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As Yuga Kawada and Christophe Lemaire continue their early season tussle in the jockey standings, JRA broadcaster Adrian Webber flags up the weekend’s Hanshin Daishoten fixture and looks at the comings and goings on the JRA scene.
There’s already a fascinating ding-dong battle at the top of the JRA jockeys’ table, with Yuga Kawada riding six winners last weekend to Christophe Lemaire’s five, giving the upper hand for now to Kawada with 35 wins to Lemaire’s 34. It’s very early days, of course, but the way things are going, this could turn out to be the most absorbing title race in years.
Seina Imamura continued her good run of form with three winners, giving her 14 so far this year and 65 in her career to date. But while Imamura has made rapid progress in her career, some things take a little more time, as has been the case for Yuta Onodera, who finally rode his first graded race win last Saturday in his 15th year of riding. Even then it wasn’t expected as Gemini King won the J-G2 Hanshin Spring Jump at odds of 90/1. “It’s been a long hard road but I’m pleased I’ve finally done it,” exclaimed Onodera.
Last weekend also saw Prognosis win the G2 Kinko Sho which helped propel the JRA’s 2021 champion trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida to the top spot in the trainers’ table with 13 wins for the year. And, looking back at the 1,000 Guineas trial races on Sunday (won by Tosen Laurier and Sing That Song) Nakauchida must still be feeling pretty optimistic about his star three-year-old filly Liberty Island, as on the latest evidence it looks as if she has nothing to fear when it comes to the year’s first Classic.
This coming weekend sees Deep Bond attempt to win the G2 Hanshin Daishoten for the third consecutive year and he’ll prove to be a very special agent indeed if he can pull it off.
The six-year-old now has younger foes to deal with, namely Justin Palace and the eye-catching chestnut Boldog Hos. Trainer Hiroshi Miyamoto describes Boldog Hos as ‘no ordinary horse’, as could be seen when he finished second to Equinox in last year’s G1 Arima Kinen, and the four-year-old will now be ridden by Yuga Kawada with Yuichi Fukunaga just retired.
Justin Palace was seventh in the Arima Kinen last year but his third place finish in last October’s G1 Kikuka Sho and the distance of that race put him right in contention here. He’s reportedly muscled up to around 480 kilograms but his balance is the best it’s been and Christophe Lemaire is set to ride the Deep Impact four-year-old for the first time since the horse was a two-year-old.
All Parfait reappears in this Sunday’s 2,000 Guineas trial, the G2 Spring Stakes at Nakayama over 1800 metres, and the front-running specialist might not be everyone’s idea of a G1 Satsuki Sho winner but it will be interesting to watch his run here. Perhaps Seven Magician has more appeal as a horse with a closing finish and will put in a bigger run than he did when sixth in the G1 Hopeful Stakes last December.
Shota Nishizono has become the youngest ever JRA trainer at the age of 33. Having acquired his licence last year he becomes one of three new trainers to take their places at the Ritto Training Centre. His father Masato has four Group 1 winners to his name and realizes what a tough task lies ahead for his son.
“It’s difficult to get a trainer’s licence at such a young age and even though, in theory, he becomes a rival, I’m happy to give him some advice,” said Nishizono the elder.
In response, the latest addition to the training ranks knows things won’t be easy: “I’ve learned a lot already from the time I’ve spent with trainers Yoshito Yahagi and Mikio Matsunaga and I feel it’s important to get to know people and the way they think when it comes to training horses, but I’m still at the trial and error stage,” said the young scholar.
He sent out his first runner last Saturday at Hanshin, Prosperidad, a horse that he got from his father’s stable, and the three-year-old finished eighth.
The sad news came through at the end of last week that Heart’s Cry had died at the age of 22. Retiring as a stallion in 2020, he produced so many top-class horses that have shaped the modern age of Japanese racing: Derby winner One and Only, international star Lys Gracieux, Japan Cup winner Suave Richard and most recently 2022 Derby winner Do Deuce are just some of the famous horses he sired.
Two of his greatest career wins were the G1 Arima Kinen in 2005 and the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic in 2006. The former came at the expense of his arch rival Deep Impact who probably grabbed more of the headlines than Heart’s Cry ever did.
On the subject of Deep Impact, he recently brought up his 2700th win as a stallion in JRA races when Rhinebeck won at Nakayama on Sunday. He becomes the second stallion to achieve that figure after Sunday Silence, but it didn’t take him so long, as it’s just been 12 years 8 months and 21 days since his progeny first hit the racetrack.
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