2023 News

April 11, 2023


Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1) - Preview
Keisei Hai (G3)
Sol Oriens

Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) (Japanese 2000 Guineas Trial) (G2)

Kisaragi Sho (NHK Sho) (G3)

Kyodo News Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) (G3)
Phantom Thief

Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes (Japanese 2000 Guineas Trial) (G2)
Bellagio Opera

Touch Wood
Touch Wood

Top Knife
Top Knife

Danon Touchdown
Danon Touchdown

Following on from the fillies last week, with a thrilling win for Liberty Island, this coming Sunday (April 16) sees the first colts’ Classic of the year, the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), to be run at Nakayama Racecourse over 2,000 meters on the inner turf course. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown races for 3-year-old colts, and 24 winners of the race have gone on to win the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) that comes up later in May.

First run in 1939 at Yokohama Racecourse, the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) was transferred to Tokyo Racecourse four years later, when it also took on its current name. It was moved to Nakayama in 1949, and in 1950 the distance became 2,000 meters after originally being run over 1,850 meters.

There are 20 colts (no geldings are permitted to run) nominated for this Sunday’s big race, and the maximum field is set at 18 runners. Packed with emerging talent from some of Japan’s current top sires, at this point, no one horse in particular stands out above the others, but come Sunday a different picture may emerge. The race hasn’t been too kind to first favorites in the last 10 years, with just three of them winning, and Contrail was the last one to win in 2020. Nineteen horses in history have emerged the winner of the race when going into it undefeated.

Two official Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) trial races have been the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) run over 2,000 meters at Nakayama, and the Grade 2 Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes run over 1,800 meters at Nakayama, with both races being run in March. The first three home in each of those races receive automatic entry to Sunday’s race, and all six of those horses are expected to be in the line-up this week.

Weights are set at 57kg for all the runners, and this year’s winner’s check is JPY200 million (in the region of USD1.5 million). Record time for the race was set in 2017, when Al Ain won in a time of 1 minute, 57.8 seconds.

The 83rd running of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Nakayama, with a post time locally of 15:40. Final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.

Here is a look at some of the runners expected to take on the race:

Sol Oriens: The son of Kitasan Black is unbeaten in two starts, and he’s coming off a good win in the Grade 3 Keisei Hai at Nakayama over the same distance as the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). Trainer Takahisa Tezuka is pleased enough with the colt’s progress. “I thought he won well last time when angled to the outside, and despite going very wide, he did better than I thought to go on and win. He went to the farm after that race, but since returning to the stable, things have been as expected with him, and he’s been training well, especially when the pace has picked up. He’s become a lot better at knowing when to take the bit,” said the trainer. Jockey Takeshi Yokoyama is expected to ride the horse again after guiding him to victory last time.

Tastiera: Trained by Noriyuki Hori, Tastiera is by Satono Crown, a two-time Grade 1 winner, and looks to be a good colt in the making. He won the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) and now steps up for this Grade 1 race. The trainer said: “Things have been quite relaxed with him, although he recently weighed 477kg and he doesn’t seem to eat all his food, so his weight might not return to what it was before his last race. Using a noseband and cheekpieces, he’s been moving his head around less, and jockey Kohei Matsuyama is able to get more out of him in training.” Tastiera currently has two wins from his three career starts.

Hrimfaxi: One of two likely runners for trainer Naosuke Sugai, Hrimfaxi is by Rulership and has now chalked up three straight wins, with the latest being the Grade 3 Kisaragi Sho over 2,000 meters at Chukyo in February. Recent comments from the trainer were: “He has a lot of speed and has shown what he can do in his races, but the jockey’s been patient with him and has taught the horse a lot in his latest wins. There’s no doubt the horse has plenty of ability.” Adding to that ability will be the services of Australian jockey Damian Lane, who has been booked for the ride on Hrimfaxi, a half-brother to Deirdre.

Phantom Thief: In last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, Phantom Thief finished fourth, but he has won his other three races, including his latest in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai over 1,800 meters at Tokyo in February. Assistant trainer Takayuki Nagi said: “It was a good win last time, and he has been moving well in training since. He stumbled at the start of the Hopeful Stakes, which was at the same track as this race, but if things go smoothly for him, he has the ability to run well in a Grade 1.” Christophe Lemaire will ride the son of Harbinger after winning on him last time, and is looking to win the race for the second time after his victory on Saturnalia in 2019.

Bellagio Opera: Hailing from a stable in form, but yet to have a Grade 1 winner, Bellagio Opera promoted his status last time when winning the Grade 2 Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes over 1,800 meters at Nakayama in March. Trainer Hiroyuki Uemura commented on his improving runner: “He’s still a bit loose, despite his three wins, but last time was the best he’d been in a race. It was a big win, I thought. He has good racing sense and is easy to control, and it’s good that he’s been able to win at different tracks.” Bellagio Opera is by Lord Kanaloa, and jockey Hironobu Tanabe gets the ride this time.

Shonan Bashitto: Another probable runner for trainer Naosuke Sugai, Shonan Bashitto was an expensive purchase at the 2021 Select Sale, but has started to show that he might be worthy of his price tag. Trainer Sugai recently said: “He’s not the easiest horse to ride, but the jockey did well last time, and despite it being a narrow win, it was a good one all the same. He might not have had enough prize money after the Sumire Stakes two starts ago, but winning last time has overcome that. The horse can still improve from now.” The son of Silver State will be ridden by Mirco Demuro.

Touch Wood: The Take brothers combine once again this week when they team up for a shot at a big prize with this son of Duramente. The colt has just had the two starts, winning on his debut as a 2-year-old, and then finishing second to Phantom Thief in one start this year, the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai in February. Trainer Koshiro Take stated: “He can be difficult at the gate, so we’ve had him return to the stable early to work on this. It’s also given extra time to adjust him to things before the race, and he’s come along as I would have expected. The warmer weather is another plus for him.” The trainer is looking for his first Grade 1 win.

Top Knife: The colt by Declaration of War has been quite a model of consistency so far, although he has just had to settle for second-place finishes in his last three races, the latest of which was the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen). Assistant trainer Masaki Kon commented: “He’s been at the stable since his last race. There’s still some looseness in his hindquarters, but, overall, he seems more balanced and he’s put on some muscle, together with being more relaxed.” Regular rider Norihiro Yokoyama is looking for his first Grade1 victory since winning on Ange Desir in the same colors in the JBC Ladies’ Classic in 2018.

Danon Touchdown: Another colt by Lord Kanaloa, and a half-brother to Danon the Kid, Danon Touchdown will be having his first run of the year here. He was last seen finishing second in the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes at the end of last year over a mile at Hanshin. Comments from assistant trainer Keiichiro Yasuda were: “He was still quite green when he ran as a 2-year-old, but he ran well nevertheless. He’s a horse with ability. Coming back to the stable with this race in mind, he’s been working steadily and becoming tighter. The distance of 2,000 meters in this next race shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

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