A strong effort in the closing seconds of the 82nd Satsuki Sho propelled Geoglyph to a one-length victory over Equinox on Sunday afternoon, April 17 at Nakayama Racecourse in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.
Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga’s ride was near the front of the pack for the entire 2,000-meter race, the first leg of this year’s Japan Racing Association Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds.
It was a recipe for success for the 45-year-old Fukunaga, who earned his 34th career JRA Grade I victory and second Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) triumph. He won the race for the first time in 2020 aboard Contrail, who finished the year by winning the Triple Crown. Contrail retired after winning the 41st Japan Cup in November 2021.
Adding intrigue to the excitement of the dash to the wire, the Drefong-sired Geoglyph, the fifth favorite, overtook stablemate Equinox to seize the victory. (Watch a video replay of the race here.)
Christophe Lemaire steered the Kitasan Black-sired Equinox to a runner-up finish, one length behind Geoglyph, who was clocked in 1:59.7 seconds on the turf course. (Deep Impact-sired Al Ain set the race record of 1:57.8 in 2017.)
Legendary jockey Yutaka Take came in third aboard favorite Do Deuce, completing the final three furlongs in 33.8 seconds. Geoglyph covered that distance in 34.3, with Equinox at 34.6 in the 18-horse race, which had a total purse of ¥325 million JPY (about $2.82 million USD).
Tetsuya Kimura, trainer of Geoglyph and Equinox, earned his second JRA G1 victory.
Following Do Deuce, Danon Beluga (ridden by Yuga Kawada), Ask Victor More (Hironobu Tanabe) and Onyankopon (Akira Sugawara) all finished a neck’s length behind one another.
Geoglyph burst out of the gate in the 14th post position, and dashed straight ahead, positioning himself near the middle of the course.
Ask Victor More was the early pacesetter and held the lead for most of the race. The 3-year-old brown colt faded over the final 200 meters.
Desierto, steered by Yasunari Iwata, held firm in the second position from the early going until late in the race, then slipped to 16th place.
Too Close for Comfort
Shortly after the midway point of the race, the top four consisted of Ask Victore More, Desierto, Born This Way (Shu Ishibashi) and Be Astonished (Ryuji Wada).
Jockeying for position, the front of the pack shuffled and other contenders emerged.
With 200 meters to go, Equinox held the lead. But Geoglyph had room to operate and overtook his stablemate with a riveting conclusion at the wire.
“His start was good and we were able to sit in an ideal position which was crucial in winning today,” Fukunaga said later. “I already knew that he was in good form when I rode him during workouts and had every belief that, although the colt was fifth pick, he was capable of winning today.
“The colt has the strength to sustain his speed so I geared him wide, launching an early bid before the fourth corner. I’m just glad I was able to do my job. In the upcoming [Japanese] Derby, we’ll have to see if he can handle the 400-meter added distance.”
A Look Ahead
The Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), contested over 2,400 meters, is the second leg of the Japanese Triple Crown. This year’s race is set for May 29 at Tokyo Racecourse.
On October 23, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Ledger), a 3,000-meter test of speed and endurance, will be held at Hanshin Racecourse to complete this year’s Triple Crown series.
Author: Ed Odeven