2023 News

September 25, 2023


Sprinters Stakes (G1) - Preview
Sprinters Stakes (G1)
Pixie Knight

Hankyu Hai (G3)

Keeneland Cup (G3)
Namura Clair

Mama Cocha
Mama Cocha

Meikei Yell
Meikei Yell

Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes (G2)
T M Spada

TV Nishinippon Corp. Sho Kitakyushu Kinen (G3)
Jasper Krone

Aoi Stakes (G3)
Mozu Meimei

Hakodate Sprint Stakes (G3)
Kimiwa Queen

Keihan Hai (G3)
Toshin Macau

The Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes will be run this coming Sunday (October 1) at Nakayama Racecourse, the track in Chiba Prefecture not too far from central Tokyo. The race sees the return of top-level JRA action after the summer break, and the autumn season brings with it some great racing on most weekends right up to the end of the year.

The Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes is a race for 3-year-olds and up and is run over 1,200 meters on the right-handed turf course at Nakayama. It was first run in 1967 and was given Grade 2 status in 1987. By 1990 it had become a Grade 1 contest, and in 1994 it was first run as an international Grade 1 race. There will be no runners from overseas this year, leaving the race at the mercy of this year’s top Japanese sprinters.

There are 19 nominations for a maximum 16-runner field, so there’s plenty of competition in what looks like being an open race, with seemingly no one dominant horse in the line-up. Lead up races to the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes have been the Grade 3 Keeneland Cup and the Grade 3 TV Nishinippon Corp. Sho Kitakyushu Kinen, both 1,200 meter-races run at Kokura in August, and the Grade 2 Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes, also run over 1,200 meters but at Hanshin in early September.

Tower of London was the last horse to complete the Centaur/Sprinters double in 2019. The last 3-year-old winner of the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes was Pixie Knight in 2021, and the last first favorite to win was Gran Alegria in 2020. First favorites have had a 50% win-strike rate in the past decade.

Record time for the race is held by Lord Kanaloa. who won in a time of 1 minute 6.7 seconds back in 2012. First place prize money this year is JPY170 million (about USD 1.3 million) and the set weight for 4-year-olds and up in the race is 58kg, while 3-year-olds carry 56kg and there’s a 2kg allowance for fillies and mares.

The 57th running of the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Nakayama with a post time in Japan of 15:40. Final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.

Here’s a look at some of the horses expected to take on the race:

Aguri: Flashing home late in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes last time, the son of Caravaggio rarely runs a bad race, even if most of his wins have come over 1,400 meters or further. The tactics were changed in his last race, as assistant trainer Keiichiro Yasuda explained: “Instructions to the jockey last time were to keep the horse further back in the run to see what sort of finish he could produce, and it was a different kind of race for him. His closing finish was very fast, particularly the last 100 meters. He did better than we thought. and it was a good enough prep race.” That jockey was Norihiro Yokoyama and he’ll be doing his best once again aboard Aguri.

Namura Clair: The 4-year-old filly by Mikki Isle has a good record in sprint races, and her latest win came in the Grade 3 Keeneland Cup at Sapporo in August. She is yet to win a Grade 1 race, but her form gives her every chance to be right there this time. Recent comments from the stable were: “She’s just been ticking over in training, and we’ve made sure there’s no tiredness about her after the transportation for her last race. We’ll keep her just stretching out in her work as the race approaches.” Namura Clair’s regular jockey, Suguru Hamanaka, will partner her again in a bid to win his 10th JRA Grade 1, and his first since winning the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) on Roger Barows in 2019.

Mama Cocha: From the stable of Yasutoshi Ikee, who won the race last year with Gendarme, Mama Cocha has just had the one run over 1,200 meters, but it’s looking as if the 4-year-old filly by Kurofune has plenty to offer, and her five wins from twelve starts put her right in the picture here. Assistant trainer Yuki Iwasaki said: “Without pushing her too hard, she’s been able to get a good position in her races, and 1,200 meters looks as if it suits her. She looked a little heavy in her recent work, but it seems that every time she goes to the farm, she fills out a bit more and becomes stronger.” Yuga Kawada will ride the filly for the first time, so that’s another interesting point to take note of.

Meikei Yell: The 5-year-old mare has yet to win a Grade 1, but it’s not for the want of trying. She either wins or finishes unplaced, and it’s been the latter in her last four races, although it was probably the ground that contributed to her defeat in the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen back in the spring, and last time in the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen, the distance of a mile was possibly a bit too far. “She’s had a break, and came back to the stable from Northern Farm Shigaraki on September 7. Everything’s gone smoothly with her since her return. Her appetite’s good and she’s nice and relaxed,” commented assistant trainer Kaname Ogino.

T M Spada: A surprise winner of the Grade 2 Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes last time, T M Spada got to the front and was never headed in the race. It is probably her best way of racing, but whether she can pull off another all-the-way win will be the big question, and she has never won at Nakayama. Changing stables this year, however, her new trainer, Kazuyoshi Kihara, might just have the measure of her. “On her second start for the stable, it seemed that she’d lost some of her ability to run straight. Just before the start of her last race, we took the blinkers off, and she was much more switched on and ran well right up to the finish. She does need to run her own race,” the trainer said.

Pixie Knight: The 2021 Sprinters Stakes winner has been on a slow comeback trail ever since his accident in Hong Kong the same year, and the stable and everyone connected with the horse have done a great job to get him back to where he is now. His most recent eighth place finish in the Grade 2 Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes was a fair run, as assistant trainer Masanari Tanaka explained: “He slipped at the start last time and that made things difficult for him. He rallied well at the end though, and every time he races, he gets better. I think that last race wasn’t a bad trial race for him.”

Jasper Krone: The American bred by Frosted is always an interesting runner in sprint races and has never been worse than fifth during the actual running of a race. He has won his last two races by leading all the way, and his latest victory came in the Grade 3 TV Nishinippon Hai Corp. Sho Kitakyushu Kinen at Kokura in August. Recent comments from assistant trainer Ryo Shimizu were: “He set a fast pace last time, but things worked out well for him, and his last two races have seen him go to the front, even if it has been a little hurried. It’s definitely his best way of racing. He’s been at the stable since and we’ve taken things easy with him so far.”

Mozu Meimei: The 3-year-old filly will run off a light weight of 54kg and is another likely runner for trainer Hidetaka Otonashi. It will just be the third time for the daughter of Real Impact to run over 1,200 meters, but as a young horse there could be plenty of improvement to come. Assistant trainer Masanari Tanaka said: “She drew the widest gate in the Kitakyushu Kinen and loaded last, and together with it being her first time against older horses, it made for a tough race for her and she didn’t get to show her best. She’s had a break at the farm with this next race as her target.” Giving the filly plenty of support will be Yutaka Take, who’s won on her all three times he’s ridden her.

A couple of other expected runners to mention are Kimiwa Queen and Toshin Macau. They are both coming off runs in the Grade 3 Keeneland Cup over 1,200 meters at Sapporo in August, and could have finished closer to the winner if things had gone more in their favor. Kimiwa Queen’s trainer, Takeshi Okumura, thought the ground and the draw went against the filly last time, while Mizuki Takayanagi, trainer of Toshin Macau, thought the colt by Big Arthur might have finished second had he been switched to the outside for a run, rather than having to take the ground on the inside which he ended up doing.

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