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May 26, 2021 (Wed)

February JRA Graded Stakes Review

The second month of the year brings with it the first G1 of the new year, the G1 February Stakes, and a bunch of G2s and G3s that will lead into bigger G1 races later on in the year.

In the 1600m G3 Tokyo Shimbun Hai at Tokyo Racecourse on February 7th, Karate(JPN) gave his sire To the Glory(JPN) his first graded stakes winner. The dark bay horse went into the having won his previous two races but was only the fifth betting favorite at post time. He stalked the pacesetters throughout the mile-long affair, and mid-stretch, a perfect gap opened in front of him that allowed him to hit the lead as they neared the wire. He held off a determined the twelfth favorite Catedral(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) by a head. Shadow Diva(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was a length and a quarter back in third.

The 2000m G3 Kisaragi Sho at Chukyo Racecourse on February 7th was one of three three-year-old races where Classic hopefuls got to try their hand at the G1 Satsuki Sho distance. Lagom(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) ran impressively, expertly stalking frontrunners before taking command at about the 200m mark. He seemed the clear winner till Yoho Lake(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) started to eat away at his lead in that final furlong, but Lagom(JPN) was able to hold on to win by a neck. Land of Liberty(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was three and a half lengths back in third.

Royally bred Akaitorino Musume(JPN) won the 1600m G3 Queen Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on February 13th, making her first graded stakes winner that Filly Triple Crown winner Apapane(JPN) has produced thus far in her career. She has gotten remarkably close in the past with other offspring, all by Deep Impact(JPN), two of which have been in the money in several graded stakes events in the past. As a daughter of two Triple Crown winners, the pressure on her is high, but she lived up to that challenge here, battling her way to the lead in the final furlong and holding on to win by a neck. Art de Vivre(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) was second, and Kukuna(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) was a further neck back in third. Akaitorino Musume(JPN) has now earned her way into the G1 Oka Sho in April, where she can try to live up to her dam's Filly Triple Crown success.

In the 1800m G3 Kyodo News Hai at Tokyo Racecourse on February 14th, another prep race for the classics in April, Efforia(JPN) by Epiphaneia(JPN) made a major impact on the three-year-old scene by demolishing the field to win by two and a half-length. The large colt looked effortless in his movements as he took command before passing the 200m mark and never looked back. He will be one to watch this in this year's classics, and if he proves to be as talented as this run makes him seem, he could give Epiphaneia(JPN) his first male classic winner as well. Victipharus(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was second, and Shahryar(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was a head back in third.

The 2200m G2 Kyoto Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse on February 14th saw the rebirth of G1 Japanese Oaks winner Loves Only You(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) after a year and a half of not finding the winners circle. While she has gathered several placings over the past year in a half after her stunning Oaks win, it has not been an easy road for the mare. She seemed back to full glory on this day, however, stalking the pace before making her move to win by an easy length and a quarter. Stay Foolish(JPN) by Stay Gold(JPN) continued his bridesmaid streak finishing second with Danburite(JPN) by Rulership(JPN), a half-length back in third. Loves Only You(JPN) will next head to Dubai for the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at the end of March.

The 3400m G3 Diamond Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on February 20th is the second longest race in the JRA and a true test for stayers before the G1 3200m Tenno Sho Spring in May. Grandiose(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) upset favorite Authority(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) in the final strides, having caught up with him after Authority(JPN) has seemingly run away with the race. Grandiose(JPN) fought hard to get his neck in front to claim his first graded stakes win. Authority(JPN) was second, and Pont des Arts(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was five lengths back in third.

Iberis(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) wired the 1400m G3 Kyoto Himba Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse on February 20th, claiming her second graded stakes title. She had gone nearly two years without reaching the winners' circle but looked much improved in this outing. She broke sharp and was never in any danger during the seven-furlong race, winning by a comfortable length and a half over Gilded Mirror(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN). Blanc Noir(JPN), also by Lord Kanaloa(JPN), was a neck back in third.

The 1600m G1 February Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on February 21st is always the first G1 of the new year. Post-time favorite Cafe Pharoah(USA) by American Pharoah(USA) didn't disappoint his supporters, stalking the pace before taking the lead in the final furlong. He held off an aggressive finish Air Spinel(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) to win by three-quarters of a length. Air Spinel(JPN) was second and Wonder Lider(JPN) by Statue of Liberty(USA) a length and three quarters back in third.

The 1800m G3 Kokura Daishoten at Kokura Racecourse on February 21st had a major upset when eleventh favorite Territorial(JPN) by Teofilo(IRE) displayed major guts to win his first graded stakes win of his long career. Territorial(JPN) had to dig deep to keep his nose in front of Boccherini(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN), and it came down to a bob of the head and a photo finish. Boccherini(JPN) had to settle for second while Dirndl(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) a length and a half back in third.

In the 1800m G2 Nakayama Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse on February 28th, Hishi Iguazu(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) expanded his win streak to four with a brilliant performance. He stalked the pace in fourth position throughout and fraught hard to get his neck in front of Cadence Call(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) in the final stages of the race. Cadence Call(JPN) was second with a game Win Exceed(JPN) by Manhattan Cafe(JPN), a half-length back in third.

Post-time favorite Resistencia(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) wired the 1400m G3 Hankyu Hai at Hanshin Racecourse on February 28th as only a G1 winning champion could, in course record time. She immediately took the lead, and while there was a brief moment at the top of the stretch where it looked like she might be in trouble, jockey Yuichi Kitamura tapped her with the whip, and she switched into a whole new gear, pulling away to win by two lengths. Mikki Brillante(JPN) by Deep Brillante(JPN) was second, and Gendarme(USA) by Kitten's Joy(USA) was half a length back in third.

Outside of Japan, several JRA horses made the journey to Saudi Arabia for the second annual Saudi Cup day on February 20th. For the second year in a row, trainer Hideyuki Mori captured the Saudi Derby with Pink Kamehameha(JPN) by Leontes(JPN). They held off top USA raider Cowan(USA) by Kantharos(USA). Last year, he captured the same race with Full Flat(USA) by Speightstown(USA). In the Riyadh Dirt Sprint, Japan finished 1-2, with multiple graded stakes winner Copano Kicking(USA) by Spring at Last(USA), showing a powerful closing kick to catch perpetual international bridesmaid Matera Sky(USA) by Speightstown(USA). Matera Sky(USA) was second last year when he looked to be the easy winner that year. Justin(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) finished 6th. G1 Champions Cup winner Chuwa Wizard(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) finished 9th in the $20 million Saudi Cup to round out the five-horse contingency sent to Saudi Arabia. All five then flew to Dubai to prepare for the Dubai World Cup day at the end of March.

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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