2015 News

May 26, 2015


2015 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1) - Preview
Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1)

Tokyo Racecourse

The big day is fast approaching and the countdown is on for one of the biggest races on the Japanese racing calendar. The 82nd Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) will be staged at the Fuchu course next Sunday (May 31), and what a thrilling race is in prospect, as a full field of eighteen colts take on the 2,400 meters on the turf track. The last couple of years have seen crowds of close to 140,000 flock to the Tokyo Racecourse, and another massive crowd is expected on this special day in Japan’s horseracing history.

The race was first run in 1932 at the Meguro Racecourse and was won by a horse named Wakataka. After just two years at Meguro (it’s interesting to search for any old black and white photographs of these times), the race was moved to its current home at Fuchu.There were no races in 1945 and 1946, but since then the Derby has meant so much to people involved in the industry, and just a glance through the list of winners reveals some of the greatest horses that have ever stepped foot on a racecourse in Japan.There have just been seven Triple Crown winners in the history of Japanese racing (Orfevre was the last in 2011), and 22 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) winners have gone on to win the Derby.

The top four finishers in the Satsuki Sho gain automatic entry into the Derby (only Bright Emblem will be absent from this year’s first four home in the race), and the first two home in the TV Tokyo Hai Aoba Sho also get the chance to join the Derby field. There are 26 nominations for this year’s Derby, and competition is tough for the eighteen slots. The race was opened up to foreign bred horses in 2001. Only three fillies have ever won the race (the last was Vodka in 2007), and that’s the way it’ll stay this year with an all boy line-up.

The 2,400 meters at Tokyo is just over one circuit of the course, and the runners have to combine footwork through four corners with the free running backstretch and long home straight, both of which have gradients to give a true test of a 3-year-old colt’s ability. There’s a staggering 200 million yen paycheck waiting for the winner. The record time is 2 minutes, 23.3 seconds, shared by King Kamehameha in 2004, and Deep Impact in 2005. The weights are set at 57kgs, and the race is 10th on Sunday’s card, with a post time of 3:40pm.

In the last ten years, five first favourites have won (Kizuna was the last in 2013), and gate number one has thrown up four winners and one second, and in general, gate numbers one to eight have a better top three finish ratio than gate numbers nine to eighteen.

Here’s a look at some of the runners in the 2015 Derby:

Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1)

Duramente: The strong headed colt by King Kamehameha is sure to be a warm order for Sunday’s race after winning the Satsuki Sho in somewhat interesting circumstances.In that race, on turning for home, the horse veered away from its inside position before finally straightening up and leaving the rest of the field flat-footed in the Nakayama home straight. It cost jockey Mirco Demuro a short suspension, but the only foreign jockey to win the Derby (Neo Universe in 2003) is more than happy to take up the challenge with a horse like Duramente, believing he has another Neo Universe on his hands. Trainer Noriyuki Hori’s quirky star provided him with his first Classic title in the Satsuki Sho, and there could easily be more to come. Duramente is three wins and two seconds from five starts, and has raced at Tokyo twice this year. His gate tests have gone OK, but stable staff still admit he’s not ‘completely under control’. Duramente recently put in a piece of work at the Miho Training Center, covering five furlongs in 70.5 seconds, with a three furlong time of 39.6 seconds, posting a final furlong time of 12.6 seconds. All eyes will be on this fascinating character on Sunday.

Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas Trial) (G2)
Satono Crown

Satono Crown: Also from the stable of Noriyuki Hori, Satono Crown has done very little wrong, being unbeaten up until his sixth in the Satsuki Sho, where he found himself wide on the final turn and a lot to do in the short home straight at Nakayama. The Northern Racing bred colt by Marju will once again be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, looking for his sixth Grade 1 in Japan, and his first since acquiring a full time JRA license. In recent work at Miho, Satono Crown clocked similar times to Duramente, with the stable wanting to keep a bit in reserve with him, feeling that he perhaps did a bit too much prior to his last race. Satono Crown won his first two career starts, both at Tokyo over 1,800 meters. Going into the Derby with a couple of horses like this, trainer Hori would seem to have a couple of gifts from the gods.

Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes (Japanese 2,000 Guineas Trial) (G2)
Kitasan Black

Kitasan Black: A colt by Black Tide who didn’t run as a 2-year-old, but burst onto the scene just this year when he won on his debut at Tokyo in January over 1,800 meters, leading connections to quickly consider a racing rotation which would put him on a path to the Derby. He won over 2,000 meters at Tokyo three starts ago, and ran second for most of the way in the Satsuki Sho, before finally settling for third behind Duramente.The big striding colt is trained by Hisashi Shimizu, looks suited to the Derby trip, and will have his regular jockey, Hiroshi Kitamura, back with him, bidding for more rewards to add to his 94 million yen in prize money to date.

Kyodo News Service Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) (G3)
Real Steel

Real Steel: After the Satsuki Sho, Real Steel was sent to Northern Farm Shigaraki for a break, and returned to the Ritto Training Center on May 9. The Yoshito Yahagi trained colt worked well last week in tandem with stablemate Kyoei Basara, and all seemed well with the son of Deep Impact on his return to training, with no worries at all. Real Steel is two wins and two seconds from four starts, and beat Duramente over 1,800 meters at Tokyo this February. He will be ridden by Yuichi Fukunaga, who has great faith in this colt’s ability, and it might just be possible that Real Steel can give Japan’s current leading rider his first taste of Derby success.

Porte d'Auteuil

Porte d’Auteuil: The likely ride of five time Derby winning jockey, Yutaka Take, Porte d’Auteuil is coming off a second place finish in the Grade 2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai over 2,200 meters on May 9. He just lost by 1/2 length that day, but was never going any better than at the finish, and since then, Take has had the Derby in mind for this horse.His comments on the Deep Impact colt are: “There’s plenty of room for improvement with him and he’ll certainly get better.” Will it be a sixth Derby victory for the Japanese legend aboard the Tomokazu Takano trained Porte d’Auteuil?

Kyoto Shimbun Hai (G2)
Satono Rasen

Satono Rasen: Another Deep Impact colt from the stable of Yasutoshi Ikee, who masterminded the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) win last week with Mikki Queen. Satono Rasen is three wins from nine starts, and has always finished in the first three. His most recent win was in the Grade 2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai, when he was sent off second favourite and always kept in a handy position throughout the race. All his wins have come as a 3-year-old, and on his only run at Tokyo, he finished second over 2,000 meters in February. The Northern Racing bred colt may be the Derby ride of jockey Yasunari Iwata.

Adam's Bridge

Adam’s Bridge: The lightly raced colt by Zenno Rob Roy is two wins from three starts, and will be having his first run at Tokyo this Sunday. His two wins came over 2,000 meters, and jockey Ryuji Wada holds him in high regard. After a recent piece of work at the Ritto Training Center, where he clocked four furlongs in 55.0 seconds, 39.6 seconds for three furlongs and a final furlong time of 12.8 seconds, Wada said, “He’s feeling stronger, and different from his last race,” when he finished third over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in March.

TV Tokyo Hai Aoba Sho (Japanese Derby Trial) (G2)
Reve Mistral

Reve Mistral: This would be a dream come true if trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda could win his first Derby in what is his last year as a trainer, and it would surely lift the roof off the Tokyo grandstand if Reve Mistral were to carry off the honours. The colt runs in the Sunday Racing colours and is coming off a win over 2,400 meters at Tokyo in the Grade 2 TV Tokyo Hai Aoba Sho, a recognized Derby trial. Reve Mistral is a half brother to 2010 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies winner, Reve d’Essor. He’s won his last three races, and jockey Yuga Kawada will be trying his best for the charismatic trainer, more known for winning big races with fillies. Another hurdle is that in 21 runnings of the Aoba Sho, winners of that trial race have finished second in the Derby six times but produced no winner.


Komet: Trained by Minoru Tsuchida, Komet finished tenth in his last race, the Satsuki Sho, and eighth in his previous run, behind Duramente and Satono Crown respectively.The colt is a good starter and consistent on that point, making his move early, but encounters problems when the speed suddenly goes on in the final stages. It could prove a tough race for Komet.

These are just some of the runners nominated for the 82nd Derby, and final declarations will be available later in the week.

Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) related contents