Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: Tango time in Tokyo

JRA broadcaster Adrian Webber talks Derby form, dance moves in the parade ring, planting trees and JBC Day in this week’s edition of Keiba Diary.

The lights dim just a little this coming weekend on the JRA circuit, with no Group 1 races scheduled across the three meetings at Tokyo, Hanshin and Fukushima. Tokyo does stage the G2 Copa Republica Argentina, however, a competitive handicap run over 2500 metres on turf on Sunday, which has produced some big-name winners over the years.

None has been bigger perhaps than Screen Hero, who won it in 2008 and went on to win the Japan Cup the same year, and in more recent times, both Cheval Grand and Suave Richard won the race before going on to win the Japan Cup in later campaigns. This year, the three-year-old Killer Ability takes this route, and, given the strength of the Derby form this autumn, his sixth in that classic at Tokyo back in May would give him a good chance to take the honours this time.

T O Royal, although encumbered with top-weight, is another interesting runner coming off a fifth place in the G2 All Comers, and Silver Sonic is bidding to rebuild his reputation after the six-year-old dumped jockey Yuga Kawada at the start of the G1 Tenno Sho Spring back in May. Tom Marquand has the job of trying to keep Silver Sonic in order this time.

Pre-Covid, there was always an interesting display of the Argentine Tango in the parade ring after racing on Copa day, and here’s hoping it returns this year. The dance portrays a sense of loss and nostalgia, a feeling punters are all too familiar with.

Other races to look out for this weekend are the G2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes, a 1400-metre race for two-year-olds at Tokyo on Saturday, and the G3 Miyako Stakes over 1800 metres on the dirt at Hanshin on Sunday. Unbeaten colt London Plan (replay below) goes for the former, while the evergreen Omega Perfume is due to run in the dirt contest as he points towards what would be an incredible fifth win in the G1 Tokyo Daishoten in December.

Autumn Equinox

From high in the stands at Tokyo last Sunday, the white face of Equinox became bigger and bigger as the G1 Autumn Tenno Sho reached its climax. The son of Kitasan Black overhauled the runaway leader Panthalassa and won by a length, and Christophe Lemaire was appreciative of the colt’s late burst. “He got a bit tired at the end of the Derby, but today he just kept finding more,” Lemaire said of Equinox’s closing speed.

In the Perseus Stakes, Lemon Pop justified his short price, and, come the 400-metre mark, it was a case of ‘let’s blow this pop stand’ as the colt went on to win by a comfortable four lengths. The Lemon Drop Kid colt was out of action for more than a year from age two to three but has won six and placed second twice from eight starts. Connections will now put their heads together to decide on his next race.


Lemon Pop on his way to victory. (Photo: @kabosu7222 via Twitter)

Tree planting at Miho Training Centre

Trainer Sakae Kunieda, 67, recently reached the 1000 winner mark, the 15th trainer in JRA history to do so, and to mark the occasion a tree planting ceremony was held at the Miho Training Centre on October 26.

The man who guided the great mare Almond Eye’s career fittingly chose an almond tree, and was reminded of the Chinese proverb about Sai Weng’s horse and the ‘changing winds of luck and fortune’ to sum up his training career to date.

“It won’t be all good, and it won’t be all bad, but if we persevere we’ll get results,” noted Kunieda. He recently went to see Almond Eye’s first foal, a colt by Epiphaneia, and hopes at some point he can win the Derby with her progeny.

“The foal looks strong and healthy and could be a Derby horse. Perhaps from next year I have a chance to train three Derby winners before I retire,” he joked.

Christophe Lemaire and trainer Sakae Kunieda basking in the glory of Almond Eye's Japan Cup victory. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)


Every November 3, the Culture Day national holiday in Japan, the Japan Breeding farms’ Cup day is held, or JBC as it is known. Modelled along the lines of America’s Breeders’ Cup, the first JBC day was held in 2001, and it originally consisted of just two races: the JBC Classic (JPN G1) and the JBC Sprint (JPN G1).

It has now been expanded to four races, with the JBC Ladies’ Classic (JPN G1) being introduced in 2011, and the JBC Nisai Yushun (JPN G3) being a part of the series since 2020. This year two racecourses will share the event, with Morioka hosting the first three races mentioned, while Mombetsu in Hokkaido will stage the two-year-old race.

It gives local runners at the NAR racetracks a chance to take on the big guns from the JRA, and a couple of big names from the JRA this year are 2021 G1 Champions Cup winner T O Keynes in the JBC Classic, and G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen second Red Le Zele in the JBC Sprint. It’s always interesting to see how things turn out in these David and Goliath affairs.

Dirt star T O Keynes wins the G3 Heian Stakes. (Photo by JRA)

Makahiki retires

The 2016 G1 Tokyo Yushun winner Makahiki has been retired and there can’t be too many Derby winners that have continued racing to the grand old age of nine. His trainer Yasuo Tomomichi recently said, “He was a big reason for the stable to be so successful, and the fact he was able to continue racing for so long proved what a strong horse he was.”

Makahiki followed his Derby win with victory in the G2 Prix Niel at Longchamp but won only one race after that three-year-old season, when successful in last year’s G2 Kyoto Daishoten at the grand age of eight. The son of Deep Impact will stand at the Lex Stud in Hokkaido.




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