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July 8, 2019 (Mon)

May JRA Graded Stakes Review

May is a massive month for racing in Japan, with G1 races every Sunday, all month long, including the Japanese Derby and Oaks. Fillies and mares who are four-years-old and up get their first G1 in the Victoria Mile. Three-year-olds who might not hand the mile and a half of the Derby and Oaks can participate in the NHK Mile Cup instead. It is truly one of the most exciting months in JRA racing in Japan. All of these four G1 events are held at Tokyo Racecourse, making it the place to be in the month of May.

The final prep for the G1 Japanese Derby on May 26th was the 2200m G2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai at Kyoto Racecourse on May 4th. Red Genial(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) sat mid-pack while Roger Barows(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) took to the lead to set the pace. Roger Barows(JPN) enjoyed a comfortable lead for nearly the entire go, looking like he was going to run away with the Derby prep, but Red Genial(JPN) came firing like a rocket in the final furlong to get his neck in front only a few strides before the wire. Satono Solomon(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was two and a half lengths back in third.

On paper results of the May 5th 1600m G1 NHK Mile Cup made perfect sense when 2018 Champion Two-Year-Old Colt Admire Mars(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) crossed the finish line a half a length in front of Cadence Call(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN). He is a champion over a mile and had won every single one of his four other starts over the distance. The flashy chestnut colt was only second favorite going into the gate due to two races over 1800m and 2000m where he finished 2nd and 4th, the G2 Kyodo Tsushin Hai and the G1 Satsuki Sho. Perhaps the public had felt he'd lost a bit of his champion form, but he proved his doubters wrong and validated his connections' decision to choose the NHK Mile Cup over the Japanese Derby. Running mid-pack, he surged at the 200m mark to win over the promising looking Cadence Call(JPN).) Catedral(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was a nose back in third.

The 1400m G2 Keio Hai Spring Cup on May 11th at Tokyo Racecourse is either a launching pad for horses going into the 1600m G1 Yasuda Kinen in June or used as a launch pad for sprinters going into the summer racing season. Post time favorite Tower of London(JPN) by Raven's Pass(USA) set a track record working his way up from mid-pack to claim his third graded stakes title. The four-year-old colt surged down the stretch and systematically worked his way to the front to win by three-quarters of a length over fast-closing Linate(JPN) by Stay Gold(JPN) on the outside and Logi Cry(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) a nose back in third.

The 1600m G1 Victoria Mile at Tokyo Racecourse on May 12th ended in real fireworks as fifth favorite Normcore(JPN) by Harbinger(GB) showed tremendous speed, breaking the JRA record for a mile to claim her first G1 title ridden by Australian Jockey Damian Lane. She sat mid-pack through much of the fast-paced race and was one of four fillies who made their play at the end but got her neck in front to take home the trophy. Primo Scene(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was second and six-year-old Crocosmia(JPN) by Stay Gold(JPN) and a half a length back in third. Ten of the eighteen horse field broke the previous course record as well in a truly electric renewal of the Victoria Mile.

The 1900m G3 Heian Stakes over the dirt at Kyoto Racecourse on May 18th was the JRA's single graded dirt race of the month. Post time favorite Chuwa Wizard(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) rose to the challenge and captured his first graded stakes title in the JRA, after having won two JPNII races in the NAR in his past three starts. He rallied from the back of the pack neck and neck with Mozu Attraction(JPN) by Jungle Pocket(JPN) to chase down G1 winner Omega Perfume(JPN) by Swept Overboard(USA). Chuwa Wizard(JPN) got his nose in front of Mozu Attraction(JPN) in a thrilling finish with Omega Perfume(JPN) finished a length and a quarter back in third.

Loves Only You(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was post time favorite going into the 2400m G1 Japanese Oaks at Tokyo Racecourse on May 19th and she did not disappoint her backers. After sitting mid-pack during the trek around the massive Tokyo turf course, she made her move mid-stretch, kicking into high gear at the 200m mark passing Curren Bouquetd'or(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) to get her neck in front to win. The full sister to G1 Dubai Turf hero Real Steel(JPN), proved her worth in miraculous fashion. Chrono Genesis(JPN) by Bago(FR) was another two and a half lengths back in third. As a roughly US1.5 million yearling at the 2017 Select Sale, she gave the new racing club, DMM Dream Club their first G1 title since launching just two years ago. Loves Only You(JPN) also broke Almond Eye(JPN)'s race record.

In every country around the world that has horse racing, the prize most sought after by owners, trainers, and jockeys alike is the local Derby. The 2400m G1 Japanese Derby at Tokyo Racecourse on May 26th was no different. Lion Lion(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) sprinted away at the start putting multiple lengths between him and Roger Barows(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) who stalked him in second position. This put the colt in an advantageous position as they came into the stretch as Lion Lion(JPN) tired. 12th favorite Roger Barows(JPN) took off down the stretch with a multiple length advantage over the rest of the field to claim the Derby title for himself while also breaking the race record. Danon Kingly(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) came flying at the end, but the third favorite was unable to make up enough ground and finished second by a neck. Second favorite Velox(JPN) by Just a Way(JPN) was a further two and a half lengths back in third while post time favorite Saturnalia(JPN) who botched the start closed fast to finish fourth. Roger Barows(JPN) gave longtime owner Hirotsugu Inokuma, not just his first Derby victory but also his first G1 win. The colt will join stablemate Kiseki(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) in a trip to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe this fall.

Not long after the Derby wrapped, the focus went back to the main track for the 2500m G2 Meguro Kinen also at Tokyo Racecourse that same afternoon. The race seemed was headlined by G1 winner Blast Onepiece(JPN), but the son of Harbinger(GB) also had that very title work against him as the Meguro Kinen is run as a handicap. Carrying the heaviest weight of the race, two to nine kilograms more than other horses in the race, worked against him and he faded to 8th. Six-year-old Look Twice(JPN), by Stay Gold(JPN), a late bloomer in the graded stakes arena, surged from the back of the pack under Australian jockey Damian Lane to capture his first graded stakes title. Ice Bubble(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was a length and a quarter back in second and Sole Impact(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was another length and a quarter back in third. Look Twice(JPN) earned an automatic entry into the G1 Caulfield Cup in Australia if he chooses to travel this fall.

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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