Following on from the first Classic of the year last week, when the 3-year-old fillies ran in the Grade 1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) at Hanshin, it's the turn of the colts this week, when the action switches to Nakayama Racecourse for the first leg of the Triple Crown. The race is run on the inner turf track at Nakayama over 2,000 meters, and all the colts (no geldings are permitted to run in the race) are set to carry 57kg, with a 2kg allowance for fillies, although there are no fillies among this year's nominated horses.
The race was first run in 1939 at Yokohama Racecourse, when it was run over a distance of 1,850 meters. Four years later, it was switched to Tokyo, and it then got its current name. Nakayama first hosted the race in 1949, and in 1950 the distance became what it is today, 2,000 meters.
There are 21 nominations for a maximum 18 runner field, and last year Efforia became the 19th undefeated horse to come out of the race the winner. Several among the entries this year have similar profiles. There have been 24 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) winners go on to claim the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). Two official trial races for this week's big race 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, also run at Nakayama, but over 1,800 meters. Both races were run in March.
In the last 10 years, just three first favorites have won the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), and the last one to do so was Contrail in 2020. Record time for the race is held by Al Ain, who won in a time of 1 minute 57.8 seconds in 2017. This year's winner's check amounts to JPY150 million (around USD1.3 million).
The 82nd 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. The final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later this week.
Here is a look at some of the exciting young colts lining up for the first leg of this year's Triple Crown:
Killer Ability : Young jockey Takeshi Yokoyama again gets a big chance on the son of Deep Impact here, after riding him to a good win in last year's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes over the course and distance of this week's big race. It will be the colt's first run of the year, but trainer Takashi Saito is pleased with him. "He ran well last time in the Hopeful Stakes, and got into a good position going into the first corner. He ran smoothly after that, and the jockey gave him a good ride. After his break at Northern Farm Shigaraki, he came back to the stable at Ritto on March 15. He looks good, and has been training well since," the trainer said.
Do Deuce : Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi has already claimed a Grade 1 victory this year, and looks to have another good chance with this son of Heart's Cry. He won last year's Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, and is now three wins from his four career races. Despite having to settle for second behind Ask Victor More last time in the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen), the trainer is looking forward to a good run here. "Although he finished second last time, it was a good run to lead him into this next race. There's no damage from that run and he seems his usual self. In recent work, without overdoing it, he clocked 82.8 seconds, with a final furlong time of 11.1 seconds," he commented.
Equinox : There is a lot of anticipation about the next run for Equinox, an unbeaten colt by Kitasan Black, and he'll be making his first appearance of 2022 here. He was last seen winning the Grade 2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes last November over 1,800 meters at Tokyo. Assistant trainer Yu Ota commented: "He showed a completely different style of racing last time out, when he settled well and ran smoothly on the inside, before unleashing a great run down the homestraight to go on and win well. It took us quite by surprise, and we now realize what a lot of ability he has." Jockey Christophe Lemaire teams up once more with Equinox.
Danon Beluga : He is another colt who's yet to taste defeat, but as an expensive purchase, connections will be hoping he continues his winning ways. In just his second start (and his first as a 3-year-old), the Heart's Cry colt landed the Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai (Tokinominoru Kinen) at Tokyo in February over 1,800 meters. His trainer Noriyuki Hori said, "After his last race, he's been at the stable, and his hindquarters have recovered. We have to check that his balance is alright. Previously he worked on dirt, but now he trains on the woodchip course, and he looks better for this, however it's necessary to keep checking on the way he runs."
Ask Victor More : The Shadai Farm bred colt, another by Deep Impact, has had five career races, and has three wins to his name, all of them coming at Nakayama. His latest victory was in the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) in March., "Race by race he's been improving," trainer Yasuhito Tamura said. "I thought it was a good win last time. After sending him off for a break at the farm, he returned to the stable on March 23. With the care taken with him at the farm, he's come back looking refreshed. We are just making sure not to overdo things, but there doesn't seem to be any change with him, and he's been moving very well in his work so far."
Desierto : Although two of Desierto's wins have come on dirt, he proved that he could also handle turf last time, when he won the Listed Wakaba Stakes over 2,000 meters at Hanshin in March. The colt by Drefong is trained by Takayuki Yasuda, and the trainer recently commented: "He can get a little uptight if he gets into a challenge with other horses, so last time when he went to the front and made his own pace was the best situation for him. It was also good that he managed to win on turf. He was quite full of himself after, so we've given him a short break at Northern Farm Shigaraki." Jockey Yasunari Iwata has ridden him in all his races so far, and looks set to take the ride again.
Be Astonished : The colt by American Patriot is getting plenty of good experience, having run in three Grade 3 races already, and took another step-up last time when winning the Grade 2 Fuji TV Spring Stakes over 1,800 meters at Nakayama in March. Trainer Yuzo Iida was satisfied with that run. "It was a gutsy performance in the race last time, and he managed to pull out a bit more at the end to win. He was a little excited in the preliminaries, but he handled the transportation to the track well, and overall, I was pleased with the way things turned out," the trainer said.
Justin Palace : His two wins as a 2-year-old were also followed up by a good run in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at the end of last year, when jockey Cristian Demuro got him to stay on and take second behind Killer Ability. He is another by Deep Impact, and he's trained by Haruki Sugiyama. The trainer stated: "He is still a bit immature, but it was good to see him handle a race with a lot of runners last time. That and the way he didn't lose any weight on the way to the track for that run were things I could feel good about as he heads into this next race." This time jockey Mirco Demuro will partner Justin Palace.