After a thrilling Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) last weekend saw another exciting filly in Gran Alegria carry off the honors, attention this coming week focuses on the 3-year-old colts, when they will battle it out at Nakayama Racecourse near Tokyo, in the 79th running of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas). It represents the start of a long and arduous road of the Triple Crown races, a tough enough assignment that has only seen seven Triple Crown winners in Japanese racing history. The last horse to accomplish the feat was Orfevre in 2011.
This year 19 colts have been nominated for the race, which is run over 2,000 meters of the inner turf course at Nakayama. With the start in the homestraight, runners must negotiate four corners throughout their run, making it a hard task and leaving very little room for error. Some of the step races leading into this year’s Satsuki Sho have included the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, run over course and distance last December, the Grade 3 Kyodo News Service Hai, run over 1,800 meters at Tokyo in February, and the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho, run over 2,000 meters at Nakayama in March. The latter is an official Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) trial.
First favorites have been faring quite poorly, in similar fashion to favorites in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), and just two have won the first colts’ Classic in the last 10 years. The last one to do so was Logotype in 2013. Record time for the race is 1 minute, 57.8 seconds, set by Al Ain in 2017. Horses trained at the Ritto Training Center in the west of Japan have won the race six times in the past decade, winning twice more than horses trained at the Miho Training Center, closer to Tokyo.
It’ll be a big weekend at Nakayama Racecourse, with the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1) being run on the Saturday, followed by the Satsuki Sho on the Sunday. The latter will be Race 11 on the card, with a post time of 15:40 local time. Final declarations and barrier draw will come out later this week.
Here’s a look at some of the colts expected to be in the lineup :
Saturnalia : The well-bred colt is a half-brother to 2014 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia and is out of dual Oaks winner Cesario. He remains unbeaten in three career starts and will be having his first run this year after having won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at the end of last year over the course and distance of the Satsuki Sho. Assistant trainer Yasuyuki Tsujino said: “He showed both mental and physical strength last time when winning the Hopeful Stakes. After that he had a break at Northern Farm Shigaraki and came back to the stable on March 13. His work since has been good and we have enough time to get him just right for the race.”
Admire Mars : The Best 2-Year-Old Colt of 2018 lost his unbeaten record in his one race this year, when he finished second to Danon Kingly in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Service Hai over 1,800 meters at Tokyo in February. His big race rider will be Mirco Demuro, who’s partnered him in all his races so far. Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said, “In the Kyodo News Service Hai, he was out in front, and I thought he might be able to sustain things to the end, but the pace was a bit slow and the winner was just able to find a bit more at the finish. He’s had a break at the farm, but we now have this race in mind for him.”
Danon Kingly : The Deep Impact colt is unbeaten in three starts, and jockey Keita Tosaki will be hoping he can give him another win in the race, having won last year on Epoca d’Oro. Danon Kingly has one win at Nakayama, and that was over 1,600 meters last December. Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said: “After his last race he went to Northern Farm Tenei for a break and came back to the stable on March 22. On March 27, he worked on the woodchip course with his race jockey, and everything was confirmed as being fine with him.”
Velox : The colt has had a couple of easy wins so far this year, the latest in the Wakaba Stakes over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in March. Jockey Yuga Kawada has struck up a good partnership with the horse, who is by Just a Way, a winner of the Dubai Turf in 2014. Assistant trainer Teruhiko Saruhashi commented: “It was a good win last time in the Wakaba Stakes and he’s come out of that race well. There’s no tiredness about him and things are as usual.”
Satono Lux : Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee has already won one Grade 1 race this year with Al Ain in the Osaka Hai. The colt is by Deep Impact and was bred at Northern Farm, and he has the distinction of being the highest priced horse sold at the 2017 Select Sale. He’s coming off a win in the Listed Sumire Stakes over 2,200meters at Hanshin in February. The trainer stated, “After his second win he was quite tired, so we had to miss the Kisaragi Sho. After completely recovering, we took in the Sumire Stakes, and he’s recovered quickly after winning that race.”
Meisho Tengen : Another Deep Impact colt, Meisho Tengen managed to improve on his fifth place in the Grade 3 Kisaragi Sho over 1,800 meters at Kyoto in February to go on and win the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho over 2,000 meters at Nakayama on heavy ground. He’s trained by Kaneo Ikezoe. “He won well last time, despite the heavy ground, and I was worried about that, given his run in the Kisaragi Sho. So I can take a lot from his last run and he’s been his usual self since,” the trainer said.Emeral Fight : Winner of his last two races, including the official Guineas trial, the Grade 2 Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes most recently, the colt by Kurofune would seem suited to the Nakayama track. His closing speed last time just saw him grab a narrow win. Trainer Ikuo Aizawa said, “He got into a good position last time in the Spring Stakes and then went on to run a strong race. Since then we’ve been able to work him in the usual way, and we just keep things light with him for the time being.”