Meiner Kitz springs Tennosho surprise

by Adrian Webber

Kyoto Pref. — Six-year-old Meiner Kitz pulled off one of the biggest shocks of the racing year so far, when landing the spoils in the 139th Tennosho (Emperor’s Cup) at Kyoto Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.

At odds of just over 45-1, the horse stunned the 80,000-plus crowd who were still left looking for the more fancied runners, long after the winner had passed the winning post.

Meiner Kitz held off Al Nasrain by a neck in the closing stages, with Dream Journey staying on best of the others to take third, 1 3/4 lengths further back. Sunrise Max and Jaguar Mail also battled on well to take fourth and fifth respectively.

After dazzling displays by Japan’s 3-year-olds in recent weeks, today was the turn of some of the country’s best older stayers, to try and outperform each other over the 3,200 meters and carry off the all-too lucrative ¥132 million winner’s check.

Asakusa Kings was sent off favorite, and while looking dangerous at one point, faded in the straight to finish ninth. Equally disappointing was last year’s Japan Cup winner, Screen Hero, who could have been part of a horror movie this time around, when finishing 14th after also looking to be going very well up to the final turn into the home straight.

On the first circuit, the runners were pulled along by three different horses setting the pace, namely Hokuto Sultan, T M Precure and 10-year-old Silk Famous. They all made sure the race was run at a good tempo, and the race time of 3 minutes 14.4 seconds was not that far off the record set by Deep Impact.

As they reached the top of the gradient on the backstretch, the eventual winner started to make his move, along with Al Nasrain, and a few of the others had to be niggled along at this point.

Third favorite Monte Kris S failed to give rider Yutaka Take the response he would have hoped for, and in the end could only manage 12th at the finish.

As they thundered down the home straight, Al Nasrain started to look like the most likely winner, but jockey Masami Matsuoka kept plugging away at Meiner Kitz, and his determination and skill took him on to only his second ever Group 1 victory.

And he couldn’t have been happier in his celebratory punching of the air and in the interview that followed.

“I was a bit disappointed by finishing second with him last time,” he said. “Today, though, I made my move from the third corner and thought I would just take the inside route up the straight.”

“This worked out well and I’m absolutely thrilled by the outcome,” Matsuoka commented after things had calmed down.