Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Liberty Island next after the thrills of Sodashi week

Adrian Webber looks ahead to the Oaks at Tokyo on Sunday and beyond that the Derby and the Yasuda Kinen, after the excitement of last weekend’s Victoria Mile.

The build-up and hype to what became known as ‘Sodashi week’ was well justified as the immensely popular white idol horse set Tokyo alight last Sunday before and during the G1 Victoria Mile. Unfortunately, she had to settle for second when she was just nutted out in the dying moments of the race. 

Songline won, of course, and the lyric could easily have been ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ as Keita Tosaki got the upper hand at the finish, as Sodashi tired in the final strides. It was a race similar to when Shahryar snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat in the 2021 Japanese Derby. It’s a pity there has to be a second in races like that, but Sodashi hopefully has more wins to come.


Songline and Keita Tosaki after conquering the 'White Wonder'. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

All at sea

Another unlucky loser at the weekend was Be My Ocean in Saturday’s J-G2 Kyoto High-Jump. The six-year-old approached the final flight in second, looking very much as if he could go on and win, but he fluffed his lines at the fence, and despite Kayata Komaki’s brave attempt to stay in the saddle, that was the end of his race. 

The young steeplechase jockey, son of the rider on the flat Futoshi Komaki, has been riding on the crest of a wave this year with seven wins (five of them coming in the last month) and was hoping to land his first graded win on the third favourite, but instead it’s another case of another day.

What a Liberty!

It’s the G1 Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks this coming weekend, and star filly Liberty Island puts her big reputation on the line in the race run over 2400 metres. The daughter of Duramente would seem to have connections of a lot of other runners in the race quaking in their boots, with many a comment along the lines of ‘the Oka Sho winner is a strong horse’ being emitted from other stables. 

A couple of fillies that could spoil the party are trainer Yasuo Tomomichi’s Harper, a daughter of Heart’s Cry to be ridden by Christophe Lemaire, and the Kitasan Black-sired Kona Coast for which Damian Lane has been booked. All but one of the nominated runners will be trying the distance for the first time, so there’s quite an air of uncertainty about it all.

Away from the big stage, Niigata hosts an interesting race on the same day, the Listed Idaten Stakes, run over the straight five furlongs. A handicap race to boot, seven-year-old Suave Charles has been given 57kg, but it might not be too much of a hindrance to the horse that acts on dirt and turf, has a good record at Niigata and is trained by Takayuki Yasuda.

Yahagi's Emperor

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi has some good looking two-year-olds waiting to get out onto the racecourse and one of them is a full-brother to 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sottsass. The French-bred Shin Emperor is by Siyouni out of Starlet’s Sister and was bought at last year’s Arqana Sale for around ¥280 million (around US$2 million). 

“I think he’ll be suited to racing in Japan. He’s quite quick for a European horse and I have high hopes for him. He’ll probably make his debut around autumn time,” says the master trainer who does like to travel; and you never know, maybe the French-bred could be one for the Arc in time.

Another freshman at the yard is a colt by Duramente called Do My Thing. He was a ¥220 million purchase at the 2022 Select Sale in Hokkaido and let’s hope he doesn’t take his name too literally when it comes to his performance on the track. Big things will be expected of the costly colts, and Do My Thing is scheduled to start training anytime soon with a debut coming up later in the year.

Looking ahead

The G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) field is shaping up, with plenty of challengers wanting to give Sol Oriens a run for his money. Satono Glanz gets the go ahead after winning the recent G2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai, and Yutaka Take has been booked to ride Phantom Thief. Winner of the G2 Aoba Sho, Skilfing, has also been confirmed as another runner for the Carrot Farm ownership and Pax Ottomanica will take his chance after an all-the-way-win in the Listed Principal Stakes.

Satono Glanz wins the G2 Kyoto Shimbun Hai. (Photo by JRA)

Looking further ahead to next month’s G1 Yasuda Kinen, it seems as if no overseas runners will be taking on the local crew, which is something of a disappointment as the race would certainly be given another dimension if an international challenge were to be in place. As it is, Serifos is an early nomination with Damian Lane expected to ride, while news of others from last Sunday’s G1 Victoria Mile is still awaited, but it would be a surprise if Songline did not turn up to defend her crown.

Last but not least, Hong Kong’s Panfield has been nominated for the G1 Takarazuka Kinen later in June, and the fan voting is just about to start for the horses the racegoers want to see in the race. 




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