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Homan’s JRA horses to follow – August 16

A possible Tokyo Yushun prospect and a well-related colt from an outstanding family both caught the eye of our JRA expert this week.

Danon The Tiger (R2 Niigata, maiden, 1800m, August 13)

A 297 million yen (AU$3.17 million) price tag meant there was intense scrutiny on Danon The Tiger heading into his Newcomer race in Tokyo on the second weekend of the two-year-old season, and the jury was out on his performance after he was beaten that day as 1.4 favourite.

It was clear the experience of that first outing would benefit Sakae Kunieda’s colt, even if that was of little consolation to win bettors that took the short quote. 

During the run Danon The Tiger was on and off the bit but still managed to rattle home for second, despite being a little bit whip shy in the straight under Yuga Kawada. 

Second-up at Niigata however, Kawada was wide from gate 16 but Danon The Tiger travelled much more smoothly, responding to the stick with purpose to run down leader Glanz Green, who could also be one to watch after showing a serious kick in the straight. 

Kunieda, best known as the trainer of all-world mare Almond Eye, indicated that his latest prospect could be one to watch for next year’s Tokyo Yushun. 

“I think Danon the Tiger has not shown his full ability yet,” he said. “Although he improved a bit compared to his first race, his engine starts slowly in this straight. He can improve in the future.” 

Danon The Tiger’s dam She’s a Tiger was named America’s champion two-year-old filly in 2013 and was first past the post in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita before being disqualified for interference caused by Gary Stevens. 

Escola (R10 Kokura, Shiranui Stakes, Class 3, August 14)

With a dam like Salomina, and siblings Salios and Salacia, Escola also has a lot of expectation to live up to and returned from a long break with an emphatic performance. 

The well-related Escola won three from four as a three-year-old, his only defeat on heavy ground on debut at Chukyo, but hadn’t been seen at the races since October last year. 

The winning margin of one length wasn’t indicative of the upside of a horse that should be comfortable in stakes company. 

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Escola returned after the best part of 10 months off the scene. (Photo by @totoiki183 via Twitter)

Yuichi Fukunaga remarked post-race that Escola ‘keeps growing’ and the pre-race weigh-in matched the jockey’s assessment and the parade ring eye test: the colt was up 18 kilograms to 518kg since the last time he was seen on track in October last year. He was reported with lameness after that start and trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida has nursed the colt back to the races.

Under the care of astute handler Mitsumasa Nakauchida, it will be fascinating to see where Escola heads next but Fukunaga is keen to stay aboard. 

“I think Escola has not shown all his potential yet,” he said post-race.

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