Photo: Yuji Noda
Gentildonna completed her preparations for a second attack on the Dubai Sheema Classic in Sunday's Kyoto Kinen, but the result was not as encouraging as connections may have hoped.
The two-time Japan Cup winner seemingly settled comfortably behind the front end pace, but Gentildonna struggled to pick up in the home straight and, despite battling on well in the closing stages, the five year old mare could finish no better than sixth.
"She couldn't run her race today," said jockey Yuichi Fukunga, who was riding Gentildonna in public for the first time due to the likely unavailability of Ryan Moore for the Dubai Sheema Classic. "Before the starting gates opened she ducked under the barrier, then I had to get her relaxed but couldn't feel her power when we rounded the home turn."
Gentildonna - photo Yuji Noda
Best known for riding Just A Way when defeating Gentildonna in last season's Tenno Sho (Autumn), Fukunga figures to keep the ride on Gentildonna in the Dubai Sheema Classic, a race in which she will face a match up against some of the world's best twelve furlongs turf stars as well as a rematch with last season's Japan Cup second placed finisher, Denim and Ruby.
The race today was won in impressive front running style by Akio Adachi's Desperado, whom injected a strong burst of pace into the race rounding the home turn to ensure that he would repel the outstanding late charge of the second favourite, Tosen Ra.
Desperado was last seen finishing seventh behind Orfevre in the GI Arima Kinen, and benefited from a clever ride by Norihiro Yokoyama in getting the often strong-pulling Desperado to settle at the head of affairs. In doing so, Yokoyama ensured that Desperado had enough to repel the strong stretch run by Tosen Ra and claim his first Grade I victory.
Desperado will now head to the Spring feature of the Japanese racing calendar, the Tenno Sho (Spring), whilst the strong finishing Tosen Ra will head to the Yasuda Kinen over the mile distance.