Sake Celebrations For The Championships.... By Bernard kenny

LET’S GO DONKI, the Japanese 1000 Guineas winner, who is a $2.5m Darley TJ Smith Stakes entry with eyes on the future Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar in November.

LET’S GO DONKI, the Japanese 1000 Guineas winner, who is a $2.5m Darley TJ Smith Stakes entry with eyes on the future Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar in November.

Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club continue to grow The Championships with this year receiving a record 1371 nominations, up 6% or 81 nominations on last year, making Sydney a must-be-there international racing destination.

This fourth edition of The Championship will be held at Royal Randwick on Saturday 1 April with the $3.4m The Star Doncaster Mile of 1600m, and Day 2 on Saturday 8 April featuring The Championships principal event the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes to be run over 2000m.

The Championships 10 race programme has attracted an unprecedented 77 entries of internationally trained horses from leading stables in Great Britain, Ireland, France and Hong Kong, including 14 nominated from Japan and 48 from New Zealand.

Japan’s ten nominations for the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes, at standard weight-for-age,  is headed by the Longines Worlds 12th Best Rated Racehorse Satono Crown, who is coming of his second win in the Kyoto Kinen having previously defeated Highland Reel in the Hong Kong Vase.

A noted nomination for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes is Tosen Stardom, who was highly fancied for last year’s race, only to suffer a three-month bleeding ban on the eve of The Championships. Tosen Stardom had finished fifth in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2015 and second in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill.

Now trained by Darren Weir at Ballarat Tosen Stardom finished a close second in the recent Futurity Stakes, and is also entered in The Star Doncaster Mile being weighted on 55kg.

Japan has six high quality entries for both the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes and The Star Doncaster Mile headed by Neorealism, on 56.5kg for the Doncaster Mile, who defeated Maurice, the Japanese Horse of The Year, in the Sapporo Kinen and previously ran third in the Mile Championship.

Smart Layer who twice won the Hanshin Himba Stakes is the highest weighted mare on 54.5kg for the Doncaster Mile, Decipher, a winner of both the American Jockey Club Cup and Sapporo Kinen received 55.5kg, Clarity Sky on 54kg for the Doncaster, is the winner of the NHK Mile Cup with Prodigal Son a Group 2 placed winner on 53.5kg.

Meiner Honey, The Challenge Cup winner is on 53kg in the Doncaster, and is joined in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes by fellow K Thoroughbred Club Ruffian owned Meiner Milano and Meiner Sage, who is also targeting the Schweppes Sydney Cup.

The $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the $3.5m The Star Doncaster Mile and $2.5m Darley TJ Smith Stakes are Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win and You’re In’ events with the winners qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar on 3, 4 November 2017.

The Darley TJ Smith Stakes, at standard weight-for-age, received nominations from the Japanese 1000 Guineas winner Let’s Go Donki and Shiji, the Hanshin Cup winner. The TJ Smith is now joined by Japan’s Sprinters Cup of 1200m as a new Turf Sprint qualifying event in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge.

In addition, the $2m Schweppes Sydney Cup of 3200m attracted 100 nominations including the Japanese Tanta Algeria, the American Jockey Club Cup winner, who is weighted second top-weight of 57kg, with top-weight of 58kg being last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Almandin. The Cup’s 58kg top-weight is weighted on a 50kg limit with 49kg for three-year-olds.

Japan’s respected duel Group 2 winning stayer Admire Deus is weighted on 56kg for the Sydney Cup. The Arlington Cup winner Rainbow Line, who also ran second in the Japanese St Leger is on 54kg with Meiner Sage weighted 51kg.

English trainer Ed Dunlop has two entries with Trip To Paris, his recent Irish St Leger third and Ascot Gold Cup winner, receiving 55.5kg in the Sydney Cup, and a previous second to Mongolian Khan in the 2015 Caulfield Cup and then fourth in the Melbourne Cup.  

Red Verdon, Ed Dunlop’s second entry who runs in the same colours as Red Cadeaux, is nominated for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and is a three times winner up to 2400m plus second in the Grand Prix de Paris at his last start.

Ireland’s legendary trainer Willie Mullins has four duel-purpose stayers entered for the Sydney Cup headed by Max Dynamite, the Lonsdale Cup winner on 56kg, who ran second to Prince of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup.

Wicklow Brave is also on 56kg as the winner of last year’s Irish St Leger, ridden by Frankie Dettori, before being unplaced in the Melbourne Cup, with Clondaw Warrior on 52kg and Thomas Hobson the light weight 50kg.

The European power house Godolphin is definitely targeting the Sydney Cup with the Charles Appleby trained Pengial Pavilion on 50.5kg as the Cesarewitch Trail Stakes 3600m winner and Polarisation is a four time winner up to 2800m receiving 50kg.

Hong Kong Champion trainer John Moore has been allocated equal second top-weight of 57kg for Helene Paragon in the Doncaster Mile with Joyful Trinity being given 55.5kg for the Doncaster. Helene Paragon is a winner of both the Queen Silver Jubilee Stakes and The Stewards Cup with Joyful Trinity finishing credible placing’s in the same two events.

Hong Kong’s Tony Cruz has his Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only also equal second top-weight of 57kg in the Doncaster Mile. His newly acquired 2016 Stewards Cup winner Giant Treasure is weighted 53.5kg for the Doncaster Mile and his top-line sprinter Peniaphobia is entered in the TJ Smith Stakes.

New Zealand training partnership of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman leads New Zealand’s entries for The Championships with 26 nominations headed by their NZ 2000 Guineas winner Turn Me Loose, who is targeting both the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes and receiving 56kg in The Star Doncaster Mile.

Such is the international appeal of The Championships that French trainer Francis-Henri Graffard has nominated his Niarchos Family owned Canadian International winner Erupt for the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes to be run on Saturday 8 April at Royal Randwick.