This year’s iconic Melbourne Cup showdown at Flemington in November is a likely spring target for Japanese stayer Hiruno d’Amour after their powerful victory in the Group 1 Tenno Sho Spring at Kyoto Racecourse on Sunday.
One of Japan’s premier thoroughbred showdowns, the Tenno Sho is contested over the same two-mile distance (3200m) as the world’s richest handicap, the Melbourne Cup.
In this year’s Tenno Sho Spring, a race won in 2010 by Jaguar Mail who also had Melbourne Cup aspirations before his Australian campaign was shelved due to quarantine regulations, the Mitsugu Kon-trained Hiruno d’Amour scored a solid half-length win over 2010 Japanese Derby winner Eishin Flash.
Connections of the winning four-year-old stallion are now expected to consider a Melbourne Cup campaign later in the year after Hiruno d’Amour won his first elite level race, emulating his famous sire Manhattan Cafe who won the 2002 Tenno Sho.
If Hiruno d’Amour goes on to win this year’s Melbourne Cup, they will become just the second Japanese-trained horse in history to do so following on from the Delta Blues in 2006 who lead a Japanese Cup quinella as stablemate Pop Rock finished second.
Hiruno d’Amour was ridden by jockey Shinji Fujita who was admittedly pleased with winning the high stakes race.
“I’m happy for the horse more than I am for myself,” Fujita said.
“I’m just glad I finally made him a Grade 1 winner.”
The Tenno Sho Spring winner automatically gains entry into the 2011 Melbourne Cup field on the first Tuesday of November, making Hiruno d’Amour the first horse to earn a Melbourne Cup ballot exemption.
There are a number of other races offering a ballot exemption into the famous Flemington feature both internationally and here in Australia including the Irish St Leger, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Victoria Derby, Mackinnon Stakes and the Lexus Stakes.
In other international horse racing news, Gitano Hernando also emerged as a genuine Melbourne Cup prospect after their brave run in the Group 1 QEII Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse last weekend.
Gitano Hernando finished eighth to Hong Kong Derby champion Ambitious Dragon, beaten by just three and a half lengths.
Prepared by South African trainer Herman Brown, Gitano Hernando’s Australian-based jockey Damien Oliver expressed his thoughts that the galloper should be bought over for the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
“Damien is adamant he would be a good Melbourne Cup horse and I tend to agree with him,” Brown said.
“I haven’t had the horse very long, but he’s shown me some pretty good staying potential and at this stage I’d be planning to have a shot at the race.”
Oliver gained the mount on Gitano Hernando after fellow Aussie hoop Glyn Schofield, aboard Mourilyan for their third to Shocking in the 2009 Melbourne Cup, broke his collarbone after falling from Hawk Island in the Sydney Cup on April 30.
Brown is no stranger to the Melbourne Cup having trained 2009 third-placegetter Mourilyan.
Both Mourilyan and Gitano Hernando are owned by the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.