World Premier delivered a smash hit May 2 in the Tenno Sho (Spring, G1) at Hanshin Racecourse, using every meter of the longest grade 1 event on the Japanese racing calendar to win by three-quarters of a length.
The victory capped a long comeback effort for the 5-year-old son of Deep Impact , who had been sidelined by injury for nearly a year before returning to action last fall. With the winners of this season’s major prep races finishing behind him in the Tenno Sho, World Premier soared to the top ranks of the division.
With Yuichi Fukunaga in the irons, World Premier got away a step slowly from the No. 1 gate but quickly established a rail-skimming spot well back of the leaders. He idled there through the bulk of the 3,200 meters (about two miles) before coming out for room eyeing the final sweeping turn of the Hanshin turf layout.
Racing outside rivals, Fukunaga timed the rally perfectly, hitting the lead inside the 100-meter marker with the favorite, Deep Bond, left to finish second. Curren Bouquetd’or and Aristoteles were third and fourth as the betting favorites filled all four top slots on the order of finish.
World Premier, bred by Northern Racing and owned by Ryoi Otsuka, finished in 3:14.7 over turf rated good to firm. Pandemic restrictions again prohibited fans from attending the popular event, also known as the Emperor’s Cup.
“We had a weak start but recovered well with the advantage of breaking from stall No. 1 and kept our eyes on the favorites from behind throughout,” Fukunaga said. “I shifted him outside a little earlier than planned to secure a good striking position. He responded incredibly with a good turn of foot. It’s a great honor to have won such a prestigious race like this.”
It was Fukunaga’s 29th Japan Racing Association grade 1 victory—including a 2020 Triple Crown sweep aboard Contrail—but he had not previously won the Tenno Sho. His father, Yoichi Fukunaga, won the race in 1976.
World Premier had been crying out for the stayers’ distance. After winning the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1) in October of 2019 at 3,000 meters (about 1 7/8 miles), he was unable to finish off his typical closing strike at shorter distances in some of Japan’s biggest races.
In the Nikkei Sho (G2) at Nakayama, his prep for the Tenno Sho, he was on the move through the stretch only to run out of ground, finishing third behind Win Marilyn and Curren Boquetd’or.
Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi indicated before the Tenno Sho he thought the distance would suit his horse.
“I’ve no concerns with the distance, as he’s not a horse that goes through the gears quickly,” the conditioner said. “It should suit him. The wider Hanshin course is also better than the smaller oval at Nakayama. I expect him to come on for his last race, as he’s the type to get better with a run under him.”