2024 Takamatsunomiya Kinen: Group 1 Review

Venue: Chukyo
Distance: 1600m
Value: ¥368,200,000 (approximately US$2.6 million)

Grey five-year-old Mad Cool, a relatively rare Irish-bred on the JRA scene, narrowly added the 2024 Takamatsunomiya Kinen to the expanding big-race portfolio of his rider Ryusei Sakai, and gave his young trainer Manabo Ikezoe a second Group 1 victory. The son of Dark Angel has now won six of only 11 starts.

Hong Kong raider Victor The Winner had the edge on Mad Cool when they placed fourth and eighth respectively in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint in December, and punters seemed to hold that against them as the pair started the joint-fifth picks in the betting here at 9.6 in a field of 18. Surprising given Victor The Winner has won a Group 1 at Sha Tin in the interim.

Victor The Winner was sharpest out of the stalls this time, but Mad Cool was close on his heels in fourth spot and slipstreamed his rival along the fence. When the leader moved out into the home straight, Mad Cool stuck to the rail, quickened to lead with 300 metres remaining, and held the fast finish of Namura Clair by a diminishing head.

Victor The Winner was three lengths back in third, while the 3.7 favourite Lugal was a non-factor in 10th.

What They Said

Ryusei Sakai: “He broke well and we were in an ideal position, right behind the pace, throughout the trip. The plan to stay in the inside for our attack at the stretch also worked to our advantage and he held on well to deter the chase from behind at the end. I’ve been riding this horse from early in his career and the connections had been eyeing this race from the beginning, but he still has room for improvement so I look forward to his future as well.”

RYUSEI SAKAI / G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen // Chukyo /// 2024 //// Photo by Shuhei Okada

The Deciding Move

Sakai’s decision to stick to the rail, whereas Derek Leung chose to shift towards the centre on Victor The Winner, proved to be a big factor on the rain-softened ground. And that was confirmed by the fast-finishing Namura Clair, who quickened along the rail to make up a lot of ground from deep in the field.

But Sakai’s ability to get Mad Cool sharply from the gate and into a rhythm behind the leader proved to be equally important given the very narrow margin of success over the second, who broke in the front-rank but slid back to race in midfield.

2024 Takamatsunomiya Kinen: Race Replay

MAD COOL / G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen // Chukyo /// 2024 //// Video by JRA

A Champion In The Making?

Perhaps. Japan’s sprint ranks are solid without having any star turns, but Mad Cool could prove to be the one. He has a lightly-raced, progressive profile, which now includes second and then first in Japan’s only two Group 1 sprints. But, as a mature five-year-old now, this race really needs to be the platform from which he must improve and impose himself as the season advances. A victory in Hong Kong in April would do nicely.

David Morgan is Chief Journalist at Idol Horse. As a sports mad young lad in County Durham, England, horse racing hooked him at age 10. He has a keen knowledge of Hong Kong and Japanese racing after nine years as senior racing writer and racing editor at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. David has also worked in Dubai and spent several years at the Racenews agency in London. His credits include among others Racing Post, ANZ Bloodstock News, International Thoroughbred, TDN, and Asian Racing Report.

View all articles by David Morgan.

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