2024 News

April 9, 2024


Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1) - Preview
Hopeful Stakes (G1)

Radio Nikkei Hai Kyoto Nisai Stakes (G3)
Shin Emperor

Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (G1)
Jantar Mantar

Kyodo News Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) (G3)
Justin Milano

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

Keisei Hai (G3)
Danon Decile

Mr G T
Mr G T

Kisaragi Sho (G3)
Byzantine Dream

It is the turn of the colts this week, when Nakayama Racecourse, just outside of Tokyo, will be the venue for the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). Run over 2,000 meters on the inner turf course at the track, the race is the first leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, and invariably gives some insight into what to expect from the second leg of the series, the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), to be run in May. A total of 24 winners of the first colts’ Classic have gone on to win the Derby.

First run in 1939 at the Yokohama Racecourse, what was to become the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) was transferred to Tokyo four years later, the year it also got its current name. Nakayama started to host the race in 1949, and in 1950 the distance was changed to what it is now, 2,000 meters, having previously been 1,850 meters.

The Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) is for 3-year-old colts, and this year sees 20 nominations for a maximum field size of 18. No geldings are permitted, but occasionally fillies take on the race, and that’s the case this year, with last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winner, Regaleira, trying to overcome the colts. She will carry 55kg, whereas the rest of the runners will have the set weight for colts, which is 57kg. A filly hasn’t won the race for 76 years.

Races leading up to this week’s feature race have included the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen), run over 2,000 meters at Nakayama in March, and the Grade 2 Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes, also run at Nakayama in March, but over 1,800 meters, with both of those being official trial races for this Sunday’s race.

During the last ten years, just two first favorites have won the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), with Contrail being the last one to win in 2020. Horses trained in the east of Japan at the Miho Training Center have won six times in that same time period. Record time for the race was set by Al Ain in 2017, when he won in a time of 1 minute 57.8 seconds. This year’s winner’s check is JPY200 million (approximately USD1.4 million).

The 84th running of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Nakayama, with a post time in Japan of 15:40. The final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.

Here’s an early look at some of the top 3-year-olds expected to be in the line-up:

Regaleira: The filly by Suave Richard produced a great turn of foot to win the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at the end of last year, and this Sunday will see her race for the first time as a 3-year-old. With her weight being just above 450kg last year, she will likely be one of the smallest horses in the race this week, but she has shown that she packs a punch all the same. Assistant trainer Yuya Tsuchida said: “She wasn’t particularly switched on for the Ivy Stakes last year, but in the Hopeful Stakes she put in a strong performance. She didn’t start very well in that race, but her closing finish was exceptional. They’ve taken good care of her at the farm, and she’s returned to the stable in good shape.”

Shin Emperor: The French-bred Shin Emperor is a full-brother to the 2020 Grade 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sottsass, and he has looked quite impressive in his races so far. He is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) in March, his only run as a 3-year-old. Assistant trainer Yusaku Oka commented: “He got bumped at the first corner last time, and then had to race on the inside where the ground wasn’t so good. Consequently, he didn’t run on so well from the fourth corner. On his pedigree, softer ground shouldn’t be a worry, although the ground could be bad for the Satsuki Sho, which is the last week of racing at Nakayama, and I worry a little about that. After his break at the farm, he’s returned to the stable and looks a little loose, but there’s still time for him to get better before this next race.”

Jantar Mantar: The colt by Palace Malice was unbeaten in three starts as a 2-year-old, which included his win in the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes at the end of last year. In just one run this year, he was just beaten into second by Justin Milano in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) at Tokyo over 1,800 meters in February. Trainer Tomokazu Takano commented on the horse: “He showed when he raced at Tokyo last time that he wasn’t bothered by the long transportation to the track. He was well behaved and calm before the race and at the gate, but he showed a lot of power in the race itself. After that he went to the Yamamoto Training Center for a break, and has come back in good condition. He now seems easier to ride.”

Justin Milano: In what was just his second career start last time, Justin Milano won the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) at Tokyo in February, and the chances are there’s some more to come from him, so he seems a worthy contender for this next race. The colt by Kizuna is trained by Yasuo Tomomichi, and the trainer recently gave his opinion of things: “He’s had a break at Northern Farm Shigaraki, with this race in mind for him next. He was a little tense for the trip over to Tokyo last time, but hopefully this time he’ll be more settled for the travel to Nakayama. It’s a small oval track, and with it being the last day of the meeting, the ground could be rough. He’s a horse with a big stride, and the going on the day could be the key to things.”

Cosmo Kuranda: Causing an upset last time when winning the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) at odds of 38/1, the colt by Al Ain - winner of the race in 2017 - most probably has more to offer, and won’t be sent off at such long odds this time. Trained by Shizuya Kato, recent comments on the horse from assistant training staff were: “He’s been at the stable since his last race, and we’ve been able to take things easy with him. There’s no pressure for fast times in training, but just to get his workload right is fine. He looks well in his coat and he seems in good condition.” Giving another boost to Cosmo Kuranda’s chances is the booking of Joao Moreira for the ride on the Big Red Farm owned and bred colt.

Danon Decile: Jockey Norihiro Yokoyama has struck up a great partnership with Danon Decile, and he rode him to win last time in the Grade 3 Keisei Hai over 2,000 meters at Nakayama in January. It will be the fifth start for the colt by Epiphaneia, who is trained at the Ritto Training Center by Shogo Yasuda. The trainer commented: “With every race he has, he understands more and his attitude improves every time. He was still a bit loose in his run in the Keisei Hai, but he can get better still, I think. His prize money is enough now, so we’ve been able to go straight to this race, and the long-term view would be the Derby.”

Mr G T: Trainer Yoshito Yahagi has three horses among the nominations, and while Shin Emperor might be considered his best chance of winning, Mr G T shouldn’t be far away, after managing a fifth-place finish in last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, and most recently was seen winning the Listed Wakaba Stakes over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in March. Assistant trainer Yusaku Oka said: “His win last time in the Wakaba Stakes was achieved in a different way, and he was by no means flat out at the end of the race. He wasn’t quite so tense before the race, so hopefully that will be the case this time too, with the transportation to Nakayama to consider.”

Byzantine Dream: Another colt by Epiphaneia, Byzantine Dream is unbeaten in two starts so far, one as a 2-year-old, and the other just recently, when he won the Grade 3 Kisaragi Sho over 1,800 meters at Kyoto in February, his first race as a 3-year-old. Comments from assistant training staff were: “He had a break at Northern Farm Shigaraki after the Kisaragi Sho, and since returning, we’ve been using a crossover noseband in training, and it seems to help him relax more. He posted a recent 54.8 seconds time on the uphill training track over four furlongs, and his preparation’s been going well, now that he’s calmer.” Bauyrzhan Murzabayev is set for the ride on Byzantine Dream.  
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