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January 27, 2020 (Mon)

December JRA Graded Stakes Review

The final month of the year is jam-packed with G1 races, and the results in all of them were a fitting end to the decade.

On December 1st the 1800m G1 Champions Cup at Chukyo Racecourse is the last of only two G1 dirt races in the JRA, and a new superstar was born when the undefeated Chrysoberyl(JPN) by the late Gold Allure(JPN) extended his undefeated streak to six when he claimed his first G1 title. The bay colt is only three-years-old and had already won three locally graded stakes in the NAR over the course of the year. An injury took him out of contention for the American Triple Crown earlier in the season, but he ended the year on fire. After a summer of besting three-year-olds, he proved to be more than just the best of his generation. He stalked the pace, sitting right behind G1 winner Inti(JPN) by Came Home(USA). He got out from behind Inti(JPN) with a furlong to go and multiple G1 winner Gold Dream(JPN) by Gold Allure(JPN) charging right beside him. Once he got into gear, he quickly got himself in front with 100m to go to win by a neck. Gold Dream(JPN) was second, and Inti(JPN) held on for third.

The 2000m G3 Chunichi Shimbun Hai on December 7th at Chukyo Racecourse saw a full gate of some nice horses, but it was four-year-old filly Satono Garnet(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) who saved ground near the back of the pack before swinging wide in the stretch and charged down the center of the track to get her head in front of graded stakes winner Last Draft(JPN) by Novellist(IRE). Ice Storm(JPN) by Storming Home(GB) was a neck back in third.

On December 8th, the 1200m G3 Capella Stakes on the dirt course at Nakayama Racecourse gave Copano Kicking(USA) by Spring At Last(USA) his third JRA G3 win. He'd spent most of 2019 running well in the NAR's locally graded races and had been paired with rising star jockey Nanako Fujita since February. She stalked the early pace with the four-year-old gelding before launching into a spectacular stretch run to win by an easy two and a half lengths. This was her first graded stakes win in the JRA, a big deal because no female jockey has never won a graded stakes in the JRA before. T O Genius(JPN) by Gold Allure(JPN) was second, and Shuji(JPN) by Kinshasa no Kiseki(AUS) was a nose back in third.

On the same day at Hanshin Racecourse, the 1600m G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies is the final championship race for two-year-old fillies. There was a slight upset in the race as favorite Ria Amelia(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) failed to fire, but the win by fourth favorite Resistencia(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) won spectacularly. She broke sharp and immediately took the lead and never looked back, winning by an incredible five lengths. Maltese Diosa(JPN) by Kizuna(JPN) was second, and Cravache d'Or(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was a nose back in third.

On December 14th, the 1600m G3 Turquoise Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse saw G3 winner Contra Check(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) take home her second title. She fell flat in the filly classics, but after a long break, she was back with a vengeance. She broke sharp and wired the mile-long race with ease, winning by a length and three quarters. Espoir(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) was second, and G1 placed Shigeru Pink Dia(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) was two lengths back in third.

The 1600m G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse on December 15th is an excellent race for producing great horses, and you don't have to look much further than last year's winner Admire Mars(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN). Favorite Salios(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) stalked the pace early on before making his move in the stretch. He pulled away from the pack, winning with ease by two and a half lengths and ending the year undefeated. Taisei Vision(JPN) by Turtle Bowl(IRE) was second, and Gran Rey(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) was a length and a quarter back in third.

On December 21st the 1400m G2 Hanshin Cup at Hanshin Racecourse saw the rebirth of a very talented filly, G1 winner Gran Alegria(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) gave her sire his last graded stakes-winning filly of the year. She won the G1 Oka Sho back in April but ran into trouble in the G1 NHK Mile Cup a month later. After months off the radar and pulling out of a few high profile races, she came back just in time to end the year on a high note. She sat mid-pack early, saving ground. She launched into high gear at the 200m mark and pulled away from the pack with a brilliant turn of foot to win by an astounding five lengths. Fiano Romano(AUS) by Fastnet Rock(AUS) was second, and Meisho Shobu(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) was a head back in third.

The 2500m G1 Arima Kinen on December 22nd at Nakayama Racecourse is the biggest betting race of the year in Japan, and the all-star cast that usually graces this field is part of the reason the turnover reaches new heights every year. Eleven G1 winners and multiple G1 placed horses made for quite the year-end spectacle. G1 winner Aerolithe(JPN) by Kurofune(USA) set a fast pace, running clear of the rest of the pack till they made their final turn for home. As she tired, the horses who had been biding their time at the back of the pack made their moves, and it was an amazing filly who claimed the Grand Prix but not the filly most of the world was expecting. Almond Eye(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) failed to fire in her last race of 2019, but Lys Gracieux(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) proved much the best after her impressive G1 Cox Plate win two months before. She closed with a phenomenal turn of foot to win by a canter, five lengths in front of dual G1 winner Saturnalia(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN). G1 winner World Premiere(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was neck in third. Such a spectacular win could lead to a Longines World's Best Horse title for Lys Gracieux(JPN), who was retired after the G1 Arima Kinen.

On December 28th, the 2000m G1 Hopeful Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse is the last G1 of 2019 and gives horses who need more than a mile a chance to get a G1 title at two. Rey de Oro(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) and Saturnalia(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) are two of the horses this relatively new G1 has produced in the past few years. This year the honors went to the very impressive looking Contrail(JPN) by the late Deep Impact(JPN), a fitting result in the year Deep Impact(JPN) passed away. He stalked the pace and slowly moved up as they neared the stretch, hitting the lead just before the 200m mark and never looked back. He won by a comfortable length and a half, not being pushed more than he needed to be. Weltreisende(JPN) by Dream Journey(JPN) was second, and Wakea(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was two lengths back in third.

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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