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March 19, 2019 (Tue)

February JRA Graded Stakes Review

February wrapped up with some exciting progression on the classic trail as we move closer to the 2019 Classic season in Japan. There were three races held between Tokyo and Kyoto racecourse.

On February 3rd at Kyoto Racecourse, there was the 1800m G3 Kisaragi Sho was won handily by Danon Chaser(JPN) who saw off the pace the powered to the lead to win by two lengths. The son of Deep Impact(JPN) is out of 2012 G1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Samitar(GB), Danon Chaser(JPN) won the early classic well which has boded well for the futures of other winners of this race. Tagano Diamante(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) ran second, and Lance of Puraana(JPN) by Cape Blanco(IRE) ran third.

The 1800m G3 Kyodo News Service Hai at Tokyo Racecourse had a surprisingly small field this year, with only seven runners. Last year's Champion two-year-old Admire Mars(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) dashed to the lead and stayed there comfortably till just before the 200m mark. Royally bred Danon Kingly(JPN) passed him just before the 200m pole and made it look easy, winning by a length and a quarter. Danon Kingly(JPN) is a Deep Impact(JPN) colt out of My Goodness(USA) who is herself by Storm Cat(USA). The Deep Impact(JPN) and Storm Cat(USA) cross has proved amazingly successful through the years including G1 Japanese Derby winner Kizuna(JPN) and five other G1 winners from only 66 horses. Admire Mars(JPN) will go onto the G1 Satsuki Sho(Japanese 2000 Gunieas) a race his sire won but will go to the G1 NHK Mile after that instead of extending to a mile and a half in the Derby, a change that will likely highlight his undeniable talent as a miler. Third-placed Courageux Guerrier(JPN), a son of King Kamehameha(JPN) will also be targeting the Satsuki Sho in April.

The only race for three-year-old fillies in February was the 1600m G3 Queen Cup on the 11th. The race was postponed after a snow storm canceled racing at Tokyo Racecourse on February 9th. It didn't seem to change the race too much as favorite Chrono Genesis(JPN) won, though just by a neck. The daughter of Bago(FR) was second in the 1600m G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies at the end of last year. Beach Samba(JPN) by Kurofune(USA) was second, and Jodie(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) was third.

The first G1 on turf is fast approaching, so the 1400m G3 Hankyu Hai at Hanshin Racecourse on February 24th should set up the participants nicely for the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March. The results came to a massive surprise to most bettors when 11th favorite Smart Odin(JPN) came flying to upset the race. The son of Danon Chantilly(JPN) had injured himself after running in the 2016 Japanese Derby, and after two years off the track, Smart Odin(JPN) was back at the races. The first six months of his new campaign were all very disappointing given how impressive he was before his injury winning three graded stakes, all over longer distances. Given his poor performance record of late and his previous proclivity to longer distance races, his position as 11th favorite makes a lot of sense, but on that day, Smart Odin(JPN) decided he was going to be a sprinter. G1 winner Let's Go Donki(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) was second, and Logi Cry(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was third.

On February 16th, the 1400m G3 Kyoto Himba Stakes, reserved for only fillies and mares was held at Kyoto Racecourse. The race proved to be a major upset with 9th, 7th, and 13th favorites all hitting the board. Despite being 9th in the betting Dea Regalo(JPN) was second in this same race a year ago, and this time the daughter of Manhattan Cafe(JPN) held on for the win. Linate(JPN), a daughter of Stay Gold(JPN) was charging at the end, coming from the back of the pack late and managed to get within a half a length as they crossed the wire. Amalfi Coast(JPN), by Daiwa Major(JPN), held on for third.

In the 1600m G3 Tokyo Shimbun Hai at Tokyo Racecourse, Indy Champ(JPN) extended his win streak to three in a row after narrowly defeating daughter of Deep Impact(JPN) Red Olga(JPN) by half a length. The son of Stay Gold(JPN) had been looking promising during his three-year-old campaign last year but failed to make it into the classics or end of the year G1s. This performance could be setting him up for a trip to G1 Yasuda Kinen in June. G1 winner Satono Ares(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was a close third.

On February 17th, the 1800m G3 Kokura Daishoten at Kokura Racecourse saw a bit of an upset with fans as Stiffelio(JPN) narrowly beat fan favorite Tanino Frankel(IRE) by a neck. Stiffelio(JPN), a son of Stay Gold(JPN), had proved himself before, winning the G3 Fukushima Kinen late last year. Tanino Frankel(IRE), has yet to get the elusive graded stakes win but his dam, Derby winner and nine-time G1 winner Vodka(JPN) brings with her quite a following. Being by the mighty Frankel(GB) and having run a decent third in the G3 Nakayama Kimpai at the beginning of the year, fans were hopeful that this would finally be the race for the four-year-old to earn some black type, but it wasn't to be. I doubt it will diminish his fan following in the slightest though. Saimon Ramesses(JPN) by Black Tide(JPN) was third.

The 1800m G2 Nakayama Kinen has become a Dubai launch pad over the past few years, and both Suave Richard(JPN) and Deirdre(JPN) were there thinking just that. However on this February 24th at Nakayama Racecourse, top honors went to Win Bright(JPN) who was fresh off his win in the G3 Nakayama Kimpai early in January over the same course. The son of Stay Gold(JPN) will head to Hong Kong for the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup versus Dubai and since he beat five other G1 winners head abroad could be an exciting proposition for the flashy gray. 2017 Champion two-year-old Lucky Lilac(JPN) was second by a neck, and G1 Mile Championship winner Stelvio(JPN) was a head back in third.

After almost a year of disappointing starts and non-starts Danburite(JPN) finally found his way back to the winners' circle in the thrilling final strides of the 2200m G2 Kyoto Kinen on February 10th at Kyoto Racecourse. The son of Rulership(JPN) was running behind pacesetter Time Flyer(JPN) for most of the race before Black Bago(JPN) decided to take the tempo up a notch as they neared the third corner. As they turned for home Danburite(JPN) grinded away at the onslaught of competition but came out a neck in first over a closing Stay Foolish(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) and Derby winner Makahiki(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) who all finished second and third by necks respectively.

A key prep for the G1 Tenno Sho Haru in April, the 3400m G3 Diamond Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse is one of the longest races held in the JRA over the flat course. It is also no surprise that You Can Smile(JPN), a son of King Kamehameha(JPN), who ran an impressive third in the 3000m G1 Kikuka Sho(Japanese St. Leger) last fall would be the winner of the race. Coming from the back of the pack, the colt took full advantage of Tokyo's long stretch and changed down front runner Sunday Moutiers(JPN), who is by Tanino Gimlet(JPN). You Can Smile(JPN) won handily by two and a half lengths over Sunday Moutiers(JPN) and Cafe Blitz(JPN), by Manhattan Cafe(JPN) was back in third.

On February 17th, the 1600m G1 February Stakes saw a new star be born in that of Inti(JPN) a spectacular front runner. The stunning chestnut son of G1 Santa Anita Derby winner Came Home(USA), broke sharply and took the lead early on and never looked back. In superb front running fashion, he held off a powerful closing run by champion Gold Dream(JPN), with Yuranoto(JPN) in third. With Inti(JPN) victory, the first G1 title of his career, he also gained automatic entry into the G1 Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 2nd.

All JRA graded stakes results and race replays are available on Japan Association for International Racing, and Stud Book (JAIRS)'s website:

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