05/01/2009 12:00AM

Asakusa Kings looks formidable


At $2.6 million, the richest race in the world this Kentucky Derby weekend is Sunday's Grade 1 Spring Tenno Sho at Kyoto, a competitive if not outstanding renewal of the two-mile contest also known as the Emperor's Cup.

On paper, Asakusa Kings need only repeat his March 22 victory in the 1 7/8-mile, Grade 2 Hanshin Daishoten to land this valuable prize. The 5-year-old Asakusa Kings has also won the 1 3/8-mile, Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen this year, but in November he was only eighth in the Japan Cup behind Screen Hero.

Screen Hero, however, was only fourth in the Hanshin Daishoten and is a question mark at the distance. More dangerous is Hikaru Kazubue, a lightly raced 4-year-old son of Jungle Pocket who was second by a nose to Asakusa Kings in the Hanshin Daishoten.

The 5-year-old Jaguar Mail is another lightly campaigned son of Jungle Pocket eligible to improve off his third, beaten only a head, to Doctor Dino and Purple Moon in the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase on Dec. 14, but he is untested at the distance. Dream Journey beat Deep Sky by a neck in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 2 Osaka Hai on April 5 but is still another who may find the two miles of the Tenno Sho a little too long.