A son of turf phenom Frankel and Grade 2-winning dirt performer India, Mozu Ascot has inherited his parents’ aptitudes to become a rare top-level winner on both surfaces at Tokyo. The hero of Japan’s marquee turf mile, the Yasuda Kinen (G1) in 2018, dominated Sunday’s February S. (G1) on dirt to earn a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Trainer Yoshito Yahagi told Racing Post that the Breeders’ Cup is on the agenda, but that the Kentucky-bred would stick to his preferred trip in the Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland. First comes an Australian venture back on turf for the April 4 Doncaster Mile (G1) during The Championships at Randwick.
Mozu Ascot was “still just a kid,” to use Yahagi’s phrase, when he scored his first stakes victory in the Yasuda Kinen in stakes record-equaling time of 1:31.30. Capital System Co.’s chestnut hadn’t won since until switching to dirt last time in the Feb. 2 Negishi (G3), when he responded to floor the favorite, Copano Kicking.
Bettors backed Mozu Ascot to make it two straight in the February, and the 9-5 favorite was even more impressive. Breaking alertly from post 12 with Christophe Lemaire, he was content to ease back to midpack, angle in, and save his energy for the finish.
Wide Pharaoh (no relation to American Pharoah) flashed speed, pressed to his inside by Arctos who took the lead in the stretch. Time Flyer was the first to pounce on the early leaders, but Mozu Ascot was the one making eye-catching progress behind him.
Zooming around to the outside with the responsiveness of a sports car, Mozu Ascot cleared away in a few strides and crossed the wire a handy 2 1/2-length winner. The 6-year-old sped the metric mile in 1:35.20 – 2.5 seconds faster than unbeaten Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Cafe Pharoah in the Hyacinth.
K T Brave, the longest shot on the board at 142-1, rallied for second. Sunrise Nova posted the fastest final three furlongs in :35.3 to snatch third from Wonder Lider. Time Flyer was relegated to fifth. Next came King’s Guard; Mogiana Flavor; the 2018 February winner, Nonkono Yume; Arctos; Vengeance; Mutually; Wide Pharaoh; Bulldog Boss; defending February champion Inti, who was in striking range early but retreated down the lane; Derma Louvre; and Mikki Wild.
It must be pointed out that this renewal was missing two key performers – Japan’s reigning champion dirt horse Chrysoberyl and Gold Dream, the 2017 February winner and neck second the past two years – both chasing Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup. Nevertheless, Mozu Ascot turned in a dynamic performance to improve his record to 21-7-5-0.
“He broke well and we were able to settle right behind Inti as planned,” said Lemaire, who rode six winners on the card. “His acceleration was extraordinary. Although he is a newcomer in dirt racing, he adapted immediately to the surface and gave his best today. After a couple of seconds in the past, I myself, am happy to have won the February Stakes at last.”
According to the JRA, Mozu Ascot is the fifth horse to score Grade 1s on turf and dirt. But only Agnes Digital, winner of multiple majors on both surfaces, had managed to turn the February/Yasuda Kinen double (in 2002 and 2003, respectively). Other Japanese stars to achieve the dual-surface Grade 1 feat are Kurofune (2001 NHK Mile and Japan Cup Dirt), Eagle Cafe (2000 NHK Mile and 2002 Japan Cup Dirt), and Admire Don (2001 Asahi Hai Futurity and 2004 February).
Mozu Ascot could be the start of a banner week for breeder Summer Wind Farm, also responsible for McKinzie in the Saudi Cup. A $275,000 RNA at Keeneland September, Mozu Ascot is a half-brother to stakes-winning dirt sprinter Kareena. Their dam, the Hennessy mare India, scored her signature win in the 2006 Cotillion (G2). This is the immediate family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire and sire To Honor and Serve, and further back, Canadian turf champ Rahy’s Attorney along with mother/daughter turf stars Memories of Silver and Winter Memories.