The Sprinters Stakes (G1, 1,200m), the first G1 event of the fall, will take place at Nakayama on September 30. The race, which has attracted many foreign contenders over the years, will welcome Hong Kong’s Lucky Bubbles (AUS, G7, by Sebring) this year. The 2017 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1, 1,200m) champion will face defending champion Red Falx (JPN, H7, by Swept Overboard), who will be aiming at an unprecedented third consecutive title. However, the son of Swept Overboard (USA, by End Sweep) has been struggling after finishing third in his seven-year-old kick-off start, the Hankyu Hai (G3, 1,400m) and then eighth and ninth his next two starts – the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1, 1,200m) and the Yasuda Kinen, respectively.
Fine Needle (JPN, H5, by Admire Moon), winner of the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March, was fourth in his first overseas challenge, the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, and then took a break upon his return to Japan. He bounced back to form to win his comeback in the last leg of the Summer Sprint Series, the Centaur Stakes (G2, 1,200m) on September 9, looking well poised for a sprint G1 double.
Seiun Kosei (JPN, H5, by Admire Moon), winless in seven starts after a victory in the 2017 Takamatsunomiya Kinen, captured his second grade-race title in the first leg of the Summer Sprint Series, the Hakodate Sprint Stakes (G3, 1,200m), on June 17. The Summer Sprint Series champion Ares Barows (JPN, H6, by Deep Impact) won the CBC Sho (G3, 1,200m) on July 1 and the Kitakyushu Kinen (G3, 1,200m) on August 19. Daimei Princess (JPN, M5, by King Halo) won the Ibis Summer Dash (G3, 1,000m) on July 29, while Nac Venus (JPN, M5, by Daiwa Major) won the Keeneland Cup (G3, 1,200m) on August 26 to go along with a third-place finish in this year's Takamatsunomiya Kinen.
The Sprinters Stakes lineup will also include Let's Go Donki (JPN, M6, by King Kamehameha), who is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Keeneland Cup and three strong runner-up efforts in her past JRA sprint G1 events.
Among those aiming for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on November 11, several four-year-olds or older will be running in the Fuchu Himba Stakes (G2, 1,800m) on October 13, including 2017 Queen Elizabeth II Cup champion Mozu Katchan (JPN, F4, by Harbinger). The Harbinger (GB, by Dansili) filly was sixth in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March and is coming off a third-place finish in the Sapporo Kinen. Crocosmia (JPN, M5, by Stay Gold), who came in second as an outsider in the 2017 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, was eighth in the Sapporo Kinen. Two others will also head for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup after the Fuchu Himba Stakes. Lys Gracieux (JPN, F4, by Heart's Cry) was a runner-up in four G1 starts including the Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) in May and Soul Stirring (JPN, F4, by Frankel) has been 10th, seventh and third in races against fillies and mares this year after finishing seventh in the 2017 Japan Cup.
2017 Shuka Sho winner Deirdre (JPN, F4, by Harbinger) was third in the Dubai Turf and then won her first start back in Japan, the Queen Stakes (G3, 1,800m) on July 29. After starting in the Fuchu Himba Stakes, she is expected to run in the Hong Kong Cup (G1, 2,000m) in December. Following the Fuchu Himba Stakes, Admire Lead (JPN, M5, by Stay Gold) and Jour Polaire (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact), Victoria Mile winners in 2017 and 2018, respectively, will step down to a mile for the Mile Championship on November 18. Red Avancer (JPN, M5, by Deep Impact), third-place finisher in the Victoria Mile, is expected to aim for the Mile Championship after the Fuji Stakes (G3, 1,600m) on October 20.
Persian Knight (JPN, C4, by Harbinger) will attempt to defend his Mile Championship title after returning this fall in the Fuji Stakes. The Harbinger colt, who also proved effective at middle distances with runner-up efforts in two G1 starts at 2,000 meters – the 2017 Satsuki Sho and the 2018 Osaka Hai – was sixth in the Yasuda Kinen but is expected to stick to the mile this fall.
Yasuda Kinen victor Mozu Ascot (USA, C4, by Frankel) will head for the Mile Championship via the Swan Stakes (G2, 1,400m) on October 27, and then face international competition in the Hong Kong Mile. Keiai Nautique (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), who bested the three-year-olds in the NHK Mile Cup (G1, 1,600m), will face his seniors for the first time this fall in the Mainichi Okan, after which his connections will decide whether to step up in distance or stay at a mile. 2017 NHK Mile Cup victor Aerolithe (JPN, F4, by Kurofune), who finished second in the Yasuda Kinen this spring, has options including the Tenno Sho (Autumn), the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and the Mile Championship, depending on the outcome of her next start, the Mainichi Okan.
Dirt racing continues to center around Gold Dream (JPN, H5, by Gold Allure), winner of last year's February Stakes (G1, dirt, 1,600m) and Champions Cup (G1, dirt, 1,800m). The 2017 Best Dirt Horse was just a neck short of a consecutive victory in this year's February Stakes but went on to back-to-back wins in the Kashiwa Kinen (dirt, 1,600m) and the Teio Sho (dirt, 2,000m). The son of Gold Allure (JPN, by Sunday Silence) has improved in rounding turns more tightly, which has enhanced his ability to win on various tracks. Nonkono Yume (JPN, G6, by Twining), who beat Gold Dream in this year's February Stakes, was fourth to the same foe in the Kashiwa Kinen. Both horses will meet again in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai (dirt, 1,600m) on October 8. Meanwhile, Champions Cup runner-up T M Jinsoku (JPN, H6, by Kurofune) kicked off this season with a wire-to-wire victory in the Tokai Stakes (G2, dirt, 1,800m) but was heavily beaten to 12th in the February Stakes, and then struggled to sixth in his following two starts. The son of Kurofune (USA, by French Deputy) is hoped to bounce back to form in his fall debut, the Nippon TV Hai (dirt, 1,800m) on October 3.
Among other top finishers in the 2017 Champions Cup, third-place finisher Copano Rickey (JPN, by Gold Allure) concluded his stellar career with a victory in the Tokyo Daishoten (G1, dirt, 2,000m). Fourth place K T Brave (JPN, H5, by Admire Max) was third in the Tokyo Daishoten and kicked off his five-year-old campaign with a victory in the Kawasaki Kinen (dirt, 2,100m) but found the mile distance in the February Stakes too short for his liking and disappointed to 11th. He bounced back to win his next Diolite Kinen (dirt, 2,400m), and then followed up with a runner-up effort in the Teio Sho. He will make his fall comeback in the Nippon TV Hai. Fifth-place Awardee (USA, by Jungle Pocket) died from an accident after being turned out to pasture in August. The 2016 Champions Cup winner Sound True (JPN, G8, by French Deputy), who disappointed to 11th in the 2017 edition of the race, regained form to finish runner-up in his next race, the Tokyo Daishoten, and has been strong this season, finishing third in the Teio Sho in June.
Le Vent Se Leve (JPN, C3, by Symboli Kris S), the standout among the three-year-olds on dirt, has registered five wins – including the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun (dirt, 1,600m), the Unicorn Stakes (G3, dirt, 1,600m) and the Japan Dirt Derby (dirt, 2,000m) – and a second out of six career starts. He will be facing his seniors for the first time in the Mile Championship Nambu Hai.
While the majority of grade races held by the JRA is on turf, racing on National Association of Racing (NAR; local public racing) tracks is mainly on dirt. Many of the big dirt events are held at regional tracks, including the JBC, which is a championship festival with three G1 events – the JBC Classic (dirt, 1,900m), JBC Sprint (dirt, 1,200m) and JBC Ladies' Classic (dirt, 1,800m) – which are held on a single day and hosted by different tracks year to year. This year, to help popularize JBC and dirt racing among a broader range of fans, the event will be hosted by the JRA for the first time and held at Kyoto Racecourse on November 4.
Steeplechase racing has been dominated by 2016-17 Best Steeplechase Horse Oju Chosan (JPN, H7, by Stay Gold) in recent years. The son of Stay Gold (JPN, by Sunday Silence) not only accomplished a third consecutive victory in the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) in April, he also demonstrated his speed on the flat in July by winning the Kaiseizan Tokubetsu (2,600m), his third career start on the flat. The steeplechaser-turned-flat runner was invited to the G1 Prix du Cadran (4,000m) in France but decided to test his strength against the best in the year-end Arima Kinen.
Meanwhile, 2015 Best Steeplechase Horse Up to Date (JPN, H8, by Kurofune), after later being dethroned by Oju Chosan, is working his way back to the top now that his nemesis has moved on to flat racing. The son of Kurofune was runner-up to Yokagura (JPN, G5, by Harbinger) in the Kokura Summer Jump (J-G3, 3,390m) in July and then claimed the following Hanshin Jump Stakes (J-G3, 3,140m) on September 15.