Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: from the bearish to the bullish

Adrian Webber shares his insights to the JRA scene as Japan’s autumn season begins to ramp up with more Group 1 action.

There’s been news from around the world lately of bears behaving badly, and Japan, too, has seen its fair share of incidents involving the non-cuddly creatures. Just last week three bears snuck into a tatami mat factory in Akita Prefecture, but before they could get their tea ceremony under way, they were discovered, promptly put into cages and carried off the premises. 

Officials in Japan blame the poor nut crop for the bears’ ever-closer encroachment on the world of humans but it seems their penchant for a hamburger or two is also part of the problem, and it’s quite possible you could find one working the till at the local convenience store soon, given the country’s labour shortage.

There was more to be positive about during the three days of JRA racing last weekend. On Saturday Gonbade Qabus was a comfortable winner of the G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup and the Noriyuki Hori-trained colt by Bricks and Mortar looks to have quite a future if that run is anything to go off. 


A day later, only a couple of noses separated the first three home in the G2 Mainichi Okan at Tokyo and it was Elton Barows (saddlecloth #6) who came out on top. He’s certainly not letting the sun go down on him as that was his fourth consecutive win. Songline lost nothing in defeat by finishing second and all being well she now heads to the Breeders’ Cup in California.

Pradaria notched a well-deserved win on Monday in the G2 Kyoto Daishoten. The colt finished fifth in last year’s Derby and has waited a while to make that form count. The line came too soon for Deep Bond and he had to settle for third in what was another luckless near-miss for him. 

Patience is a virtue

Optimism might have turned to slightly bearish sentiment for jockey Junji Iwabe who waited one year and eleven months for his latest Group race ride, which came aboard Marine Bunker in Saturday’s G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup. Unfortunately, the horse finished a distant last. Iwabe had won on the colt in September, which was coincidentally the jockey’s first win for one year and eleven months. Now in his 30th year of riding, he must certainly know the ups and downs of the job.

Hoping for an autumn comeback

Since taking a tumble in the paddock the other week, jockey Yuji Hishida has been diagnosed with a dislocated left shoulder and will have to undergo an operation. “Hopefully all goes well and it will depend on the rehabilitation time. I want to get back riding once my balance has improved enough,” Hishida said of his injury.

Famous names retire

Daring Tact, the six-year-old mare who as a three-year-old won all the Group 1 races exclusive to three-year-old fillies (Triple Tiara) has been retired to stud. Her trainer Haruki Sugiyama commented on his most recent stable star: “I knew the day would come when I had to get this news, but she was the first unbeaten filly to go on and win all her big races as a three-year-old and it meant so much to me.”

Daring Tact last ran in the 2022 Japan Cup when she finished fourth and will now become a broodmare at the Okada Stud. It’s well worth remembering that she was bought at the 2018 Select Sale for less than ¥13 million (not much more than US$80,000).

Naran Huleg has also been retired, and the 2022 G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner will take up stallion duties at the Versailles Farm Resort in Hokkaido. He had a total of 37 career races with his last one being just a couple of weeks ago in the G1 Sprinters Stakes when he finished ninth.

Naran Huleg takes out the 2022 G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen. (Photo by JRA)

What's ahead?

More fallout from the Sprinters Stakes is the news that second place finisher Mad Cool is being considered for a run in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint in December and is currently enjoying a well-deserved break at Northern Farm Shigaraki. 

Meanwhile, the mighty Equinox’s every move is being watched closely back at the Miho Training Centre as his preparation builds towards the G1 Autumn Tenno Sho at the end of this month. He’s been working on the woodchip course and it’s very much a case of ‘steady as he goes’ at the moment with trainer Tetsuya Kimura saying, ”His balance is a little off at the moment, but we’ll work steadily to correct this. His appetite is also a little down, so we’ll just proceed carefully with everything accordingly.”

It must be a tough job dealing with the world’s top-rated racehorse and let’s hope Equinox is spot on when he steps out for his next big race.

Talking of stepping out for a big race, it will be the turn of Liberty Island this week, when the exciting Duramente filly takes on the G1 Shuka Sho, but even if she wins, she won’t be able to match Daring Tact’s ‘unbeaten’ record to that point, as she lost on her second career start in the G3 Artemis Stakes at Tokyo last year, even though that might seem hard to believe now.

Bears aside, we can only be bullish about what’s coming up in Japan this autumn.  




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