FUNABASHI, CHIBA PREF. – Lord Kanaloa threw himself into contention for horse-of-the-year honors as the defending champion won the Sprinters Stakes for his fifth consecutive Grade 1 win on Sunday.
The 5-year-old Lord Kanaloa lost in the Sprinters Stakes’ Grade 2 trial, the Centaur Stakes, earlier this month but bounced back at Nakayama Racecourse in Chiba Prefecture with a 1-minute, 7.2-second victory over the 1,200 meters.
Yasunari Iwata’s mount, who went off as the prohibitive favorite, held off second choice Hakusan Moon by three-quarters of a length, followed by Mayano Ryujin, the 15th pick out of 16, in third as Japan’s fall Grade 1 season got underway.
“It’s a load off the shoulders,” said Iwata, who was also aboard the King Kamehameha son last year when he won in record time. “He was the top pick, but we got off to a slow start and I have to admit, we didn’t have the race I had in mind.”
“But he has a higher gear to cancel any bad start and can settle in traffic. I’m glad I managed to get the most out of him at least on the straight.”
The Takayuki Yasuda-trained Lord Kanaloa is only the second short-distance runner to capture five Grade 1 races, following in the footstetps of 1998 horse of the year Taiki Shuttle.
On top of his two Sprinters Stakes titles, Lord Kanaloa has won the Hong Kong Sprint, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen and the Yasuda Kinen at a mile.
Lord Kanaloa could be headed back to Hong Kong in December for either the Sprint or the Mile, or stay in Japan to run in next month’s Mile Championship at Kyoto.
Iwata revealed the horse’s owners were going to retire him had he lost on Sunday.
“The pace was brisk, and I found the space I needed at the third turn,” the jockey said. “If he had lost here, he would have been pressured to retire. He’s so intelligent, so loyal to the jockey.”
Lord Kanaloa is 12-for-18 for his career with earnings of more than ¥755 million. He has never finished lower than third.