Japan’s Ushba Tesoro streaks into Breeders’ Cup Classic

October 3rd, 2023

After Japan’s historic Breeders’ Cup double at Del Mar in 2021, another powerhouse squad is assembling for Santa Anita in November. The Japanese team captain is Ushba Tesoro, the Dubai World Cup (G1) winner who rides a six-race winning streak into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Freshened for six months since his Meydan heroics, the Noboru Takagi trainee targeted the Sept. 27 Nippon TV Hai (G2) as his lone Breeders’ Cup tune-up. Ushba Tesoro confirmed his well-being with a cozy score at Funabashi. 

Note that compatriot Derma Sotogake, last seen finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), was also planning to use the same race as his springboard to the Classic, only to have an ill-timed setback. “Derma” is now training straight up to the Breeders’ Cup

Aside from the timing of Ushba Tesoro’s prep, the conditions of the Nippon TV Hai figure to sharpen him up for Santa Anita. Ushba Tesoro was turning back in trip to about 1 1/8 miles, around a tighter oval with an about seven-furlong circumference. 

Taking up a closer stalking position than usual for his World Cup jockey Yuga Kawada, he drafted just behind the pacesetter on the rail. Kawada asked him to pick it up on the far turn, and Ushba Tesoro found plenty to strike the front already in upper stretch. Under good handling, he drew away by 2 1/2 lengths.

Ushba Tesoro is by the same sire as Marche Lorraine, Japan’s 49-1 shocker in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Both are offspring of Orfevre, the 2011 Japanese Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner who nearly scored in the 2012 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). 

Like Marche Lorraine, Ushba Tesoro logically began his career on turf, but didn’t distinguish himself until trying dirt. The transformation was immediate, and the big bay has compiled a 7-for-8 mark on the surface. 

Ushba Tesoro rapidly climbed the class ladder, capturing his Grade 1 debut in last December’s Tokyo Daishoten (G1) with his trademark late kick. His ensuing victory in the Feb. 1 Kawasaki Kinen was arguably even more substantive, as he toppled past Japanese dirt champion T O Keynes

The March 25 Dubai World Cup was the acid test, and Ushba Tesoro passed with flying colors. Last early after not breaking too well, he settled into comfortable rhythm and began to pass rivals rounding the far turn. Ushba Tesoro rapidly gained momentum upon straightening, blowing past Algiers, who had romped in the Al Maktoum Challenge Rounds 1 and 2 (G2) by a combined margin of more than 12 lengths. 

Finishing a hard-charging third was Emblem Road, the 2022 Saudi Cup (G1) upsetter, and defending World Cup champion Country Grammer was a subpar seventh. 

Watch for Algiers, a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), to return in the Durham Cup (G3) at Woodbine Saturday.

If Ushba Tesoro can pack the same punch in the Breeders’ Cup, he’d become the first reigning Dubai World Cup winner to add the Classic in the same calendar year. The traffic’s historically gone in the other direction, with recent Breeders’ Cup Classic stars carrying their form forward into the next season. It’s been more challenging to peak in March and again in November, but Ushba Tesoro’s light schedule appears tailor-made to achieve it. 

More details and analysis of Ushba Tesoro will be forthcoming in the comprehensive Breeders’ Cup International Scouting Report, available on Brisnet.com during the week of the Championships.