Songline successfully defended her title in Sunday’s Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) that is expected to be on her agenda.
A rare repeat winner of this prestige event for milers, the Sunday Racing Co. colorbearer was also capturing her second straight Breeders’ Cup Challenge event. Songline was coming off a victory in the May 14 Victoria Mile (G1), over the same course and distance, offering a berth in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). But the Mile is the logical port of the call for the mare who made a splash on the international stage in last year’s 1351 Turf Sprint (G3) on Saudi Cup Day.
Trained by Toru Hayashi and ridden by Keita Tosaki, Songline ranked as the 6-1 fourth choice from the far outside post 18. The daughter of Kizuna settled about midway down the field in the early going. Schnell Meister, the 3-1 favorite who placed in the 2021 and 2022 editions, bided his time near the rear.
Meanwhile, the speedy Win Carnelian blasted straight to the front, chased by Jack d’Or and Sodashi, the white champion who was just denied by Songline in the Victoria Mile. As Jack d’Or took over from the weakening Win Carnelian in the stretch, Sodashi was unable to pick up. Dirt star Cafe Pharoah briefly loomed before fading. Then Serifos, hero of last fall’s Mile Championship (G1), dove between Jack d’Or and Sodashi to threaten.
Tosaki was now turning Songline loose. Once given her cue, the dark bay mare lengthened stride and rolled to a 1 1/4-length decision over Serifos. Schnell Meister kicked into overdrive too late. Clocking a field-best final 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :32.8 (compared to Songline’s :33.1), Schnell Meister crossed the wire third, a head away from second.
Gaia Force likewise finished in a swift :33.3 to snatch fourth from Jack d’Or by a neck. Next came Red Mon Reve, Sodashi, Win Carnelian, Soul Rush, Elusive Panther, Matenro Orion, Cafe Pharoah, Danon Scorpion, Champagne Color, Meikei Yell, Namur, Naran Huleg, and Dolce More.
Songline is the first since the celebrated mare Vodka, a two-time Japanese Horse of the Year (2008-09), to win the Yasuda Kinen twice. Yamanin Zephyr (1992-93) is the only male to achieve the feat. Swee Sue (1952-53) won back-to-back in the race’s early years, when it was known as the Yasuda Sho.
“I was able to gallop her last week and felt that her form had improved,” Tosaki said, “so I had every confidence in her today. The position we found was ideal, she responded beautifully and demonstrated her strong turn of foot and speed today. To score two Grade 1 wins in a row is just incredible and I feel she is still steadily progressing.”
The Victoria Mile-Yasuda Kinen double is another rarity, with Vodka (2009) the only other to take both in the same season. Gran Alegria captured the Yasuda Kinen first, toppling the great Almond Eye in 2020, and added the Victoria Mile in 2021.
Songline’s resume reads 15-7-2-1. The near-misser to Schnell Meister in the 2021 NHK Mile Cup (G1) for sophomores here, she was also third in the Sekiya Kinen (G3) before scoring her graded breakthrough in the Fuji (G2) over older males. Songline’s major victories in 2022, on the Saudi Cup undercard and the Yasuda Kinen, marked her out as an exciting prospect for the Breeders’ Cup. A throat issue, however, thwarted her planned trip to Keeneland.
Although Songline resurfaced Feb. 25 in Riyadh with a lackluster 10th as the defending champion in the 1351 Turf Sprint, that brought her on for her spring campaign back home. International racing fans look forward to her taking her game on the road to Santa Anita in November.
Bred by Northern Farm, Songline is out of the Symboli Kris S mare Luminous Parade, a descendant of European mile star Sonic Lady. This is the family of Japanese champion Logi Universe and globetrotting Deirdre.