Four-year-old colt Indy Champ won its Grade 1 debut on Sunday in the Yasuda Kinen, where overwhelming favorite Almond Eye turned on the jets too late and finished third.
Indy Champ, ridden by Yuichi Fukunaga, overtook early pace setter and third-favorite Aerolithe at the wire to win by a neck and finish the 1,600 meters over turf for 3-year-olds and up at Tokyo Racecourse in a race record 1 minute, 30.9 seconds.
Almond Eye got off to a poor start and had to come from well behind and around the pack on the outside to even make a run for it, while fourth-favorite Indy Champ stalked Aerolithe from a few lengths back on the inside, only coming away from the rail at the final turn.
Almond Eye, a 4-year-old and five-time G1 champion ridden by Christophe Lemaire, was the first to really hit the gas in the final straight, but also had the farthest to go and in the end came up short.
“In a race with horses with great all-round strength, I knew he (Indy Champ) could do well, and we could have a chance if I did my job right,” Fukunaga said. “In the end, he exceeded my expectations.”