Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Kyoto’s back online and Titleholder awaits

Manami Nagashima’s form at Fukushima caught the eye of Adrian Webber and he also liked what he saw of the redeveloped Kyoto racecourse, which hosts what could be an epic Tenno Sho Spring this weekend.

The big event last weekend was undoubtedly the reopening of Kyoto racecourse, which had been closed for two and a half years for a complete overhaul. It now has the name ‘Centennial Park Kyoto Racecourse’ (the course celebrates its centenary in 2025) and its welcome return gives fans the chance once more to revisit the venue of some of Japan’s great races.

Last Saturday’s crowd was unusually bigger than the Sunday attendance, and several of the day’s winners literally bounced off the dirt and turf surfaces like rubber balls being unleashed from a tightly packed box. The names of some of the winning horses were With Your Dream, Push On and Don Frankie, and these would have without doubt given satisfaction to the believers in the ‘science’ of ‘I bet on it because I like the name’ category. 

A day’s racing at Kyoto wouldn’t be a day’s racing at Kyoto without a winner ridden by Yutaka Take, and he got on the board that first day back. It’s interesting to note for the future that before the course renovation, he was the leading rider at the track with 1,381 wins, followed by Yasunari Iwata in second with 505 wins and Hideaki Miyuki in third with 501 wins. In the two years before the closure, however, Yuga Kawada was top with 81 winners.

Talking of top jockeys, Christophe Lemaire guided the German-bred Schnell Meister to a narrow victory in Sunday’s G2 Yomiuri Milers Cup, steering clear of the trouble on his inside, for which Manabu Sakai picked up a two-day suspension for his ride on Shiny Rock.

At Tokyo, a cute grey daughter of Gold Ship, Golden Hind, led all the way to take out the G2 Flora Stakes over 2000 metres and earned herself a place in the Oaks. With dad up there in Hokkaido looking on, he’s probably well pleased with the big-striding, stamina-laden filly. 

Titleholder to relish the ground

Although some rain is forecast during the week, the going at Kyoto, as reported by a number of jockeys on the first weekend, is likely to remain quick for this Sunday’s G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) and this should play into the hooves of last year’s dominant winner of the 3200m race Titleholder, who blew the opposition away last time out in the G2 Nikkei Sho in March. His recent final furlong time of 11.2 seconds on the woodchip course at Miho pleased his race jockey Kazuo Yokoyama. “He’s in good shape and he’s handling his workload well,” the jockey noted. 

Boldog Hos and Silver Sonic are two that might possibly lower the reigning champ’s colours, but when things go right for Titleholder he’s a difficult horse to peg back.


Tenno Sho aspirant Silver Sonic was a recent winner of the G3 Red Sea Turf at Riyadh. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Nominations are out for the G1 NHK Mile Cup two weeks later and they include recent G3 Arlington Cup winner Obamburumai, last year’s G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes winner, Dolce More, and an interesting Darley Japan home-bred Cruzeiro do Sul, a colt by Fine Needle, who won his only race so far as a three-year-old very easily at Nakayama in January. 

Blazing the trail in Fukushima

Manami Nagashima is the leading jockey at Fukushima so far this year, with the opening meeting getting underway earlier this month, and after six days and 41 rides she has seven winners and eight seconds to her name. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to get plenty of rides and I’m grateful to the owners and trainers who have supported me. Also, I must thank my sister Minami who is my valet and who has helped me so much every week,” said the 20-year-old of her latest feat.

In the seventh race at Fukushima last Sunday, a JRA record-breaking number of five female riders took part, and it was the turn of Naho Furukawa, stable jockey to Yoshito Yahagi, to be on the winner, three-year-old filly Aio Tsugumono.

Tiger still on hold

Danon The Tiger’s return to the racecourse is being delayed again and he will have to miss this Sunday’s Derby trial, the G2 Aoba Sho at Tokyo. The expensive colt by Heart’s Cry is still recovering from proximal suspensory desmitis in his right foreleg and trainer Sakae Kunieda is giving him more time at the farm. 

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

“It’s a great pity, but he’s not quite right and it’s important to make sure things are spot on with him,” the trainer said recently.

Seeing double

At last Wednesday’s NAR Sonoda meeting, racegoers were looking twice at the number four horse in race five as two horses with the same numbered saddle cloth were paraded. It took a couple of minutes before the situation was corrected, with one of the horses eventually becoming number two.

The Hyogo Prefecture Horseracing Association apologized on its website about the mishap, but hopefully punters remained blind to the situation as the two horses involved finished 11th and 12th in the twelve-runner race.




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