Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1) - Preview
Ask Victor More
Piece of Eight
It is one of the biggest races of the year in Japan, and this coming Sunday (May 29) Tokyo Racecourse is once again the venue for the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), making it the fourth consecutive week of Grade 1 action at the track. The race is the second leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, and as usual a truly competitive field will be taking on the race.
The first ever Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) was run in 1932 at the Meguro Racecourse, and the running of the Grade 2 Meguro Kinen on the same day as the Derby now commemorates those early years of the race. There have just been eight Triple Crown winners in the history of Japanese racing, and the last horse to achieve the feat was Contrail in 2020. The Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) is the first leg of the colts’ Triple Crown, and is run earlier in the spring. A total of 24 winners of the first colts’ Classic have gone on to capture the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby).
There are 22 nominations (no fillies have been nominated) for the big race this year, including Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) winner Geoglyph. The race is run over 2,400 meters on the turf track, and all colts (no geldings are permitted to run in the race) carry a set weight of 57kg. The last 10 years have seen the race run on good to firm ground, and despite the favorable conditions, only three first favorites have managed to win in that time period. Shahryar was sent off the fourth in the betting last year, when he just got up to win by the shortest of margins. He renewed the race record time in the process, stopping the clock in 2 minutes, 22.5 seconds. Total prize money for this year’s race amounts to JPY432 million, with JPY200 million (about USD2 million) going to the winner.
As well as the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), other races leading up to this Sunday’s showpiece have included the Grade 2 TV Tokyo Hai Aoba Sho (an official Derby trial) run over 2,400 meters at Tokyo in April, and the Grade 2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai, run over 2,200 meters at Chukyo in May.
Post time for the 89th running of the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) is 15:40 here in Japan, and the big race is Race 11 on the Sunday card at Tokyo. Final declarations and the barrier draw will come out later this week.
Here is a look at some of the runners taking on the race:
Geoglyph: Trainer Tetsuya Kimura has a strong hand in the race, and there might not be too much to choose between Geoglyph and Equinox, the two of them having finished first and second in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) last time. Geoglyph has three wins from five career starts, but the big question now is whether he can see out an extra 400 meters in this next race. “Everything went smoothly in his last race, from getting a good start and an early position, right up to his finish at the end of the race,” assistant trainer Yu Ota said. “The jockey deserves credit for that. We will just have to see about the extra distance this time.”
Equinox: The son of Kitasan Black has only had three starts so far, but he has looked quite impressive, scoring two wins and a second, the latter coming in his only race this year. Assistant trainer Yu Ota commented: “He was coming off a spell last time and going straight into a Grade 1, but he got into the race well and maintained things right up until the finish. He came out of that race well and has had a break at the farm. I think returning to the Tokyo course for this next race, and the extra distance, will be fine for him.” Equinox will be ridden by jockey Christophe Lemaire, who’s bidding for a Classic double, after his win in last Sunday’s Japanese Oaks.
Do Deuce: The Heart’s Cry colt displayed some of his early talent when winning the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes over a mile at Hanshin late last year. He had to settle for third last time in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) over 2,000 meters at Nakayama in April, but he looks the kind of horse that can only progress. Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said, “It was always going to be difficult for him to win in the Satsuki Sho, racing from the rear, but he still ran a strong race and did his best. He recovered a lot quicker after the race than he did after the Yayoi Sho, and he’s been back in work and training well.”
Danon Beluga: Trainer Noriyuki Hori and jockey Yuga Kawada team up here with Danon Beluga, another colt by Heart’s Cry, who’s coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). He has won both his other races, and what’s more they were at Tokyo, so it’s looking as if he can run a big race this time too. “He recovered quite well from his last race and ate up well, but a few weeks ago there was still some looseness in his hindquarters and his balance was a bit off,” trainer Hori commented. “He has gradually improved regarding these things, and at this stage before the race, he’s looking good.”
Ask Victor More: It is three wins from six starts for the Deep Impact colt, and with the latter’s record in the race as a sire, Ask Victor More would have a good chance on that statistic alone. His trainer, Yasuhito Tamura, said, “When he returned from the farm earlier this month, he wasn’t quite as unruly as he had been before on his return from a break. Consequently, he’s since been easier to ride, and that’s a good starting point as this next race approaches.”
Killer Ability: After winning last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes over 2,000 meters at Nakayama last December, big things were expected of the colt this year, but in just one run in 2022, he finished in thirteenth in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) at Nakayama in April. Trainer Takashi Saito believes that he can do better than that. He recently said: “He needed to take a step or two up to prove himself in the Satsuki Sho, but things didn’t quite go his way. He didn’t start so well, and when he got his position, he took the bit, and had to race on the inside where the ground wasn’t so good, therefore his performance wasn’t so smooth.”
Pradaria: Always in the Top 2 from his four starts, which have included two wins, the colt by Deep Impact certainly looks to be another one to take seriously. He is coming off a win in the TV Tokyo Hai Aoba Sho at Tokyo in April, an official Derby trial run over the course and distance of this Sunday’s big race. “Since his return to the stable, we’ve gradually been getting him back in work, bearing in mind there hasn’t been long between races,” trainer Manabu Ikezoe said. “He has been quite relaxed working uphill, at a time when there have been plenty of other horses around on the training track.”
Piece of Eight: The unbeaten colt by Screen Hero has the task of seeing out an extra 600 meters this time, as all his wins have come over 1,800 meters, including most recently, when he led all the way to win the Grade 3 Mainichi Hai at Hanshin in March. While it might be a tough ask to lead all the way in the Derby, trainer Yutaka Okumura was nonetheless pleased with the horse’s last performance. “The jockey decided to force the pace last time and it was a gutsy performance from the horse in just his third race. I think it shows how well he’s developing, and it’s a real plus that he’s been able to show his best each time so far, however a race is run,” the trainer commented.
Seiun Hades: Likely to go off at big odds, the colt by Silver State is entitled to take his chance here, after winning another official Derby trial, the Listed Principal Stakes at Tokyo over 2,000 meters early in May. That gave him his second career win from five starts, and the latest win at Tokyo proves there shouldn’t be a problem with him handling the track. “I was a bit worried about how he might do taking the final turn and running on down the straight last time, but he did very well and won,” trainer Shinsuke Hashiguchi said. “He is still a young horse, but gradually he’s learning what to do.”