Japanese horse racing doesn’t register on the radar for most punters but it should – the thoroughbred scene in the Land of the Rising Sun is among the richest on the planet matched by the quality of the racing stock. The country’s leading runners will be highlighted over the next few weeks with the focus on Kyoto on Sunday for the latest running of the International Grade 1 Mile Championship. Kyoto is a fairly traditional US-style track, with a long run to the first corner from the 1600-metre start.
A short downhill chute takes runners to the second turn then into the home straight and within sight of a slice of the JPY 200,700,000 (approximately USD $2 million). First run in 1984, the Mile Championship is run at set weights (57kg) and is considered a stepping stone to the Hong Kong Mile as part of International Day at Sha Tin on December 11. It is the second race in the Japan Autumn International Series of races. Some big names have won the Mile Championship, including successive wins for Taiki Shuttle (1997 and 1998), Durandal (2003 and 2004) and Daiwa Major (2006 and 2007).
The race has been run on firm ground in the past three years, and just three favourites have saluted over the past decade. Race favourites have won 14 times in the three-decade history of the race. A field of 19 horses nominated for the feature race, including two three-year-olds – Lord Quest and Spectre. The last three-year-old to win the race was Agnes Digital in 2000. Unfortunately, the German-trained filly, Spectre, has been declared a non-starter, leaving a field of 18. Incredibly, eight of the 18 runners are sired from Deep Impact, the 2006 Japan Cup winner.
Satono Aladdin ($3.90) looks ideally placed here. The five-year-old by Deep Impact is coming off an impressive win in the Grade 2 Swan Stakes last month, as well as finishing a fourth in this year’s Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen. He was fourth in last year’s Mile Championship and has won seven times from 21 starts. He’s trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, who has a handy knack of getting horses just right. The value runner is Neorealism – this 5-year-old is tackling a Grade 1 (and the Kyoto circuit) for the first time. He caught the attention of the local racing fraternity when beating Maurice in the Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen (2000m) when leading all the way. He is six wins from 14 starts and is trained by one of the leading trainers Noriyuki Hori.
• Many of the better US 2-year-olds which didn’t in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile gather for this weekend’s $1 million Grade III Delta Downs Jackpot in Vinton, Louisiana. This year’s renewal includes winners from California, Kentucky, Minnesota and New York. The list features Dangerfield, Tip Tap Tapizar and Gunnevera but will all be chasing Line Judge, a Spring At Last colt that has won three successive races including the local prep for this, the $200,000 Jean Laffite. The Joe Sharp trainee has been dominant in all three wins and could be a major player in the battle for the 2017 Triple Crown.
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