Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Ushba Tesoro warmed up for an expected assault on the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) with an easy victory Sept. 25 in the Nippon TV Hai at Funabashi Racecourse.
The race was the first for the 5-year-old son of Orfevre since the March 25 Dubai World Cup. Jockey Yuga Kawada kept things simple in the 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8 mile) race on the dirt.
After getting Ushba Tesoro away cleanly from the No. 4 gate, Kawada settled behind the pacesetting trio and saved ground into the stretch turn. He took the lead easily heading into the stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths in a vigorous hand ride.
Tenkaharu and Suave Aramis were second and third. Mitono O, making his first start since finishing third in the Japan Dirt Derby July 12, was a disappointing sixth in the field of 11. Mitono O won the Fukuryu Stakes, the final leg of the 2023 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, at Nakayama Racecourse March 25.
The Nippon TV Hai is a Listed race on the National Association of Racing circuit, an organization of locally administered tracks catering primarily to dirt racing. Japanese horses from that circuit have found success in major international competition racing on dirt in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and the United States. The renewed emphasis on dirt racing received a boost in 2021 when Marche Lorraine captured the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) at Del Mar off a victory at the NAR's Mombetsu Racecourse.
Like the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Nippon TV Hai was run left-handed, around two turns.
Ushba Tesoro spent most of his career on grass but turned into a monster when trainer Noboru Tagaki switched surfaces in April of 2022. He won his first start at Yokohama Racecourse, finished third in the Radio Nippon Sho (G3), won twice more while taking on tougher rivals, and then won the Tokyo Daishoten (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse to cap the turnaround season.
He prepped for the Dubai trip with a victory in a Listed race at the NAR's Kawasaki Racecourse.
After the Dubai World Cup win, Ushba Tesoro's connections considered him a prospect for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1), one of the few major international races that has eluded Japan. The surface considerations, however, were too compelling and prompted a retargeting to the equally attractive Breeders' Cup Classic in California.
Ushba Tesoro was bred by Chioda Farm Shizunai and is owned by Ryotokuji Kenji Holdings Co. Ltd. His dam, Millefeui Attach, is by King Kamehameha, and traces to the Claiborne Farm blue-hen mare Bourtai. Bourtai's descendants also include Panthalassa, winner of the $20 million 2022 Saudi Cup (G1).
Ushba Tesoro's sire, Orfevre, was a six-time grade 1 winner and finished second in the Arc in both 2012 and 2013. He spent his entire racing career on the grass.