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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
As Tokyo Yushun winner Do Deuce kicks off his Arc campaign at Longchamp, a Group 2 clash at Chukyo shapes as compelling viewing.
Do Deuce will likely hog international attention this weekend at Longchamp but the Japanese space also has a tantalising head-to-head threatening to outdo that Paris headline act for raw excitement.
The impetuous wild child versus the cool and classy professional: Meikei Yell against Songline in Sunday’s G2 Centaur Stakes over 1200 metres at Chukyo.
Japanese racing has a wonderful tradition of ‘mad’ horses enlivening elite contests with their wayward antics. Ranking highly among such beloved headcases as Gold Ship and Orfevre is the ‘spinning sprinter’ Hakusan Moon, most famous for twirling around and around as soon as the jockey mounted – grooms flying, crowd loving it – before deciding to go to post; but the blazing front-runner also had the talent to have been the last horse to defeat the great Lord Kanaloa, in the Centaur Stakes of 2013.
#HakusanMoon doing his pre-race twirl for the crowd #headcase #youspinmerightround #sprintersstakes pic.twitter.com/Ry6zowKvR2
— David Morgan (@themorgangrind) October 4, 2015
The Centaur is the chief lead-in to the G1 Sprinters Stakes and that is the plan for Meikei Yell who is a filly in keeping with the madcap tradition. Her trick is not to spin but to fight viciously for her head. That was in evidence even in her latest race, back in May, a victory in the G2 Keio Hai Spring Cup over 1400 metres.
But she has at least calmed down a bit – it’s all relative – since the Oka Sho of 2021 when she missed the break, went full runaway train mode to skirt the field and lead, then faded in the straight. Nowadays Meikei Yell has relented to at least accept – reluctantly – a midfield spot and close rather than charge forward as her will dictates.
The Oka Sho was the last time Meikei Yell met Songline. Since her nondescript 15th behind Sodashi that day, Sunday Racing’s Songline has matured into a serious sprinter-miler with an international resume.
Christophe Lemaire on Songline wins the 1351 Turf Sprint during The Saudi Cup meeting in 2022. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
A first-up win in the G3 Turf Sprint at Riyadh in February was followed by an eye-catching fifth to Sodashi in the Victoria Mile, her prep for victory in the G1 Yasuda Kinen at a mile in June.
Kenichi Ikezoe is the regular rider of both the sensible Songline and the wayward Meikei Yell but this time will side with Meiki Yell who, unlike her rival, has been unable to score above the Group 2 level.
It was Christophe Lemaire, not Ikezoe, though, who partnered Songline in Saudi Arabia and the Frenchman will take the reins again, with the Toru Hayashi-trained four-year-old being pointed towards the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland in November.
That American route is being lamented by many a racing fan in Japan who had been hoping to see the Yasuda Kinen heroine take on the ‘white wonder’ Sodashi again in the G1 Mile Championship in November.
But the draw of international prestige is particularly strong among some of Japan’s owners and trainers off the back of a conquering 12 months off-shore. And the mood is buoyant that Do Deuce could be one part of an especially strong assault on the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe next month, with Titleholder and Deep Bond also heading to France in an attempt to end Japan’s famous Arc hoodoo.
Do Deuce was a powerful winner of the G1 Tokyo Yushun. (Photo by JRA)
Do Deuce’s European debut under Yutaka Take in the Prix Niel should give a good gauge as to those Arc hopes. But victory in the three-year-olds only trial has not been a harbinger of Arc success in recent times: no horse has completed the Niel-Arc double since Hurricane Run in 2005.
Since then, two Japanese horses have won the Niel, and both, like Do Deuce, were highly-regarded winners of the G1 Tokyo Yushun at their previous start: in 2013 the Take-ridden Kizuna defeated the English Derby winner Ruler Of The World in the Niel and was fourth to Treve in the big one; a year later Makahiki defeated moderate rivals in the Niel under Lemaire but was a disappointing 14th behind Found in the Arc itself.
Do Deuce faces a field lacking any other star quality besides himself. Granted, the difficulties of travelling across the globe to a new environment must be factored in, and French racing is often steady, steady and sprint, but defeat on Sunday would be an atmosphere flattener.
As for the girls at Chukyo, they dominate the betting market and it will be fascinating to see if madcap can beat level-headed this time.
A Derby day of hope: Take’s sixth classic a step on path to Arc redemption
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