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Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes Preview: A Showcase Race for 2-Year-Old Colts

In the 75th running of the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, Maurice-sired colts Danon McKinley and Strauss are among the crop of entrants in the strong 17-horse field.

One week after the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies was held, it is now time for the 2-year-old colts on Sunday, December 17. The Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes will be run over the same course and distance at Hanshin Racecourse once again.

Races for 2-year-olds were first held at Tokyo back in 1946, but the first year for this race, which was previously known as the Asahi Hai Sansai Stakes, was in 1949, when it was run over a shorter distance of 1,100 meters, before becoming a 1,200-meter race in 1959. Just three years later, the distance was switched to a mile (1,600 meters). The race was always run at Nakayama Racecourse until the change to Hanshin in 2014, where it is run on the outer turf course.

Despite the final Grade 1 race in 2023 for 2-year-olds, the Hopeful Stakes, coming up on December 28, there are 19 nominations for the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, with a maximum number of 18 runners to get a start. No geldings are permitted, and all colts carry a set weight of 56 kg, with a 1-kg allowance for fillies, of which there are two among the nominations. Dream Journey (2006), Admire Mars (2018), and Do Deuce (2021) are some winners of the race who carved out big careers later on.

Some races leading up to Sunday's Grade 1 event included the Grade 3 Niigata Nisai Stakes, run over a mile in August, the Grade 3 Kokura Nisai Stakes, run over 1,200 meters in September, and the Grade 2 Daily Hai Nisai Stakes, run over a mile at Kyoto in November.

Details About the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes

In the last 10 years, just three favorites have won the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, and six of the past 10 winners have been trained at the Ritto Training Center in Shiga Prefecture. 

Record time for the race is held by Grenadier Guards. He won in a time of 1 minute, 32.3 seconds in 2020. This year's winner's check is ¥70 million JPY (about $500,000 USD).

The 75th running of the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Hanshin, with a post time of 3:40 PM JST.

Here's a look at some of the runners expected to take on the race.

Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes
Danon McKinley wins the Shumeigiku Sho at Kyoto Racecourse on November 19. (©SANKEI)

Danon McKinley, Lemaire Team Up for G1 Race

Maurice offspring Danon McKinley has won both of his starts in good style, the latest being at Kyoto on November 19 over 1,400 meters. He won at Hanshin over the same distance in his debut on September 30, but now he has to see out an extra 200 meters, as well as handle the outer turf course at the track. He looks to be a good horse in the making, and Christophe Lemaire is scheduled to ride him this time. 

When he rode Danon McKinley in a recent workout, the JRA's leading jockey thought the horse was a "little tense, but that he has a nice strong back." 

Lemaire is seeking his 50th JRA Grade 1 victory in a race that he has yet to win.

Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes
Strauss works out at the JRA Miho Training Center on December 13 in Miho, Ibaraki Prefecture. (©SANKEI)

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Strauss Chases More Success 

Strauss, another son of Maurice, is looking good, with two wins from his three starts. This includes a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup over a mile at Tokyo on October 7, a race that usually ranks highly in a 2-year-old's career progress. His latest win came in the Grade 2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes over 1,800 meters on November 18, and in each of his races, he has been ridden by different foreign jockeys. 

This time, British jockey Tom Marquand is set to ride the Ryo Takei-trained Strauss. Marquand will be looking forward to another Grade 1 ride in Japan, after the unfortunate withdrawal of Bond Girl from the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies.

Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes
Jantar Mantar exercises on December 6 in Ritto, Shiga Prefecture. (©SANKEI)

Jantar Mantar Shows Solid Effort in Workouts

The booking of Yuga Kawada for the ride on the Palace Malice-sired colt says a lot about the horse that has yet to taste defeat. Jantar Mantar's latest win came in the Grade 2 Daily Hai Nisai Stakes at Kyoto on November 11.

Trainer Tomokazu Takano has been keeping a watchful eye on the horse in training. 

"We're concentrating on the horse's rhythm in track work, but he's doing well with this," Takano said. "He'll be up against different horses in this next Grade 1, and it'll be interesting to see how he can do." 

Bred at Shadai Farms, Jantar Mantar runs in the colors of Shadai Race Horse Co Ltd (yellow with black vertical stripes and blue trim near the midarm).

Read the rest of this article about the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes as well as the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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