Japan’s Plans for Spring Racing

Spring G1 Campaign for Four-Year-Olds and Up in Japan

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, JRA decided to hold its horse races without spectators from 29th February. As other racecourses are closed, racing fans can only bet by phone or via online.

With a number of G1 winners retiring at the end of last year, including 2019 Horse of the Year Lys Gracieux, Cheval Grand, Al Ain, Rey de Oro and Suave Richard, this year’s middle-long-distance spring G1 campaign for four-year-olds & up will likely be led by the top finishers of last year’s Japan Cup and Arima Kinen.

Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m) winners Wagnerian in 2018 and Makahiki in 2016, who finished the 2019 Japan Cup in third and fourth, respectively, will both kick off their 2020 campaigns with the Osaka Hai (G1, 2,000m) on 5th April. Saturnalia, 2019 Arima Kinen runner-up and Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas G1, 2,000m) winner, commenced his four-year-old season with a comfortable two-length victory in the Kinko Sho (G2, 2,000m) on 15th March. His connections announced that the colt will skip the Osaka Hai for the Takarazuka Kinen (G1, 2,200m) on 28th June.

Other key contenders of the Osaka Hai will include 2019 Tokyo Yushun runner-up Danon Kingly, who most recently won the Nakayama Kinen, and Lucky Lilac, who won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1, 2,200m) and was second in the Nakayama Kinen. They will be joined by 2019 Shuka Sho (G1, 2,000m) victor Chrono Genesis, who registered her third graded title in her latest start, the Kyoto Kinen (G2, 2,200m) on 16th February, and Blast Onepiece, winner of the 2018 Arima Kinen and this year’s American Jockey Club Cup (G2, 2,200m).

Last year’s Japan Cup fifth-place finisher You Can Smile captured his third graded title with a comfortable 1 3/4 length victory in his five-year-old kick-off start, the Hanshin Daishoten (G2, 3,000m) on 22nd March, and will head to the Tenno Sho (Spring) (G1, 3,200m) on 3rd May. World Premiere, Fierement and Kiseki, who finished third, fourth and fifth respectively in last year’s Arima Kinen, were all Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger, G1, 3,000m) winners in their three-year-old seasons. World Premiere was scheduled to kick off his four-year-old season with the Osaka Hai and then head for the Tenno Sho (Spring) but was sidelined due to health reasons. Fierement will commence his 2020 season by attempting to defend his Tenno Sho (Spring) title. Kiseki, who finished a disappointing seventh after a poor break in his first start this season, the Hanshin Daishoten, will be another key runner in the Tenno Sho (Spring).

The first of the flat-turf G1 events of the year, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo Racecourse on 29th March, will spotlight last year’s Sprinters Stakes (G1, 1,200m) winner Tower of London. The five-year-old kicked off the season with the Ocean Cup (G3, 1,200m) on 7th March by finishing third, 4 1/2 lengths behind winner Danon Smash, while carrying a top weight of 58kg, which was 2kg more than the rest of the field. After the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, he may fly to Great Britain either for Royal Ascot or the July Cup (G1, 1,200m). The Takamatsunomiya Kinen will also feature Tower of London’s stablemate and 2019 Best Three-Year-Old Filly, Gran Alegria and last year’s Victoria Mile (G1, 1,600m) winner Normcore.

The steeplechase racing in spring will be highlighted by the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) on 18th April. Oju Chosan, Best Steeplechase Horse between 2016 and 2018, will aim for his fifth consecutive title this year after winning the Hanshin Spring Jump (J-G2, 3,900m) on 14th March to renew his own record by claiming his 12th consecutive graded steeplechase title. Last year’s Nakayama Daishogai (J-G1, 4,100m) winner and Best Steeplechase Horse Shingun Michael also kicked off the season in the Hanshin Spring Jump and finished second, nine lengths behind Oju Chosan.

The Victoria Mile for four-year-old & up fillies/mares on 17th May will include Lucky Lilac, Gran Alegria, Chrono Genesis and Normcore as well as last year’s runner-up Primo Scene, Kyoto Himba Stakes (G3, 1,400m) victor Sound Chiara and other female runners from the prep race, the Hanshin Himba Stakes (G2, 1,600m) on 11th April.

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