Following on from the fillies last week, with a thrilling win for Liberty Island, this coming Sunday (April 16) sees the first colts' Classic of the year, the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), to be run at Nakayama Racecourse, in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, over 2,000 meters on the inner turf course.
It is the first leg of the Triple Crown races for 3-year-old colts, and 24 winners of the race have gone on to win the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) that is held in May.
First run in 1939 at Yokohama Racecourse, the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) was transferred to Tokyo Racecourse four years later, when it also took on its current name. It was moved to Nakayama in 1949, and in 1950 the distance became 2,000 meters after originally being run over 1,850 meters.
There are 20 colts (no geldings are permitted to run) nominated for Sunday's big race, and the maximum field is set at 18 runners. Packed with emerging talent from some of Japan's current top sires, at this point, no one horse in particular stands out above the others. But come Sunday a different picture may emerge.
The race hasn't been too kind to first favorites in the last 10 years, with just three of them winning, and Contrail was the last one to win in 2020. Nineteen horses in history have emerged the winner of the race when going into it undefeated.
Trial Races for the Satsuki Sho
Two official Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) trial races 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 run over 1,800 meters at Nakayama, with both races being run in March. The first three home in each of those races receive automatic entry to Sunday's race, and all six of those horses are expected to be in the lineup this week.
Weights are set at 57 kg for all the runners, and this year's winner's check is ¥200 million JPY ($1.5 million USD). Record time for the race was set in 2017, when Al Ain won in a time of 1 minute, 57.8 seconds.
The 83rd running of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho will be Race 11 on the Sunday card at Nakayama, with a post time of 3:40 PM JST. Final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later in the week.
Here's a look at some of the runners expected to take on the race:
Sol Oriens Going for Third Straight Win
Sol Oriens, a son of Kitasan Black, is unbeaten in two starts, and he's coming off a good win in the Grade 3 Keisei Hai at Nakayama over the same distance as the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas).
Trainer Takahisa Tezuka is pleased enough with the colt's progress.
"I thought he won well last time when angled to the outside, and despite going very wide, he did better than I thought to go on and win," Tezuka said. "He went to the farm after that race, but since returning to the stable, things have been as expected with him, and he's been training well, especially when the pace has picked up."
The trainer added, "He's become a lot better at knowing when to take the bit."
Jockey Takeshi Yokoyama is expected to ride the horse again after guiding him to victory last time.
Tastiera Making Third Start of 2023
Trained by Noriyuki Hori, Tastiera is by Satono Crown, a two-time Grade 1 winner, and looks to be a good colt in the making. He won the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Deep Impact Kinen) on March 5 and now steps up for this Grade 1 race.
The trainer said: "Things have been quite relaxed with him, although he recently weighed 477 kg and he doesn't seem to eat all his food, so his weight might not return to what it was before his last race. Using a noseband and cheekpieces, he's been moving his head around less, and jockey Kohei Matsuyama is able to get more out of him in training."
Tastiera currently has two wins from his three career starts.
Read the rest of this article about the Satsuki Sho as well as the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News.
Author: JRA News