Danon Kingly returned from a seven-month spell of R&R to score his first career grade 1 victory in the Yasuda Kinen (G1) June 6 at Tokyo Racecourse, just edging defending champion Gran Alegria .
A 5-year-old son of Deep Impact from the Storm Cat mare My Goodness, Danon Kingly showed no signs of rust in the 1,600-meter (about one-mile) Yasuda Kinen despite some pre-race doubts by his own trainer. He stepped up to earn a guaranteed “Win and You’re In” berth in November’s FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) at Del Mar.
As the field raced down the backstretch, jockey Yuga Kawada kept Danon Kingly snug in mid-field. Around the one sweeping turn and into the stretch, Kawada got Danon Kingly out toward the center of the course and found daylight for a late dash to the finish.
Gran Alegria, seeking her sixth grade 1 win, was caught behind the proverbial wall of horses as the field climbed the uphill section of the stretch. Once rider Christophe Lemaire finally found running room between rivals, the 5-year-old Deep Impact mare responded willingly, surged to a narrow lead, and just failed to hold on for the win.
Schnell Meister, the only 3-year-old in the 14-horse field, was a close third. The last 3-year-old winner of the Yasuda Kinen was Real Impact in 2011. The 2019 Yasuda Kinen winner, Indy Champ , finished fourth.
The first three finishers in the Yasuda Kinen also earned entry to France’s top mile races, the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (G1).
Danon Kingly, racing for Danox Co., finished in 1:31.7 over turf rated good to firm.
‟He felt a bit tense first entering the track but he had good rhythm during the trip and had plenty of horse left,” Kawada said. “He responded just as I hoped turning the last corner and ran well after that.
“Although he hasn’t been able to put in the best results in the past, he has definitely demonstrated his true strength today and I’m happy to have been a part of it in my first time in the saddle.”
Danon Kingly started his career with great promise, notching three consecutive wins before finishing third in the 2019 Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas, G1) and second in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1). Things then went south and trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara called a timeout for Danon Kingly when a 12th-place finish in the Tenno Sho (Autumn, G1) Nov. 1 capped a series of disappointments. That pause in his career stretched out as maturity came with some physical setbacks during training.
“Recently, he’s had to pass on races he was set to run in, so the most important thing has been getting him in condition that is suited to the race he’s aimed for,” the trainer said before the Yasuda Kinen.
“I see improvement. But, hand in hand with his maturing as a 5-year-old has been greater damage incurred in his recent races, so we’ll have to wait and see how he performs to be able to talk about how maturity is affecting him.”
The pluses obviously outweighed the minuses, based on the result.
Gran Alegria had won four of her last five starts before the Yasuda Kinen, all of them grade 1 events. She was running on just three weeks’ rest after the Victoria Mile (G1) over the same course and distance but her quest for a sixth grade 1 title came a cropper due to traffic issues rather than lack of fitness.