Michael Cox



Where will Sodashi go next? Owner’s travel history has bearing, says trainer

Past overseas disappointments have left a sour taste for owner Makoto Kaneko and that is having an impact on decision-making with his star mare Sodashi.

Owner Makoto Kaneko’s previous experience targeting overseas races – including the humiliation of Deep Impact’s 2006 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe disqualification – are likely to mean that his outrageously popular mare Sodashi will stick to Japan’s domestic races according to trainer Naosuki Sugai. 

Deep Impact is considered Japan’s greatest-ever racehorse and his devastating defeat on race day as favourite and subsequent disqualification from the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe due to a positive swab still stings among the country’s dedicated racing fans. 

Ten years later Kaneko returned to Longchamp with the 2016 Derby winning son of Deep Impact, Makahiki, who won the G2 Prix Niel in the lead-up but ultimately finished a disappointing 14th as second favourite in the Arc. 


Makahiki at his stables in the lead up to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 2, 2016 in Chantilly, France. (Photo by Thierry Orban/Getty Images)

Sugai always maintains a ‘horse first’ attitude with his stars, which in the past have included Gold Ship and Just A Way, but said Kaneko’s experiences on foreign shores were certainly a factor when it comes to making a decision with the ‘White Wonder’. 

“The horse has many options going forward but unfortunately the owner Mr Kaneko hasn’t always had great experiences when traveling horses overseas,” Sugai told the Report via an interpreter in Sapporo. 

“Obviously there was the issue with Deep Impact … so travelling overseas isn’t one of the biggest interests or priorities for the owner, so that draws the focus back to races in Japan.” 

Sodashi, a three-time Group 1 winner, was fifth in the recent G2 Sapporo Kinen, a race she won last year, and will likely come back in distance and be aimed at the G1 Mile Championship, which will be run at Hanshin on November 20 due to track redevelopments in Kyoto. 

“For her next rotation of races the main goal is to prepare her for the Mile Championship and if everything goes to plan we will go with one run into that,” Sugai said. “She would attract a weight penalty in the Group 3 races, because of her Group 1 wins, so we would rather focus on a Group 2 heading into the main target.” 

Sugai said the two main options were both over 1800m at Tokyo: the Mainichi Okan on October 9 and the Ireland Trophy Fuchu Himba six days later.  

The news will come as a blow for Sodashi’s many fans in Hong Kong, who follow Japanese racing closely, and who had hoped December’s Hong Kong Mile would be a possible target. 

Sodashi, Japan's adored 'White Wonder', winning the Oka Sho of 2021. (Photo by JRA)

Sodashi draws big crowds and media attention whenever she races and the ‘plushie’ produced in her likeness is the fastest selling of all time according to Japan Racing Association officials. 

Asked whether or not Sodashi was the most popular horse he has ever trained, Sugai replied ‘by far’. 

“Obviously I have trained some very successful horses, but when going to the races, whether that be interacting with the fans or speaking to the media, Sodashi is showing the most popularity,” he said.

“Being a white horse is the big drawcard and what makes her so special but it is a number of rare traits that have piled on top of each other to make her ever more special. So you have the white thoroughbred, and then to show success, but then win a Classic race and Group 1s are three rarities which have led to something extremely special.” 

Interestingly, turf options may not have ever been a factor had Sugai simply followed the script and produced Sodashi for a dirt newcomer race as a young horse.  

“Early on in her career we look at the traits of a horse and their breeding, and on paper it looked like she would be a dirt horse,” he said. 

“But when we looked at her footwork as a young horse we thought she would handle the turf and we wanted to have that option in the future. 

“So she was on turf at her first start, so that is why we did that with her as a two-year-old, it was that we wanted to open options for the classics and we are glad it worked. She has delivered great results.”  



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