Adrian Webber



Keiba Diary: what a Liberty

Adrian Webber pays homage to the new Queen of Japanese racing, looks at Kurofune’s impressive stats, a jockey relocation, and anticipates a cracking contest in the year’s final Classic.

The saying goes that death and taxes are the only certain things in life, but it seems like Liberty Island winning Group 1 races should be added to the list.

The extraordinary daughter of Duramente was sent off the 1-10 favourite and didn’t disappoint the 45,000 crowd, or her jockey Yuga Kawada who enjoyed the perfect 38th birthday present. 

The filly broke from gate six and was able to sit just off the pace for some time before being unleashed by Kawada on the outside, and what a response he got once he had asked her to pick up. The result was never in doubt after Liberty Island turned for home and she just looks so much like the perfect racehorse. 

Early reports are that she has come out of the race well, and now the big question is where she will go next, and will she clash with Equinox in the Japan Cup? Connections are expected to make that decision soon.


It was Mirco Demuro who got last weekend’s top racing action off to a flying start the day before when he  led all the way and just got home on the five-year-old mare Divina in the G2 Ireland Trophy Fuchu Himba Stakes at Tokyo. The Italian star might not have tasted Group 1 success since his win on Uberleben in the 2021 Oaks, but teaming up with former baseball great, now racehorse owner, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, the intrepid trio combined for Saturday’s feature success.

“She can be a little difficult and I thought she might be better over a longer distance. It felt like the home straight was very long but she held on well and I was very pleased after her recent second-place finishes,” Demuro said of his success. “We’ll have to discuss with connections to see whether she’ll go for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup next.”

And we mustn’t forget steeplechase fans. Shrewd observers among them might possibly have found the winner of Sunday’s J-G2 Tokyo High-Jump, Meiner Grand, at a nice price of just under 20-1. The son of Gold Ship was ridden for the first time by Shinichi Ishigami, famous for his association with Oju Chosan, and that was the jockey’s tenth win of the year. Meiner Grand has now put together three straight wins and could be a new steeplechase star.

Meiner Grand wins the J-G2 Tokyo High-Jump. (Photo by JRA)

Kurofune's impressive record

With Mama Cocha’s win in the G1 Sprinters Stakes just recently it means that Kurofune as a sire has produced JRA graded stakes winners for a record-equalling 19 years, sharing that honour with Partholon. The time-span also beats the likes of Sunday Silence (17 years) and King Kamehameha (16 years). 

His total of 51 JRA Group wins puts him in 18th place in the all-time list of sires, and he holds 10th spot when it comes to Group 1 wins, with thirteen.

Kurofune died in 2021 after being a stallion for 17 seasons and the current four-year-olds racing represent his final crop.

Kurofune made his mark both on the racetrack and as a stallion. (Photo by Getty Images)

Relocating to Miho

Last year’s G1 Sprinters Stakes-winning jockey Kiwamu Ogino is to base himself at the Miho Training Centre for the meetings at Niigata (currently underway) and Fukushima, which begins on November 4. 

“I’ve been asked to ride Kanto-based horses for the meetings at Niigata and Fukushima and so it’s better if I’m based here,” the jockey said last week. “I want to get the best out of the horses I’ll ride.”

He’s also been impressed by the new uphill training track at Miho. “There’s plenty of space and it feels comfortable riding on it,” he added.

Ogino has been booked to ride Phrase d’Armes in next weekend’s Niigata Himba Stakes and the five-year-old mare recently finished sixth to Nocking Point in the G3 Niigata Kinen. Ironically the horse is trained at Ritto but it’s looking as if the young jockey could be in demand wherever he goes.

Kikuka Sho week

Talking of jockeys in demand, Brazilian ace Joao Moreira will be back in Japan again this week and is set to ride the Derby winner Tastiera in this Sunday’s G1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger). The colt will be having his first run since the Derby, but having the summer off and avoiding the heat is something that can definitely work in his favour. 

Damian Lane holds off a swarm of challengers aboard Tastiera in the G1 Tokyo Yushun. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

Recent record-breaker over the 2400 metres in the G2 Kobe Shimbun Hai, Satono Glanz will also be in the line-up and so too Sol Oriens, who just needs a slight change of luck to bring him back to winning ways. 

Trainer Naosuke Sugai sends out Shonan Bashitto and the in-form Mirco Demuro rides the son of Silver State. The undulations of the Kyoto track always make for an interesting race but ultimately it comes down to which horse can see out the 3000 metres best of all in the year’s final Classic.    




    Subscribe now & get exclusive weekly content from Asian Racing Report direct to your inbox

      Expert ratings, tips & analysis for Hong Kong racing