France Go de Ina settles in at Pimlico after shipping from Japan for the Preakness
Yuji Inaida’s France Go de Ina is unusually well traveled for a 3-year-old colt with a four-race career for a trainer who has never hesitated to venture away from Japan for major international stakes.
France Go de Ina, who arrived at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday evening for a scheduled start in Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), will be the second horse saddled by trainer Hideyuki Mori for a start in a U.S. Triple Crown race. Sky Captain, who finished 14th in the 1995 Kentucky Derby (G1), was the first of six horses that Mori has brought to the U.S. to compete in Grade 1 stakes.
The 62-year-old Mori, who most recently saddled Jasper Prince for a 14th-place finish in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland, hasn’t broken through with a Grade 1 victory in the U.S., but he has made history throughout the world.
“He’s been traveling since he first launched his stable,” said Kate Hunter, the Preakness field representative for the Japan Racing Association, Sunday morning at Pimlico. “He was the first Japanese trainer to win a Hong Kong International race, and now [the Japanese horses] win that every year. He was the first to win an international Group 1 abroad, it was in France.”
Mori made history in France in 1998 when he saddled Seeking the Pearl for a victory in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) at Deauville.
“He’s quite the pioneer and continues to prove that year after year sending these horses abroad. He likes to travel and give his owners a unique experience,” said Hunter, who reported Mori will arrive at Pimlico Monday. “It’s a great honor in Japan to say, ‘I raced in Saudi Arabia, I raced in America, I raced in the Preakness.’ It’s something special and a unique opportunity to provide his clients.”
France Go de Ina, who won two of his first three races in Japan, shipped to Dubai, where he finished a troubled sixth in the UAE Derby (G2) March 27 before returning to Japan. The son of Will Take Charge shipped from Japan May 5 to Los Angeles, where he was in quarantine for two days before shipping to Newark, N.J. and vanning to Pimlico.
“You’re looking at a horse who can deal with a lot. American horses in general are probably more used to traveling than most of the Japanese horses. They’re pretty good at long van rides but they don’t fly very much in Japan so to have a horse who can handle, not only flying to America, but flying to Dubai and back and then over here,” Hunter said. “If he can give us a solid performance, it will be pretty amazing because that’s real tough on the horse.”
Hunter reported that France Go de Ina settled nicely in his stall at Pimlico. The Kentucky-bred colt, who was purchased for $100,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale, is scheduled to breeze at Pimlico Wednesday.
“He’ll walk the opposite way around the track one lap, then gallop around two laps. We’ll decide how far he’ll breeze on how he shipped in and how far they want to push him, but he’s traveled well,” said Hunter, noting that France Go de Ina will go to the track alone at 10:15 a.m. each day due to quarantine regulations. “He settled good and he’s eating really well. Apparently, he remembers his American oats and is quite happy to have them back.”
France Go de Ina, who will be the first Japan-based horse to run in the Preakness since Lani (fifth in 2016), is likely to school in the starting gate at Pimlico in the hope that he will break more sharply in the Preakness under Joel Rosario than he did in the UAE Derby.
“He didn’t break very well or quickly out of the gate. In Japan, it’s not so much of a big thing because the racing is slower there over the dirt, so he’s been good at regaining ground or taking the lead even in some of those races,” Hunter said. “We’ll probably leave a lot of it up to Rosario at the end of the day, but getting him out of the gate quickly will be a priority. We’re going to work him in the gate and make sure he gets used to having an assistant starter in there, because he’s never had one and we didn’t use one in Dubai and probably should have. But hindsight is 20-20.”
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