Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Mama Cocha steps up as Sodashi retires

Adrian Webber was on hand to witness Mama Cocha’s big win, and he also has word of her famous older sister’s retirement, plus Mickaëlle Michel’s latest jockey test and an exciting autumn programme.

Sauna-like conditions made for a muggy day at Nakayama on Sunday and the anticipated rain that would have cooled things off and freshened up the turf track never materialized. It seems like a long wait for autumn to arrive in Japan on the back of this year’s hot summer despite chestnuts and persimmons appearing on the nation’s dining tables.

But the running of the G1 Sprinters Stakes is always a sure sign that we have indeed reached autumn and it was Mama Cocha that triumphed. The winning post arrived just in time for her on Sunday: she’d looked all over the winner 200 metres from home, but suddenly started to paddle closer to the line and just managed to hold off the late challenge of the Irish-bred Mad Cool.

Perhaps with the weather as it was, there was never going to be a way for the latter to win and anyway it would be a miserly soul that would begrudge the efforts of Yuga Kawada and trainer Yasutoshi Ikee for their victory in the race.

Despite the full-on humidity, racegoers turned out in force, and the race day attendance was close to 30,000, which was a more than 23 percent increase on last year. They were also splashing the cash, with turnover for the big race alone up by close to three percent on last year’s figure.

Meanwhile, events in Paris later that day mean Through Seven Seas certainly deserves a mention. She put up a bold effort in Sunday’s Arc, but the downside is Japan still hasn’t won France’s most prestigious race.

Farewell Sodashi

Soon after Mama Cocha’s big win, news of her full-sister Sodashi’s retirement from racing probably hit her many fans hard, but we all know that legends never die.

Sodashi’s next career move will be to produce foals that hopefully will carry on her wonderful genetics. The white mare’s trainer Naosuke Sugai feels she’ll be just as popular despite her no longer gracing the racetrack.


Sodashi, the first white thoroughbred to ever win a G1 race. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

“It’s good timing in a way with her sister Mama Cocha doing well and owner Kaneko realizing ‘the baton is just being passed on,’” Sugai said of the news.

“As a white horse she has many fans all around the world and I’m sure she’ll do her best as a mother and that her legendary status will continue.”

Shii's a big winner

Trainer Hirofumi Shii, a former two-time Derby winning jockey – Vodka (2007) and Deep Sky (2008) – finally scored his first JRA graded win on Saturday when Hagino Alegrias won the G3 Sirius Stakes. 

“I’m very pleased to get the win and have to thank the owner and the farm staff for their full support. We’ll see how the horse comes out of the race before deciding what to do next,” said the Ritto handler, now in his third year as a trainer.

Another testing time for Mickaëlle Michel

The French jockey flew into Japan last week for a brief visit in order to take the JRA jockey’s exam once more. She failed the test last year, but her determination brought her back again for another try.

“I felt confident with about 60% of the test this time but some of the questions were difficult. I’ve been studying hard and I feel my English has improved since being in America,” she said after taking the first part of the exam which is a written test in English.

Her fans in Japan have been wishing her “good luck” this time around and the result of this first part of the exam should be known sometime this week.

Mickaëlle Michel signing autographs at Sapporo. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit/Getty Images)

Three-day racing weekend coming up again

There might not be a Group 1 race this coming weekend but there will be three days of JRA action, which should provide plenty of interest nonetheless.

There’s a double ‘Bond feature’ with promising two-year-old filly Bond Girl, out to build on her solid debut win at Tokyo in June, taking on the G3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup, while Deep Bond, one of the unluckiest horses when it comes to big race performances in defeat, will run in the G2 Kyoto Daishoten in an effort to get back to winning ways. Last year’s Japan Cup winner Vela Azul will also target the race.

Deep Bond wins the G2 Hanshin Daishoten over 3000m in March. (Photo by JRA)

The G2 Mainichi Okan (a recognized trial race for the Autumn Tenno Sho) will be run on Sunday at Tokyo and the likes of Songline and Schnell Meister are expected to be in the line-up. A dual Group 1 winner already this year, Songline is back in action again before her expected trip overseas to run in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Looking further into the crystal ball

The likes of Do Deuce, Equinox and Prognosis look likely to clash in the Autumn Tenno Sho at the end of this month and so the G2 Mainichi Okan on Sunday won’t be looking too much like a trial race this year with the aforementioned big guns all being aimed directly at Tokyo’s next Group 1 without a prep run.

In the meantime, exceptional Liberty Island will return (an even bigger and stronger filly by all accounts) in the G1 Shuka Sho on October 15 at Kyoto, and the hope is for her to take on the Japan Cup after that.

So, although it might still feel like summer for now, there are plenty of autumn treats in store.




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