Welcome to our first night of racing from the JRA in Japan! We have two big races tonight, one with possible Derby implications and a Breeder’s Cup Classic Win and You’re In Race.
You can watch and wager on the JRA races from all ADW partners in the US and Canada, with races also being shown on TVG.
Happy to get this started and for any feedback you have to make this section the best it can be.
Hyacinth Stakes – Race 9 – 12:25 am ET/9:25 pm PT
2- La Perouse – Owner and trainer may be Derby dreaming with this one, with trainer Fujisawa having sent Casino Drive to win the G2 Peter Pan before injury stopped him running in the Belmont. The change to dirt has turned the light on for this son of Pelusa (G2 type long distance turf horse by Sunday Silence sire Zenno Rob Roy) after a dismal first career start on turf. The race flow should set things up perfectly for his mid pack running style with plenty of early speed signed on. Trying stakes company for the first time but feel he’s the best in here after a visually impressive score in his last start.
8 – Takeru Pegasus – Gutsy 2nd place effort last time out in the Cattleya Stakes (a KY Derby 2yo prep race) to American bred Lemon Pop, distancing the rest of the field by close to ten lengths. By Dunkirk (Pletcher trained 2nd Fla Derby and Belmont) so bred to excel on the dirt. Running lines make him out to be a pure speed horse but feel they’re misleading. When breaking his maiden he raced mid-pack in a slowly run race before Christophe Lemaire had had enough and let him roll to the lead (while still in hand). He appears to have a high cruising speed however and should be on or near the pace. There are others in here who want the front so he may be best served to sit just in behind those. Is 3 for 3 in the money at Tokyo and should be there at the finish provided he’s not caught up in a pace duel. Kawada a very capable sub for Lemaire who hops on the favourite.
4 – Bakushin (Longshot) – By Henny Hughes. Mom raced twice but her dam was the dam of Kane Hekili a top G1 caliber dirt horse in Japan. Bakushin raced in the G1 Zennippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki (NAR) in his last start as a 2yo, however drew horribly (post 13) over the tiny oval (6f dirt track). Was forced to race 3-4 wide (best the rider could do) the whole way, expending a ton of energy. He did make a promising run at the leaders turning for home but the winner rode a golden rail the whole way and was long gone. Is 2 for 2 at Tokyo and picks up a big rider change in Yuichi Fukunaga today. Love that he is versatile and can be placed anywhere in the race.
5 – Kojikun – Won his maiden in his last start so taking a big jump in class here vs. stakes company. It was an impressive effort however considering he was slowed down in traffic having to be taken up sharply on the turn. Much like the top selection in here he should be sitting mid pack and make a late run at the leaders. This distance appears to be too short for him but will appreciate an honest pace. Is another who seems to have benefited from a surface switch to dirt and his sire (World Ace G2 type miler on turf by Deep Impact) excelled at this distance. Think he’ll be running late so could round out exotics at double digit odds.
G1 February Stakes – Race 11 – 1:40 am ET/11:40 pm PT
14 – Auvergne – 5yo by Smart Falcon (Multiple G1 winning dirt horse by Sunday Silence sire Gold Allure) comes into the race as the hot horse, winning his last three efforts. In the G2 Tokai Stakes he ran 3 wide the whole trip while sitting outside the leaders before turning for home to win comfortably. The Tokai Stakes has been a key prep for this race with the winner scoring in this race 3 times in 8 years. A lack of pace in here should lead to him sitting in the garden spot just off of Inti, overtaking him and then holding off the closers. He will lose rider Kawada to #16 Red le Zele here but regains Maruyama who started the winning streak with him in November.
3 – Cafe Pharoah – American bred was one of the top 3yo dirt horses in Japan in 2020. Was a Kentucky Derby hopeful early on last year before failing as the heavy favourite in the muddy G1 Japan Dirt Derby (1 1/4 @ Ohi Racetrack). Came back to score well in the 1 3/16 G3 Sirius stakes before failing in the year end G1 Champions Cup. He’s been freshened since that start and appears to be ready to go after a lengthy 2020 campaign. Hoping Lemaire can keep him near the leaders sitting 2-3 lengths back for his best chance. 2 for 2 at Tokyo and 3 for 4 at the mile distance for trainer Hori (Maurice, Satono Crown, etc). The talent has always been there but the bigger question will be if he’s up to G1 company.
6 – Arctos – He’s a big boy and his size and running style don’t always help him in races. Last out in the G3 Negishi Stakes he was in the middle of a nice long sustained run only to be stymied by a wall of horses. He tried to re-rally after finding room on the inside but the damage was already done. Three starts back he won the G1 Mile Championship Nambu Hai (NAR) with a long sustained move, grinding down 2020 February Stakes winner Mozu Ascot. I’m hoping for a similar forwardly placed move, clear and able to grind away. Not sold on him being good or fast enough but with a lack of pace I give him a shot to hit the board.
2 – Inti – If we could turn back the clock to 2019 or 2020 Inti would be one of top selections. He’s now 7 and while getting long in the tooth he can still show flashes of ability, as shown in the G1 Champions Cup in December of last year. He does his best running on the front end and I can see a very similar trip to the one he had in 2019 when winning this under legend Yutaka Take. Is he good enough anymore?…I don’t think so, but you’ll get a run for your money and he’ll be long odds. Hoping for a big effort and if not good enough can hang around for some juicy exotics.
**Speaking of Japanese Dirt runners, how about the efforts of Pink Kamehameha, Copano Kicking and Matera Sky today in the Saudi Cup day races?!?! Pink Kamehameha, a son of freshman sire Leontes beat all in the Saudi Derby under a masterful Keita Tosaki ride . Leontes, a son of the brilliant mare Cesario by King Kamehameha (a Japanese Derby winner) was the 2yo horse of the year in 2015 (he actually raced against Air Spinel who’s in the February Stakes today). Trying the dirt for the first time seemed to be the charm! 30-1 as well in the world pools. Will we see him in Dubai and possibly on the Derby trail?. In the dirt sprint is there a more snake bitten horse than Matera Sky?! Two years in a row he’s been beaten on the wire by a late closer, this time it was Copano Kicking. Copano Kicking has typically been a G2-3 type horse in Japan but with a great William Buick ride producing him late he finally has a big win under his belt. Congrats to all of the connections!