Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Dolce More faces NHK Mile Cup test while Lane aims to keep the fire burning

Adrian Webber has all the latest from the JRA including Damian Lane's hot streak, and a look at some of the two-year-olds preparing to debut in the coming weeks.

The G1 Tenno Sho was the spotlight event in Japan last weekend but it was also a great two days for Damian Lane. The Australian ace clearly loves riding on the JRA circuit and owners and trainers clearly admire his talents as he collected seven winners from 14 rides, moving from Tokyo on Saturday to Kyoto on Sunday, something which us mere mortals find enough in itself with the current crowded state of the transportation between the two places. 

The rider even managed third in Sunday’s big race, on trainer Yasutoshi Ikee’s Silver Sonic, winner of the G3 Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia in February. Lane’s precision and timing made it all look so easy on the winners he rode.

Palace in wonderland

With African Gold and Titleholder going off at such a quick pace in the Tenno Sho, it did look very much like their runs wouldn’t be sustainable over the 3200 metres of the newly reopened Kyoto track. 

Christophe Lemaire on Justin Palace took a much more leisurely approach to things and that paid dividends come the home straight when he just had to pounce on the admirable Deep Bond who has now finished second in the race three years in a row. Justin Palace, a four-year-old by Deep Impact, is another big improver and Lemaire’s ability to get the best out of a horse yet again brought him his 44th JRA Group 1 win.

This coming Sunday sees the Classic generation to the fore in the G1 NHK Mile Cup at Tokyo, a non-Classic race that will identify the spring season’s best three-year-old miler. There will be some fillies in the line-up claiming their 2 kilogram allowance, but Dolce More, a colt by Rulership, has only been beaten once in four starts and will be looking to reproduce his G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes victory from last December under his new jockey Kosei Miura. 

For followers of the red-hot Lane, he’ll be riding Carro Veloce, another runner for trainer Naosuke Sugai, who will put the jockey up the week after on his stable star Sodashi in the fillies and mares-only G1 Victoria Mile.

No Fire, no Impact

News that Open Fire, a colt from the last crop of Deep Impact, will spend more time at the farm came as he had to miss last week’s G2 Aoba Sho (a Derby trial) and consequently will not take part in the Classic later this month.


Yuga Kawada and Hrimfaxi just hold off Bauyrzhan Murzabayev on Open Fire. (Photo by JRA)

Trainer Takashi Saito isn’t completely happy with the horse and will be giving him more time to hopefully reach his best condition. It will be the first time in thirteen years that Deep Impact as a stallion will not be represented in the G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), although his seven Derby winners, including the likes of Kizuna, Shahryar and Contrail, will linger long in the memory.

Newcomers waiting in the wings

It’s the time of year when the two-year-olds of 2023 will soon step out in their JRA races and experience racing for the first time. Trainer Takahisa Tezuka has the ¥230 million (just over $1.6 million) Select Sale purchase Bond Girl in his stable, and the filly by Daiwa Major is a half-sister to Danon Beluga, a colt that finished fourth in the 2022 Derby. She’s expected to make her debut over a mile at Tokyo on June 4, and let’s hope she’ll be more ‘stirred’ than ‘shaken’ by her first assignment.

Sakae Kunieda will be in charge of Satono Epic, a juvenile colt by sire-of-the-moment Kitasan Black, and he’s hoping he could have a future Classic contender on his hands. “He looks a lot like his father, and distances of 2000 to 2400 metres should be good for him,” says the trainer.

And not to be outdone, Tetsuya Kimura will be looking to the Northern Farm-bred filly Garza Blanca to become one of his stable’s rising stars. The filly by Kizuna is a half-sister to Equinox, so there’s a bit of a reputation for her to live up to. “Obviously she’s a well-bred horse and she seems to have plenty of energy,” Kimura says of the promising filly.

Here’s hoping the rainy season which usually arrives in June doesn’t make the going too heavy for these future stars of the turf.

Miho for Matsumoto

Now in his third year as a jockey, Hiroki Matsumoto (20) is at the Miho Training Centre for a while to get more experience riding away from his home base at Hideyuki Mori’s stable at Ritto. He now joins Yukihiro Kato’s yard to prepare for stints riding at Niigata and later in the summer in Hokkaido. 

“I’m very grateful to have another chance to be at Miho and to ride horses for the stable here. I want to get good results later in the races coming up,” said Matsumoto on his latest trip east. The ‘lanky lad’ from Shiga Prefecture is 176 cm tall, and it might be best if he doesn’t grow any more in his quest to find more winners!




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