Over the final three furlongs (about 600 meters) of the 75th Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, Ascoli Piceno had the second-fastest time. And that was fast enough ― but barely.
Fast-charging Stellenbosch made a spirited run for the win, covering that distance in 33.5 seconds. But Daiwa Major-sired Ascoli Piceno, the third favorite, was just fast enough in that pivotal stretch of the race on Sunday, December 10, completing the final three furlongs in 33.7.
The big story, though, was this: Jockey Hiroshi Kitamura's ride, Ascoli Piceno, ran a race-record 1 minute, 32.6 seconds to hold off Stellenbosh, piloted by Christophe Lemaire, by a neck's length.
Corazon Beat (Takeshi Yokoyama) finished third, 1¼ lengths behind the runner-up.
There was a considerable gap between second favorite Corazon Beat and the fourth-place finisher Safira, the favorite, ridden by Kohei Matsuyama. After Suave Richard progeny Corazon Beat crossed the wire, Safira followed a further three lengths adrift in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, before an announced crowd of 20,288.
Chicago Sting (Katsuma Sameshima), who finished fifth in the 18-horse field of 2-year-old fillies, was the pacesetter and led at the third and fourth turns on the turf course.
In the race-changing final three furlongs, Chicago Sting was clocked in 35.2. As a result, she faded to fifth, and Ascoli Piceno, Stellenbosch, and others charged to the front of the pack. (Watch the full race on the Japan Racing Association's YouTube channel.)
Kitamura Reacts to Victory in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies
After the race, Kitamura analyzed Ascoli Piceno's preparations for the big race and her performance.
"The stable staff did a great job and she was in very good condition, so I had every confidence in her," Kitamura said.
He added, "The filly broke better than in her previous start, was relaxed during the race, and responded well in the stretch. I was a bit worried for a second that we were going to get caught, but she gave her all, all the way to the line."
For Kitamura, Sunday's win was his first JRA Grade 1 triumph since the 2015 Kikuka Sho aboard Kitasan Black. It was his fourth career G1 win in Japan.
Yoichi Kuroiwa, Ascoli Piceno's trainer, collected his seventh G1 win in his home country.
Hong Kong International Races
On Sunday in Hong Kong, 13 Japan-trained thoroughbreds participated in four races at Sha Tin Racecourse.
In the 2,000-meter Hong Kong Cup, Hishi Iguazu, guided by Brazilian Joao Moreira, placed third. Yuga Kawada's ride Prognosis settled for fifth in the 11-horse field.
Earlier, Namur (William Buick), winner of Japan's Mile Championship on November 19, finished third in the Hong Kong Mile. Soul Rush with Moreira placed fourth out of 14 participants.
Also Sunday, Jasper Krone (Kawada) was seventh in the Hong Kong Sprint, a 10-horse, 1,200-meter event, and Mad Cool (Cristian Demuro) placed eighth.
In the eight-horse Hong Kong Vase, contested over 2,400 meters, Zeffiro (Damian Lane) was the runner-up. Also for Japan, Geraldina (Buick) finished fourth.
Ten Japanese trainers were involved in the Hong Kong International Races.
Author: Ed Odeven