August 1, 2021

Danon Kingly foils Gran Alegria in Breeders’ Cup WAYI Yasuda Kinen

Danon Kingly upsets the Yasuda Kinen (Copyright Japan Racing Association)

Overlooked at 46.60-1, Danon Kingly headed defending champion and 1-2 favorite Gran Alegria on the wire in Sunday’s $2.36 million Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo. The Kiyoshi Hagiwara trainee was earning his first Grade 1 tally as well as a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in the “Win and You’re In” event.

Danon Kingly had gone close at the top level before. Edged in the first two jewels of Japan’s Triple Crown in 2019, the Danox Co. colorbearer was third in a three-way photo in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1) and runner-up by a neck in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1). Danon Kingly was also beaten a couple of necks when third in last season’s Osaka Hai (G1).

Those memories had receded, however, after a couple of unplaced efforts and a layoff. Seventh behind Gran Alegria here a year ago, Danon Kingly raced only once in the interim, trailing home last of 12 in the Nov. 1 Tenno Sho Autumn (G1).

While Danon Kingly was returning from a seven-month absence on Sunday, Gran Alegria was wheeling back on shorter rest than usual. The dual Japanese champion had just completed an historic sweep of Japan’s mile fixtures in the May 16 Victoria Mile (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Perhaps the relatively quick turnaround left her vulnerable to an upset.

That same Victoria Mile-to-Yasuda Kinen gambit proved too much for the great Almond Eye last year, and she was overturned, ironically, by Gran Alegria. Now you might say that the horseshoe was on the other foot as Gran Alegria suffered a shock defeat, albeit by a much narrower margin.

Gran Alegria was unhurried near the back, with Danon Kingly not far ahead of her. Frontrunning Daiwa Cagney maintained his position into the stretch, when pace attendant Taurus Gemini challenged.

But the closers were already beginning to play their hands. Indy Champ, hero of the 2019 Yasuda Kinen and third in 2020, loomed as though to regain his crown. NHK Mile Cup (G1) winner Schnell Meister, the lone sophomore, also joined the fray, and Danon Kingly gradually wound up on the outside.

Yet to make her presence felt was Gran Alegria. Buried in traffic, the favorite weaved a passage and quickened between Indy Champ and Taurus Gemini. Just when it looked like Gran Alegria would snatch the victory in time, she didn’t find quite enough in the final yards.

Danon Kingly lunged to the line and forced his head in front of Gran Alegria. By finishing the metric mile in 1:31.7, he led home an exacta for the late, great sire Deep Impact.

Third-placer Schnell Meister was just a half-length off Gran Alegria, and a neck up on Indy Champ in fourth. Schnell Meister’s result was terrific for a three-year-old versus elders in this prize, suggesting that the German-bred son of Kingman is a budding star in the division.

Taurus Gemini checked in fifth, followed by Cadenas, Danon Premium, Salios, Gibeon, Cadence Call, Daiwa Cagney, Catedral, Karate, and Lauda Sion.

Although Gran Alegria still posted the field-fastest final 600 meters in :32.9, regular rider Christophe Lemaire didn’t sense she was at the top of her game.

“Her response was not the same as in the previous race, and I couldn’t get a good position from the start,” Lemaire said according to Racing Post’s Masakazu Takahashi. “Her breathing seemed to be difficult.

“In the straight her response was slower than usual, but she still ran extremely well to get so close to the winner.”

Danon Kingly reached his peak with new rider Yuga Kawada, whose comments were disseminated by the Japan Racing Association:

‟He felt a bit tense first entering the track but he had good rhythm during the trip and had plenty of horse left. 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’s scorecard stands at 12-6-1-2. The dark bay won his first three starts, including the 2019 Kyodo News Hai (G3), before placing in the classics. Rebounding as the favorite over Aerolithe and Indy Champ in that fall’s Mainichi Okan (G2), Danon Kingly was fifth in the Mile Championship (G1). He opened 2020 with a victory in the Nakayama Kinen (G2), beating Lucky Lilac, who gained revenge in the Osaka Hai. While off form in his two subsequent appearances at four, Danon Kingly was back song here.

Bred on the Deep Impact/Storm Cat cross, Danon Kingly is a half-brother to Grade 3-winning dirt performer Danon Legend. Their dam, My Goodness, is a Storm Cat half-sister to champion West Coast. Danon Kingly’s second dam is champion Caressing, winner of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).