Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: triumph and tragedy in Derby

Adrian Webber reflects on the Tokyo Yushun, casts his eye over a deep Yasuda Kinen and looks forward to the summer season up north in the charming seaside city of Hakodate.

The ‘Derby roar’ was back last Sunday when the biggest crowd (71,868) on course in four years was able to witness the race firsthand. It was a drama-laden affair, however, with Dura Erede’s jockey hitting the turf just after the gates opened, and the sad sight at the end of the race when Skilfing collapsed just after crossing the finishing line. One question that perhaps needs to be asked: does the G2 Aoba Sho trial race (won by Skilfing) come too soon before the Derby? 

Keeping his cool throughout it all was Damian Lane on the fourth favourite Tastiera. The colt by Satono Crown could consider himself unlucky in the G1 Satsuki Sho, but it was sweet revenge on Sunday as he held off the late challenge of Sol Oriens.

Lane is a master tactician, and when teaming up with trainer Noriyuki Hori they make a formidable pair. The latter trains his horses with such attention to detail, but it does all need to go right in a race, and that’s where Damian Lane is such a high-valued rider. All connections were thoroughly deserving of their horse and carriage ride to the presentation area.

Tram derailed

Had one of the 18 runners in the Derby not stood their ground, Tosen Tram would have got the call-up for a start and given Nanako Fujita a Derby ride, making her the first female jockey in history to ride in the Classic.

It wasn’t meant to be though, and the jockey, now in her eighth year of riding, will have to wait a little longer for her chance. Her 152 career wins include just one graded race victory, the G3 Capella Stakes in 2019 on the American-bred Copano Kicking.

Final spring fanfare for Tokyo Group 1s

Another great looking race looks to be on the cards this coming Sunday when the G1 Yasuda Kinen closes out the top action at Tokyo for the first half of the year. Lacking any challengers from overseas, one could be forgiven for thinking it might be a below-par affair, but another full-field of 18 runners is expected with 10 Group 1 winners among the nominations.

A few more sprinters this time seem to be mixing it with the tried and tested milers, and Jack d’Or (who doesn’t seem to fit into a category when it comes to distance) will probably blaze a trail in the hope of scoring his second Group 1 win.


Flashy chestnut Jack d'Or. (Photo by JRA)

Sodashi, Songline, Schnell Meister and Serifos should all play big parts in the race as well, but beware the early start to the Japanese rainy season and what it might do to the ground condition.

Early voting

Fans have been casting their votes in the first round of the polls to decide which horses they want to see in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen later this month. Not surprisingly the world’s highest rated racehorse Equinox tops the first stage with 74,264 votes, nearly 20,000 more than Titleholder in second and Jack d’Or in third. The early summer showpiece always attracts plenty of attention but this year it looks to be something really special, so mark your (Keiba) diaries for the day of June 25.

Hakodate calling

JRA’s summer racing in Hokkaido will also kick off this month when racing at Hakodate opens for a six-weekend stint on June 11, on which day the G3 Hakodate Sprint will be run. One of the other top races during racing at the track is the G3 Hakodate Kinen on July 16. 

Jockey Yutaka Take and his brother, trainer Koshiro, have already made some plans for the meeting with four-year-old filly Water Navillera being aimed at the sprint (won by the great Curren Chan in 2011) and Dobune being prepared for a run in the Tomoe Sho over 1800 metres on July 2.

Water Navillera failed to fire last time out in a wet Takamatsunomiya Kinen. (Photo by @kabosu7222)

Many of the top jockeys enjoy the trip north to one of Japan’s most scenic tracks close to the sea and a place that’s just a little bit cooler now the mercury is rising in the southern areas.

The city itself, called ‘Hakodadi’ by early foreign traders, sits on the southern point of Hokkaido and has an atmosphere about it that any visitor to Japan shouldn’t miss. Although it’s as if a madman got into the town planning office one day, everything about the place has a laid-back charm to it.

The jockeys will however have to watch their weight, as some of the seafood on offer is another reason to visit, and restaurants will often have signatures of famous riders displayed on the walls of their premises. It’s easy to see why so many of Japan’s racing fraternity head to Hakodate for the summer fixtures. 




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