By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: Mozu Ascot achieved a series of notable firsts on Sunday with a sparkling victory in the February Stakes, Japan’s first Grade 1 event of 2020 and the principal race on dirt in the first half of the calendar.
Chief among a series of landmarks, however, was the six-year-old’s distinction in becoming the first of the legendary Frankel’s progeny to win a G1 event on dirt – and the 9-5 favourite did it in style, too, being produced at the furlong marker to overwhelm his rivals in a maximum 16-runner field at Tokyo racecourse to score by 2½ lengths from K T Brave.
Victory in the 200 million yen (about $2m) event completed a memorable day for jockey Christophe Lemaire, who landed a magnificent six-timer on the Tokyo card.
“He broke well and we were able to settle right behind Inti as planned,” reported Lemaire, who has 33 winners already this year on the JRA circuit.
“His acceleration was extraordinary. Although he is a newcomer in dirt racing, he adapted immediately to the surface and gave his best today.”
For his part, trainer Yoshito Yahagi was landing a G1 hat-trick after Lys Gracieux (Arima Kinen) and Contrail (Hopeful Stakes) before the turn of the year.
It also means Mozu Ascot is the first horse to win a guaranteed spot at this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in November as part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘win and you’re in’ Challenge. However, while the February Stakes is linked to the Classic, trainer Yoshito Yahagi indicated the Dirt Mile was a more probable option.
Closer to hand, while the Tokyo highlight is often the principal Japanese prep race for the Dubai World Cup, Mozu Ascot would need to be supplemented to that $12m contest at Meydan, where he holds an entry in the G2 Godolphin Mile.
Yahagi, though, has another target in mind: the time-honoured Doncaster Mile on Day 1 of The Championships at Randwick in Sydney on April 4.
Mozu Ascot was having only his second start on dirt after winning in G3 company three weeks previously. Having won the Yasuda Kinen on turf in 2018, he becomes only the fifth horse in Japan Racing Association history to land top-level contests on both dirt and turf after Kurofune, Agnes Digital, Eagle Cafe and Admire Don.