Race favorite Fierement showcased outstanding stayer talent to win the Tenno Sho (Spring) for the second time and is the first since Kitasan Black (2016 – 2017) and fifth in JRA history to claim the title consecutively. The 2018 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m) winner was heavily beaten to 12th in his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1, 2,400m) challenge last season but bounced back to mark a fourth in the year-end Arima Kinen (G1, 2,500m) and this was his first start since. This victory marks trainer Takahisa Tezuka’s sixth JRA-G1 title, his latest was last year’s Tenno Sho (Spring), while jockey Christophe Lemaire has now 29 under his belt—his latest was the February Stakes with Mozu Ascot. Lemaire has already captured the autumn version of the Tenno Sho with Rey de Oro in 2018 and Almond Eye in 2019 which now makes him the first jockey ever to claim four Tenno Sho titles in a row.
Danburite was sent to the front after a smooth break in the backstretch before Kiseki took over the lead the first time in front of the main stands. Under Christophe Lemaire, Fierement was unhurried near the rear, improving his position slightly to settle in the middle of the field which formed a long line up to the last turn. Still seventh heading into the lane right behind Mikki Swallow, Fierement unleashed a spectacular last three-furlong drive, catching You Can Smile in the last 50 meters and digging in well to draw even with Stiffelio right at the wire for a dramatic photo-finish.
“The pace was ideal and I was almost sure it would be an easy win for us, but he wasn’t focused at times, so as it turned out we had to fight hard to the line. But in spite of the long distance and the wide draw, he was unhurried earlier in the race and had the strength left to charge home the way he did—everything went well. I’m thankful to the fans rooting for us at home. I look forward to seeing them in the stands very soon,” commented Christophe Lemaire.
Sent off 11th favorite, six-year-old Stiffelio broke well, sat in second behind Danburite earlier in the race and then third after Kiseki took over to set the pace, but was relaxed letting the two front runners stretch their leads. Entering the straight in the same order, the Stay Gold bay showed a good burst of speed easily taking over the lead by the furlong pole and held off a stubborn challenge by You Can Smile on the rails only to be caught at the wire by the eventual winner.
Mikki Swallow was also unhurried in third to fourth from the rear and on the heels of Fierement. After gradually making headway down the backstretch, the fourth favorite was fifth to hit the straight, fought briefly to hold off the eventual winner but gave way 100 meters out but pinned You Can Smile right before the wire to notch a 2-1/2-length third.
4th: (7) You Can Smile—hugged rails around 6th, ran gamely and tied 2nd fastest over last 3 furlongs, weakened in final strides
5th: (3) Tosen Cambina—broke poorly, trailed in rear, advanced along backstretch, passed tired rivals
6th: (8) Kiseki—tracked leaders, took lead before 1st corner, maintained lead until 200m pole, weakened thereafter
7th: (1) Mozu Bello—settled in 4th along rails, met traffic briefly at early stretch, showed effort until 100m out
8th: (11) Meisho Tengen—was off slow, raced 2nd to 3rd from rear, made headway after 1,200m to go, sustained bid but even paced in last 200m
9th: (4) Danburite—set pace early, chased pace after 1st corner, ran out of steam 200m out
10th: (2) Etario—took economic trip near winner, lacked needed speed after 3rd corner (2nd lap)
11th: (10) Melody Lane—saved ground 2nd from rear, never threatened throughout
12th: (9) Miraieno Tsubasa—hugged rails inside winner early, lacked needed kick after 3rd corner (2nd lap)
13th: (13) Happy Grin—traveled around 5th, outrun after 3rd corner
14th: (12) Shirvanshah—raced around 6th in front of winner, faded after 3rd corner (2nd lap)