Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: no loneliness for popular Liberty Island

Adrian Webber reflects on a brilliant Oaks win, looks ahead to a taste of Royal Ascot at the Japanese Derby, and celebrates a grand old retiree.

In a recent survey in Japan, 40 percent of people said they felt lonely at times. Now, whether the chatbots just aren’t coming up with the right answers, or there’s only so much to be gained out of ‘solo karaoke’ sessions, it’s hard to tell, but the abundance of non-verbal communications certainly seems to make it hard to feel something close to human appreciation.

Liberty Island could be forgiven for feeling lonely too as she raced down the home straight at Tokyo on Sunday, such was the splendid isolation she found herself in during the closing stages of the G1 Yushun Himba. At the top of the home straight, as she eased towards the lead, she might have said something like ‘come on girls let’s make a race of it’, but unfortunately not one of the other 17 fillies was able to go with her. 

That human appreciation from the crowd was already beginning to bubble as she quickened to the lead, and then came the incredible sight of an awesome gear-change as Yuga Kawada decided to demonstrate Liberty Island’s extra thrust, just like a Ferrari salesman out for a spin on a mission to sell. 

The champion jockey had pleaded to racegoers beforehand not to be noisy before the start of the race in front of the stands, and he pretty much got his wish. The extra turnover of ¥500 million on the race probably meant punters were busy stuffing money into the betting machines just before the off.

After that sublime exhibition in the Oaks, part two of the ‘Super Horse Show’ will be this weekend, when Sol Oriens bids to put a stranglehold on the G1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), to become just the eighth horse in Japanese racing history to win both the Satsuki Sho and Derby as an unbeaten colt. 

He’s shown a lot of power so far, even with a slight steering problem which has seen him veer left in a couple of his races, although it wasn’t so acute last time in the G1 Satsuki Sho when he ran on strongly at the end to take the first colts’ Classic in style. There’s a two-pronged attack from Carrot Farm-owned runners Tastiera and Skilfing, and we’ll find out on Sunday which colt can claim the 90th running of the great race.

Horse and carriage

There will be shades of Royal Ascot on Tokyo Yushun day as the winning connections of the Derby winner will be guided to the winner’s circle by a horse and carriage, before the presentation ceremony commences.

In a first for the race, up to two representatives for the owner, the trainer and the jockey will get to travel in style after the big race. It will all depend on the weather, however, as rain and a wet track could force this mode of transportation to be cancelled.

Round 2: Songline versus Sodashi

There might not be any international flavour to the upcoming G1 Yasuda Kinen on June 4, but the field is shaping up to be a competitive one just the same.


Songline just gets the better of Sodashi in a thrilling G1 Victoria Mile. (Photo by JRA)

Songline and Sodashi have both come out of their Victoria Mile runs in good order and will go at it again the week after the Derby. Jack d’Or will also be contesting the race and will be looking to run away with things in his customary fashion.

Moreira's a man with a plan for Japan

Asian Racing Report revealed in March that Joao Moreira planned to apply for a JRA licence later this year, and it was announced last week that he will proceed with that application. After a brief visit earlier this year when he rode Shirl’s Speight in the G1 February Stakes, he is set to take out his first short-term licence in five years.

“It was great to ride in Japan last February again after a long time. I’m planning on riding there on a short-term licence later this year and will look forward to meeting all the people and fans there once more,” said the star jockey. 

Sapporo in August for the World All-Star Jockeys series will most likely be Moreira’s first assignment, followed by the autumn Group 1 races from September onwards.

Of a generous nature

One of the top horses from the 1990s in Japan, Nice Nature recently celebrated his 35th birthday. The horse finished third in the G1 Arima Kinen for three consecutive years, but he might consider himself more lucky now being looked after by the Retired Horse Association. 

He seems to be one of the stars of the organisation and on his birthday donations of ¥74 million were received. Kyoko Numata, a representative of the Retired Horse Association, was surprised by the amount given: “We thought last year’s amount was big and that we couldn’t expect so much this time, but an extra 4,466 people have donated this year and the total is incredible. Even though Nice Nature’s appetite is not so big now, his condition remains very good. We’d like to thank everyone for their donations and we mustn’t forget to congratulate Nice Nature on his birthday.”

It’s good to know that the care of retired racehorses can attract good support, and Nice Nature seems more than able to get contributions rolling in for a good cause. Not bad for a 35-year-old, and with so many friends around him at his retirement home, he won’t be feeling lonely, that’s for sure.          




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