Maurice was dominant even at 2,000 meters as Japan’s reigning horse of the year won the fall Tenno-sho for his fifth Grade 1 title on Sunday.
The favorite, ridden by Ryan Moore, came home on the outside down the 500-meter straight at Tokyo Racecourse, comfortably holding off seventh pick Real Steel by a length and a half to net the ¥150 million prize money.
Staphanos, the sixth favorite, was third another length and a quarter back. Former world No. 1 and second choice A Shin Hikari, under Yutaka Take, slumped to 12th in a field of 15.
Moore, who was riding in his first Tenno-sho, said his 5-year-old partner turned in the “best performance” of his distinguished career that had already seen the horse sweep four GI races at 1,600 meters — the Yasuda Kinen, Mile Championship, Hong Kong Mile and the Champions Mile.
Maurice had started his autumn campaign with a second-place finish in the G2 Sapporo Kinen at 10 furlongs, which led to some questioning his aptitude at the distance. On Sunday, however, he silenced those critics with authority.
“I’m guessing it’s probably his best performance,” Englishman Moore said of the Noriyuki Hori-trained Maurice, sired by former Japan Cup winner Screen Hero out of Mejiro Frances.
“He was very dominant today. I had to do a bit of work early on, as the pace was steady down the side of the course. He took me into the race powerfully. I know this horse when he gets into a fight — no one’s going to pass him.
“I was glad I didn’t have that much ground to make up. I had a bad horse in front of me which wasn’t ideal, and I kind of had to get around him. My horse quickened extremely well. He’s just got a big heart and keeps digging it.”
A Shin Hikari set a gentle pace to the contest as Moore positioned Maurice in midfield during the trip, waiting to pounce on the frontrunners.
After rounding the final bend, Moore chose a patch of very firm green on the punishing home stretch as the competition went inside for the shorter route to the wire. But Maurice was in a class of his own, a few cracks of the whip from Moore sealing the victory.
“I know my horse is the fastest in the field, and I was close enough that when he quickened nothing else was going to quicken like him,” Moore said. “He used that turn of foot a bit early, but it worked out today.”
Maurice is 10-for-17 in his career with six graded wins. He will retire to stud in December after the Hong Kong Cup.
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