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May 19, 2020 (Tue)

March JRA Graded Stakes Review

Starting with the first weekend of March, the JRA shut its doors to the public as a safety measure during the Novel Coronavirus outbreak. The entire month of racing was held behind closed doors.

The 1800m G2 Nakayama Kinen on March 1st at Nakayama Racecourse had a small field of only nine horses, but there were five G1 winners in the race, making it one of the strongest fields of the month. Maltese Apogee(JPN) by Goshawk Ken(USA) took the lead and held it as the field entered the stretch with G1 Japanese Oaks winner Soul Stirring(JPN) by Frankel(GB) was hot on his heels. As they passed the 200m mark favorite Danon Kingly(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN), who had been biding him back in third position made his move and handily passed both of the pacesetters to win by a length and three quarters. Multiple G1 winner Lucky Lilac(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) making her 2020 debut and who had been stalking the pace right behind Danon Kingly(JPN) got up for second prize with Soul Stirring(JPN) neck back in third.

Also, on March 1st, the 1400m G3 Hankyu Hai at Hanshin Racecourse is often used as a prep race for the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at the end of the month. Best Actor(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) managed to come far off the pace to claim his first graded stakes title in an upset. Post time favorite, Diatonic(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) got disqualified from second place to third place due to pushing his way through horses in the final stages of the race and second favorite Fiano Romano(AUS) by Fastnet Rock(AUS) was promoted to second.

The 1200m G3 Ocean Stakes on March 7th at Nakayama Racecourse is another race often used as a final prep for the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at the end of the month. Favorite Danon Smash(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) awarded his backers well by winning by a length and a half over the consistent racemare Nac Venus(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN). Second favorite Tower of London(JPN) by Raven's Pass(USA) rallied a bit to finish a further three lengths back in third but was obviously in need of the run as he was nowhere near his G1 winning fall form.

Also, on March 7th, the G2 1600m Tulip Sho at Hanshin Racecourse is a Japanese 1000 Guineas trial, awarding the top three finishers automatic berth into the G1 Oka Sho in April. Favorite and last year's Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Resistencia(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) took the lead as was expected of her, but her contemporaries have started to mature well by the 200m mark she was caught. Maltese Diosa(JPN) by Kizuna(JPN) on her outside and Cravache d'Or(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) surged passed her and were neck and neck to the wire. Maltese Diosa(JPN) got her nose in front while Resistencia(JPN) was a length and a quarterback in third.

The 2000m G2 Yayoi Sho on March 8th at Nakayama Racecourse is a Japanese 2000 Guineas Trial, awarding the top three finishers automatic berth into the G1 Satsuki Sho in April. Second Favorite Satono Flag(JPN) had only been in maidens and allowances up until the Yayoi Sho, but his record time win in his maiden win the previous November had made him a colt many were looking forward to. He lived up to the hype in the race, mimicking his sire, Deep Impact(JPN) in running style, coming from behind to win comfortably by a length and three quarters with Yutaka Take in the irons. Wakea(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was second, and Authority(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) was half a length back in third.

The 1800m G3 Nakayama Himba Stakes on March 14th at Nakayama Racecourse is one of a handful of races spread out over the year for distaffers. The race was nearly an upset as the fourteenth favorite Lune Rough(JPN) by Monterosso(GB) tried her best to outduel Fairy Polka(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) in the final 50m of the race but was beaten by three-quarters of a length. Favorite Espoir(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) was another three quarters back in third.

Also, on March 14th, the 1400m G3 Falcon Stakes at Chukyo Stakes can be a popular prep race for the 1600m G1 NHK Mile for three-year-olds. The race was upset this year by one of only three fillies in the field of eighteen. Sixth favorite Shine Garnet(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) was about mid-pack for the seven-furlong race before making a powerful closing push at the 200m mark running clear to win by a confident length and a half. Lauda Sion(JPN) by Real Impact(JPN) was second with Westerwald(JPN) by Novellist(IRE) a further two and a half lengths back in third.

The 2000m G2 Kinko Sho on March 15th at Chukyo Racecourse probably could have been called the Saturnalia(JPN) Show as both his low 1.3 favorite odds showed, he was the only horse any of the bettors were considering had a chance, despite there being seven graded stakes winners and three graded stakes-placed challengers in the twelve horse field. The multiple G1 winning son of Lord Kanaloa(JPN) broke well, sat mid-pack throughout before taking the lead convincingly in the stretch to win by a comfortable two lengths. Satono Saltus(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was second with Daiwa Cagney(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) three quarters back in third.

Also, on March 15th, the 1400m G2 Fillies' Revue at Hanshin Racecourse was the second of two Japanese 1000 Guineas Trials in March. A full field of eighteen showed up to take on the challenge, but the race was resoundingly upset by fifth favorite Epos(JPN) by Just a Way(JPN). The filly was mid-pack for much of the race, even as they started down the stretch, Yasunari Iwata slowly moved his filly forward and was able to weave between horses to get clear enough by the 100m mark she could then sprint home to win fantastic length and a quarter. Yamakatsu Mermaid(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) was second, and Nine to Five(JPN) by Screen Hero(JPN) was half a length back in third.

The 1800m G3 Flower Cup on March 20th at Nakayama Racecourse starts to plant the seeds that will eventually grow into the G1 Japanese Oaks in late May. Running longer than the G1 Oka Sho and being so late in the month, only a filly who had needed stakes money to get into the Oka Sho field might come from the Flower Cup, but for the most part, these fillies are looking to go further than a mile soon. This year's renewal was turned on its head when 12th favorite, Ablaze(JPN), by Kizuna(JPN) showed remarkable grit when she overtook the pacesetter early in the stretch run and held off all advances with an unwavering stretch run. Red le Reve(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) was three-quarters of a length back in second and Season's Gift(JPN) by Epiphaneia(JPN) was a length and a half back in third.

The 1800m G2 Spring Stakes on March 22nd at Nakayama Racecourse was the second Japanese 2000m Guineas Trial of March. Another reasonably big upset took place when the sixth favorite Galore Creek(JPN) by Kinshasa no Kiseki(AUS) successfully out dueled favorite Weltreisende(JPN) by Dream Journey(JPN) to take home the prize by a comfortable length and a quarter. Succession(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) was a length and three quarters back in third. Top three finishers will get a run in the G1 Satsuki Sho in April.

Also, on March 22nd, the 3000m G2 Hanshin Daishoten at Hanshin Racecourse, where You Can Smile(JPN) padded his resume of two G3 wins with an excellent G2 title. The son of King Kamehameha(JPN) has been a staple of the G1 and graded stakes arena over the past two years but has not had much luck outside of the G3 level. Showing an added layer of maturity at five, sat near the back of the pack early on. As they neared, the stretch was stealthily moved forward by jockey Yasunari Iwata till he was right behind favorite Kiseki(JPN) by Rulership(JPN). As Kiseki(JPN) began to tire, You Can Smile(JPN) leaped through a hole on the inside and darted off to win by a confident length and three quarters. Tosen Cambina(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was second, and Meisho Tengen(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was another half-length back in third.

The 2500m G2 Nikkei Sho on March 28th at Nakayama Racecourse had no surprises this weekend when favorite Mikki Swallow(JPN) got up to claim his third graded stakes trophy. The son of Tosen Homareboshi(JPN) sat near the back of the pack early on in the twelve and a half furlong race, going into the far turn he started to move forward. Due to heavy ground, most of the pack raced unusually wide through the turn sending him nearly six or seven wide as they turned for home. He had to run down a determined Stiffelio(JPN) by Stay Gold(JPN) and held off a final burst from Mozu Bello(JPN) by Deep Brillante(JPN) to win by a length and a quarter. Mozu Bello(JPN) was second and Stiffelio(JPN) a neck back in third.

Also, on March 28th, the 1800m G3 Mainichi Hai at Hanshin Racecourse, a standard prep for either the G1 Satsuki Sho or G1 Japanese Derby, ended in a Deep Impact(JPN) trifecta. Second favorite Satono Impresa(JPN) expertly split horses charging down the stretch to push past favorite Al Jannah(JPN) by three-quarters of a length. Danon Aller(JPN) was two and a half lengths back in third.

The 1800m G3 March Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse was scheduled for March 29th, but an unseasonal snowstorm caused racing to be canceled at Nakayama and moved to the 31st. The only dirt graded race of March for the JRA held no surprises in the results but gave race fans a thrill. Post time favorite Suave Aramis(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) after stalking the pace closely throughout worked his way to the lead while dueling with graded stakes winner Clincher(JPN) by Deep Sky(JPN) till the final meters where he got his neck in front to win. Rapier Wit(JPN) by Henny Hughes(USA) was two and a half lengths back in third.

Also, on March 29th, the 1200m G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo Racecourse had an explosive result, with the horse who had their nose across the line first get disqualified to fourth after impeding the favorite's path in the final 100m of the race. In a stunningly close photo finish with pacesetter Mozu Superflare(USA) by Speightstown(USA) saw her solid lead start to fade with Kurino Gaudi(JPN) by Screen Hero(JPN) and Diatonic(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) chasing her down. The 100m mark is where the disqualifying action took place. As Diatonic(JPN) jockeyed for space between Kurino Gaudi(JPN) and Mozu Superflare(USA), Kurino Gaudi(JPN) suddenly lunges towards the inside causing Yuichi Kitamura to check Diatonic(JPN) sharply a few strides before Kurino Gaudi(JPN) gets his nose over the wire before a rallying Mozu Superflare(USA). After a long wait, the call came down, and Mozu Superflare(USA) was promoted to first after Kurino Gaudi(JPN) was disqualified to fourth. Gran Alegria(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) had flown late on the far outside to get up to be a nose back in second, and Diatonic(JPN) was a head 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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