Gold Ship beat an all star cast in the Takarazuka Kinen on Sunday to earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf (Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).
Gold Ship made his first move toward racing in the United States on Sunday when he won the Takarazuka Kinen, a Japanese Group 1 race that is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
While not as well known internationally as other Japanese horses such as Orfevre and Gentildonna, the 4-year-old colt has quite the resume. He showed flashes of his potential as a 2-year-old - finishing second in two graded stakes races - but came into his own in 2012.
Gold Ship won his 2012 debut in a Group 3 race before winning the Group 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) in his next start. When the year came to an end, Gold Ship had five victories, including three Group 1 events. The only blemish on his record that year came in the Japanese Derby when he finished fifth to Deep Brillante in his first attempt at 2,400 meters (about 12 furlongs). For his successes, he was named Japan’s champion 3-year-old male.
Gold Ship is off to a good start in 2013, winning his 4-year-old debut in a Group 2 race going 3,000 meters (about 15 furlongs) in March against eight opponents. He threw in a surprising unplaced finish a month later in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) when he finished fifth to Fenomeno going 3,200 meters (about two miles), the longest he has gone so far in his career. The June 23 Takarazuka Kinen is the shortest race he has run since April 2012 and he seemed to love the distance, easily winning with Danon Ballade in second and Gentildonna third.
"The horse was in very good form, so I was able to take him toward the front while saving enough energy for the finish," jockey Hiroyuki Uchida said. "I'm very glad we were able to win over the other two strong rivals and look forward to his further great performance in the future."
The Takarazuka Kinen field was selected by racing fans, who voted for their favorite horses from all distances. Gold Ship was the fans’ third choice behind Orfevre and Gentildonna, however, Orfevre did not run in the race after being pulled from consideration 10 days before the Takarazuka Kinen.
Gold Ship’s connections do not have to pay an entry fee for the Breeders’ Cup Turf due to his win in the Takarazuka Kinen and he also earned a $40,000 travel allowance if he starts in the race on November 2.
GOLD SHIP'S CONNECTIONS CELEBRATE WITH THE BREEDERS' CUP WIN AND YOU'RE IN BLANKET
Like many horses in Japan, Gold Ship traces back to Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence. He is by Stay Gold, a Group 1 winner by Sunday Silence who has sired four champions, including 2011 Japanese Horse of the Year Orfevre. Over the past three seasons, Gold Ship has ranked in the top six in both the Flat and Turf sire standings in Japan.
Stay Gold never won going farther than 2,500 meters but did finish second in a Group 1 race at 3,200 meters during his career. In another American connection, Stay Gold stands at Big Red Farm, the same farm as I’ll Have Another, and is often seen in the paddock next to the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.
Gold Ship’s dam, Point Flag, never went farther than 1,600 meters (about one mile) in her career but she has produced foals capable of going longer than sprint distances. Of her six foals to race, four have won with three of those winners having success at a mile or more.
If Gold Ship does go to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the distance should not be a problem as he has already proven that he can go 1 ½ miles in the top level of competition, the same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
It won’t be a huge surprise if Gold Ship is seen in the starting gate at the Breeders’ Cup this year as Japanese trainers have shown that they aren’t afraid of sending their horses to the event. Among others to run in recent years, Japanese connections ran Trailblazer in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf and took a chance with Espoir City in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic.