Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: idols in the vending machine but Liberty Island is the real deal

Adrian Webber takes a look at the Satsuki Sho prospects and has news of the injured and returning, along with a well-known jockey’s daughter starting out at the JRA school.

Anyone visiting Japan for the first time can’t help but be taken by the proliferation of vending machines, noticeably out on the street, stacked with all sorts of things from snacks to cans of ready-to-drink coffee. With that in mind, a story last week which quickly flew around the world’s media was one about a bear meat vending machine in one of the northern prefectures. It’s hard to see that catching on at the racecourse but then you never know, maybe racegoers could do with chewing on a piece of bear meat while they trawl through the form. 

Realistically though, the only machines of interest at the track would be the betting ticket dispensers and preferably ones that will spill out cash a few minutes later. Having said that,  some popular machines appeared outside the Turfy merchandise shop at Hanshin last weekend that offered a miniature ‘idol horse’ (36 of them available in total) for the price of a cup of coffee and a quick flip of a handle, although it was down to chance which horse popped out of the machine.

Island in the sun

Talking of ‘idol horses’, Liberty Island became one herself last Sunday when taking out the G1 Oka Sho in quite spectacular fashion. Good conditions prevailed on the day but Yuga Kawada found himself well back just after they jumped and had to be content to stay there until turning for home.

The heart rates of the filly’s supporters would have jumped considerably with the situation looking quite dire for some time, and being the widest of the runners on the final turn, there were some that probably thought it was an impossible task. There are few better sights in racing though than a horse that’s brought with a perfectly timed run to pick off its opponents one by one and claim a famous win. Hardly surprising then that Kawada said he was ‘relieved’ by getting Liberty Island to do just that.

Stop, thief!

Looking to next Sunday, the G1 Satsuki Sho is the first Classic race for the colts and it’s hard to tell which one of the expected 18 runners will prevail over the tight 2000 metres at Nakayama. Christophe Lemaire will be looking to steal the race aboard Phantom Thief, whose only defeat came in last year’s G1 Hopeful Stakes when he drew gate one and just slipped slightly at the start.

Damian Lane flies in for another stint in Japan and will ride Hrimfaxi for trainer Naosuke Sugai, while the Yokoyama family have quite a grip on things, with Takeshi riding the unbeaten Kitasan Black colt Sol Oriens, Kazuo teaming up with Ho O Biscuits, and dad ‘Nori’ looking to be at his sharpest on Top Knife. May the best horse win.


Sol Oriens takes out the G3 Keisei Hai at Nakayama. (Photo by JRA)

Guard off duty

Taking the good with the bad, after Liberty Island’s win on Sunday, trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida now has to console himself by waiting for a while on one of his other stable stars, Grenadier Guards. The horse sustained an injury to his right leg after his good run in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen last month.

The trainer told Asian Racing Report: “He ran really good over six furlongs on that unusually heavy ground for Japan. He finished the race really good but after the race we found a little bit of a chip in his knee, so we hope he can come back in four or five months’ time.”

Also on the injury list is Weltreisende after his recent run in the G1 Osaka Hai. He has tendon injuries in both forelegs, which might explain his below-par run in that race. He’s had a long layoff before with injury, and this time it looks like another nine months on the easy list for trainer Yasutoshi Ikee’s charge.

Tiger out of the cage

On a brighter note, Danon the Tiger is back in light work with a view to taking on the Aoba Sho on April 29 and then possibly the Derby after that. Early this month he cantered uphill at the training centre and trainer Sakae Kunieda is keeping a close eye on him. “He was tired after his last race and there was some swelling in his legs. They’ve taken good care of him at the farm and he’s steadily coming back to himself,” reported the trainer.

Danon The Tiger finished powerfully to break his maiden at his second start. (Photo by @dreamjourney__)

Magnificent seven

Seven jockeys-to-be attended the 42nd entrance ceremony at the horseracing school in Chiba on April 4. Two female riders were among them and it’s now the eighth consecutive year for female students to enrol at the school. One is the daughter of former jockey Fuyuki Igarashi, best known for his association with Cosmo Bulk, winner of the G1 Singapore Airlines International Cup in 2006.

Hina Igarashi hopes to be riding after her three years of studying to become a jockey. “I’m excited about things, but I’m also a little anxious,” said the latest recruit to Japanese racing.

She could get some inspiration from one of this year’s rookie riders, Miku Kobayashi, who scored her first win last weekend at Fukushima on her 39th JRA career ride. In time-honoured fashion, she was pictured with a rather large Turfy plushie, one which couldn’t possibly have come from a vending machine.





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