The Copa Republica Argentina (G2, 2,500 meters), the main race at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday, Nov. 3, went to Muito Obrigado, a 5-year-old son of Rulership back on the track for the first time in over 5 months. Making good on his second-place finish as the favorite last year, Muito Obrigado this year came home in first a full length and a quarter ahead of race fifth pick Taisei Trail, with race favorite African Gold over the line a head later in third place.
Breaking neatly from the No. 7 gate, Muito Obrigado, the race second choice this year, was sent forward under Norihiro Yokoyama and fell in to an easy rhythm in third position 5 lengths behind front-running jump champion Oju Chosan and 3 lengths behind Palingenesis.
The field of 13 spread out down the backstretch, with Oju Chosan slowly losing his lead as Palingenesis and Makoto Galahad advanced on his outside. Rounding into the stretch, Muito Obrigado remained close to the rail and, with two strikes of the whip, stepped into the lead just past the 400-meter mark. Under strong urging, he managed to hold off a drive on his inside by Taisei Trail, with Keita Tosaki up, and the race was Muito Obrigado's from the furlong pole.
"He was able to run the race as I had pictured it," said 51-year-old winning jockey Norihiro Yokoyama, who was partnered with Muito Obrigado for the fourth time. "He has a tendency to lose concentration when he reaches the top but today he didn't lose focus. He gave it everything he had."
Yokoyama, who has won the Copa Republica Argentina on four previous occasions said, "He was a bit headstrong in the spring, had given his groom trouble, and been stubborn with his riders, and that had affected his racing. But, the staff has done a good job of getting him in a better frame of mind and he was an easy ride today. I'm hoping he'll continue on like this."
Lap times had dropped to 12.9-12.7-12.6-12.7-12.4 from 500 meters in and it had hampered Taisei Trail. "The slow pace caused him to tense up in places," Tosaki said of the race runnerup, "but he gained ground well in the stretch and ran a very solid race."
The 4-year-old gelding African Gold, racing under Christophe Lemaire, was held back from the gate about five from the rear and moved up to midfield by the final turn. He made a gallant bid 300 meters out, splitting the ranks between Popocatepetl and Palingenesis, but was full out and unable to gain in the final strides. "He was a bit keen at first," said Lemaire, "but he was able to relax in the backstretch. Still, he was tired out by the last 50 meters."
Look Twice, who was returning for his first race since his record win of the Meguro Kinen (G2, 2,500 meters) on May 26, went to the gate Sunday the third choice and carried the race top weight of 57 kg, 2 kg more than he'd shouldered in the Meguro Kinen. Look Twice finished in fourth place half a length behind African Gold, with ninth choice Trust Kenshin making the board in fifth.
Race fourth pick and Meguro Kinen runnerup Ice Bubble raced at the rear until halfway around the bend. He looked to have made his move too late and was unable to advance up the rail further than for an 11th-place finish.
Muito Obrigado ran under 56 kg and clocked 2 minutes 31.5 seconds over fast turf in the race's 57th running, with a final 3-furlong time of 33.8 seconds. His winner's share of the prize money was 57 million yen.
Winning jockey Norihiro Yokoyama, currently No. 31 in the jockey rankings, picked up his 34th win of 2019 and his fourth graded-stakes victory of the year.
Muito Obrigado, whose name means "Thank you very much" in Portuguese, is based at Ritto and trained by Koichi Tsunoda, a former jockey who opened his stable In March 2011. The win was Tsunoda's first of the Copa Republica Argentina and his second Grade 2 victory in his career as trainer.
Muito Obrigado has tallied his best results at the Tokyo venue. From six starts at the racecourse in Fuchu city, outskirts of Tokyo, he has now won four of them on top of last year's Copa Republica Argentina second-place finish. Sunday's victory, however, was Muito Obrigado's first graded-stakes win in a total seven tries, and came after a 5-month layoff following his fifth-place finish in the Meguro Kinen (G2, 2,500) on May 26.Owned by Ichikawa Yoshimi Holdings, Muito Obrigado is bred by Yoshimi Ichikawa and is out of the Sunday Silence mare Pisa no Graf. The 488-kg bay notched his sixth win from 21 starts and returned 480 yen on a 100-yen ticket to win.