight.
Granted, Admire Mars has a race spacing question of his own, in his case coming off a layoff since Hong Kong. And he threw in the worst race of his life behind Normcore when resuming in the course-and-distance Fuji (G3) two starts back, his only career loss at a metric mile. But I don’t think that factoid necessarily applies here, since Admire Mars was cranked up for a tilt at the March 28 Dubai Turf (G1) before its pandemic cancellation. Indeed, according to trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, he’s physically thrived in the lead-up to Sunday’s feature.
I could be underestimating defending Yasuda Kinen champion Indy Champ. After clinching the divisional title when turning the prestigious mile double in last November’s Mile Championship (G1), he didn’t have a fair shot against Admire Mars with a troubled trip in Hong Kong. Still, it’s rare to win the Yasuda Kinen twice, and I can’t get past the notion that he was a little fortunate at Almond Eye’s expense in 2019.
And while we’re re-litigating last year’s result, #1 Danon Premium (12-1) deserves to join the class. He was expected to be Almond Eye’s main opponent in the 2019 edition, but he too was compromised at the break in a toss-out last. Danon Premium later played second fiddle to Almond Eye on this course, chasing her home in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) over an extra quarter-mile, and then placed to Indy Champ on the cutback in the Mile Championship. Danon Premium employs the same cutback here after a third in the Queen Elizabeth (G1) on unsuitably soft ground at Randwick, and continues the Australian angle by picking up Damian Lane.
More thoughts on the whole field can be found in my Yasuda Kinen preview on Brisnet.