2015 News

October 20, 2015


2015 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1) - Preview
2014 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1)

Kyoto Racecourse

Following last Sunday’s Shuka Sho, the Kyoto Racecourse, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, is once again the venue for the final leg of the Triple Crown and the final Classic race of the year, with the 76th running of the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) on Sunday, Oct. 25. There have been seven Triple Crown winners in Japanese racing history, with St.Lite being the first in 1941, and Orfevre the latest in 2011. It’s almost a tragedy that this year, Duramente, having won the first two legs in great style, will not take his place in the lineup due to injury.

The race has attracted 19 nominations, and with Landler having run this past Sunday, the remaining 18 berths would seem automatically assured. The Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winners, together with the first three finishers in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen and the Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai, both official St. Leger trials, can secure their places in the field with no other criteria. Foreign bred colts have been allowed to run since 2010, but this year sees all Japanese breds taking part.

The 3,000-meter start is in the backstretch, and runners take the outer course for a lap and a half, taking in the ascent on the far side of the course, before the downward slope towards the home straight, which on the outer course has a length of 404 meters.  The going is expected to be firm, with little rain expected in the area, although some precipitation would be welcome to take the sting out of the ground. There’s a set weight of 57 kg for all colts, and the prize to the winner is ¥112 million. Five first favorites have won in the last 10 years, the last one being Epiphaneia in 2013. A new race record was set just last year, when Toho Jackal flew home in a time of 3 minutes, 1.1 seconds, indicating just how quick the Kyoto track can be. Post time for the Kikuka Sho will be 3:40 p.m. local time.

Here’s a look at some of the runners in this year’s race:

Kyodo News Service Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) (G3)
Real Steel
Real Steel - From the YoshitoYahagi stable, this Deep Impact colt finished second in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and then followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the Derby. His regular jockey, Yuichi Fukunaga, rates him very highly, and thinks it’s just a matter of time before he wins a big race like the Kikuka Sho. Real Steel runs in the Sunday Racing colours, was bred at Northern Farm, and has only been unplaced once in six starts. Assistant trainer, Yasuhiro Shibuta, recently commented on the colt: “He’s a lot more relaxed these days compared to earlier this year, and has matured within himself. It was a slow pace in the Kobe Shimbun Hai (finishing second), but he ran well, and we were relieved that he did so after his time off. He didn’t show any tiredness after that race, which is also pleasing.”

Kobe Shimbun Hai (Japanese St. Leger Trial) (G2)
Lia Fail
Lia Fail - This colt has burst onto the scene, having had his first six starts on dirt, winning two of them over 1,800 meters, and then most recently leading all the way to win his last two races on turf, the Malaysia Cup at Chukyo over 2,000 meters in August  and most recently beating Real Steel in the Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai over 2,400 meters at Hanshin in September. Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi thinks he could really be something. “In the Kobe Shimbun Hai, he ran the last 1,000 meters in 62.4 seconds. It wasn’t a great pace, and the second and third horses came from out of the middle of the chasing pack. I think there’s still more to come, and because he’s made all the running to win his last two races, we’re not quite sure what his reaction might be when he gets into a real duel. I don’t think there’s a problem regarding his stamina,” the trainer said. Lia Fail has raced three times at Kyoto, but only in dirt races.

Kyoto Shimbun Hai (G2)
Satono Rasen
Satono Rasen - From the stable of Yasutoshi Ikee, Satono Rasen is one of two runners for the trainer in the Kikuka Sho, having done himself proud by winning the Shuka Sho with Mikki Queen. Satono Rasen’s big claim to fame is finishing second to Duramente in the Derby, and the Deep Impact colt has only been unplaced once in eleven starts, and that was on his most recent start in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen. Trainer Ikee said, “It was a slow pace in the St. Lite Kinen, but he managed things well considering. He’s improved since the spring, and while not the finished article, I think his last race was a good preparation for what’s coming next, and I can see him improving more. He had a recent half mile workout and everything went satisfactorily. I’m looking forward to the race.”

Sapporo Nisai Stakes (G3)
Bright Emblem
Bright Emblem - A colt by Neo Universe, he’s having his second run since finishing fourth in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). He will be ridden by jockey Hironobu Tanabe, and runs in the Silk Racing colours. He had two wins as a 2-year-old, over 1,600 and 1,800 meters. Assistant trainer, Takanori Abe, commented on Bright Emblem: “ I don’t think the 3,000 meters is a worry. It’s his second time to be at the Ritto Training Centre, and he’s become a lot more relaxed. Since the spring, he’s grown and matured a lot.” Bright Emblem is coming off a 10th-place finish in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen in September.

Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen (Japanese St. Leger Trial) (G2)
Kitasan Black
Kitasan Black - A powerful looking colt by Black Tide, he never raced as a 2-year-old, but has been all the rage at three. He’s four wins from six starts, usually runs up with the pace, and has only been unplaced once, when finishing 14th in the Derby.  Coming off of a convincing win in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen, he will be ridden by Hiroshi Kitamura. A stable staff for trainer Hisashi Shimizu said: “We weren’t quite sure how he might go in his last race, but he won the St. Lite Kinen, and it’s proof of his improvement to be able to win a Grade 2 race. Not to say we have no worries, but he’s developed the right way, and we’re hoping he’ll be in peak condition on race day.” Kitasan Black’s weight was 532 kg when he won last time, a 12-kg increase from his race before.

Mainichi Hai (G3)
Musee Alien
Musee Alien - A bay colt by Screen Hero, he has two wins from nine starts, both victories coming over 1,800 meters. He was seventh in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and 10th in the Derby, and front-running tactics have been applied recently. He’s coming off of a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen, where he also went off in front. His trainer, Yoichi Kuroiwa, stated, “He was nervous in the St. Lite Kinen, and so sent to the front early. His rhythm is good, and the same as in the spring. I think he’s improving after his break, and he ran better recently than in his previous race. I want him to be relaxed, including at the start, and don’t want him to be rushed into his races.”

Keisei Hai (G3)
Beruf - The other representative of trainer Yasutoshi Ikee’s yard, Beruf is by Harbinger, and is another runner for the Sunday Racing syndicate. The colt has three wins from eight starts, and was second in the Grade 3 Kokura Kinen this summer, before finishing fifth most recently in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen. Trainer Ikee commented on Beruf’s progress, saying, “By the first corner in the St. Lite Kinen, it was clear the pace was going to be slow, and after the final corner he went to the inside and battled on gamely with narrow gaps to go through, and all in all, it wasn’t a bad result. I think he has enough stamina for the 3,000 meters if he can run with his true rhythm.” Beruf won on his only start at Kyoto, over 2,000 meters in his newcomer race.


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