One of the biggest races of the year in Japan and one that has once again attracted a very high class turn-out which is no huge surprise with the race awash with prize money as is usually the case with the Japanese Grade Ones.
IN SUMMARY: Suave Richard is expected to be sent off at or very near the top of the market but he has never run let alone won over a mile, and he may find the drop back in trip means everything happens that bit too fast for him here. At the prices it may be worth considering SUNGRAZER (Each Way) instead who has some top class form to his name, and will be well suited by the long straight here at Tokyo that will give him every chance to get in to top gear before it is too late, while Real Steel will be running on late and could well get involved for the places.
1 SUAVE RICHARD – Very likely to be sent off favourite this morning after he took the Grade One Osaka Hai at the beginning of April over two furlongs further. A decent sort who finished runner up in the Japan Derby last season, but the trip is a big question mark as he tries a mile for the first time. He can start slowly and that could ruin his chances here and good as he is, no horse has finished in the first three home on their first try at a mile in the last ten years and none have won since way back in 1984.
2 SATONO ARES – The only runner left in from four original options by trainer Kazuo Fujisawa which may tell its own story as the stable look to land this valuable prize. He does look a little up against it as far as a win is concerned following a second in the Grade Three Tokyo Shimbun Hai and although a place is not impossible, he hasn’t win since July last year which has to be a concern to his supporters.
3 DASHING BLAZE – Nicely bred as a son of Kitten’s Joy out of Blazing Bliss who has win seven of his twenty-one career starts but never at anything even approaching this level. He did win the Grade Three Epsom Cup in June 2017, but hasn’t looked the same horse in three runs since with an eight over this trip at Kyoto last time out and if he wins then the bookmakers will be the only ones celebrating.
4 AEROLITHE – Entitled to improve for her first race in three months when a respectable fourth last month in the Victoria Mile band she did win the Grade One NHK Mile Cup here on Firm ground in May last year which is a positive. Looks to have been laid out for this by trainer Takanori Kikuzawa and a big run is on the cards though a place may be her most realistic expectation.
5 PERSIAN KNIGHT – Only beaten a neck in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) last season and a close up second over two furlongs further in April in the Grade One Osaka Hai. Needs to turn that form around with winner Suave Richard but likely to be far happier at this trip and with Yuga Kawada, the winner of this race in 2015 and 2017 in the saddle he won’t be too far away with a clear run.
6 REINE MINORU – Took the Oka So (Japanese 1000 Guineas) last season but she hasn’t managed to win or even hit the first three home in eight starts since with a tenth here in the Victoria Mile last time out leaving her with a mountain to climb. Trainer Masura Honda will do whatever he can to get her back to her best but recent efforts suggest she is a fair way short of that at present.
7 WESTERN EXPRESS – The only overseas raider travelling over from Hong Kong for trainer John Size and jockey Samuel Clipperton and puts the better Hong King form on show here after finishing runner-up in the Hong Kong Mile and the Champions Mile, behind Beauty Only and Beauty Generation respectively. This is his first trip abroad so we do not know if he is a good traveller or not but he brings good form to the table and ought to get involved in the finish.
8 CAMPBELL JUNIOR – Five wins and six places from sixteen career starts but none in anything like this sort of company and up against it in this exalted line-up. Last time out he finished second to Moonquake in the Grade two Keio Hai Spring Cup here over seven furlongs which followed a second at Nakayama over the mile, neither of which should be good enough to bother the judge today.
9 RED FALX – Third in this race last year and a consistent sort despite his advancing years with five wins and three places from his last eleven starts. Only eight over six furlongs last time and this may be stretching his stamina in this class with his last five victories over six or seven furlongs and none of his ten career victories over as far as this mile.
10 MOZU ASCOT – The only son of the legendary Frankel in action this morning and with the excellent Christophe Lemaire ion the saddle for trainer Yoshito Yahagi. Not as good as his father by any stretch of the imagination with a second in the Listed Azuchijo Stakes behind Daimei Fuji last time out over seven furlongs simply not good enough when you look at the form of his rivals. Better back up at the mile he won’t be disgraced. but he needs a career best by some margin just to get involved.
11 REAL STEEL – A top class performer at his best with a win in the Dubai Turf over a furlong further in 2017 after which he only managed to finish eleventh here. Third in Dubai this year he has been showing up very nicely in recent work but may not be at his best over this trip with all four wins over a furlong further, but he will be finishing well off a fast early pace in this field and if he gets a clear run is hard to just ignore.
12 HE’S IN LOVE – The second Harbinger offspring in this field (along with Persian Knight), and looking for the hat-trick after wins at Hanshin in early March before a Nakayama victory in the Grade Three Lord Derby Challenge Trophy at the end of the same month. Upped in class today and hard to see him bothering the big guns here.
13 BLACK MOON – Simply not up to this on all known form and yet to win at anything above Grade Three level. Ninth at Kyoto behind Sungrazer last time out at Kyoto and has a mountain to climb to get involved at any stage this morning even with the excellent Shinichiro Akiyama in the saddle.
14 LYS GRACIEUX – The superstar jockey that is Yutaka Take rides the four-year-old filly this afternoon as she looks to win her first Grade One after finishing second at the same standard four times now. Admittedly they were all against her own sex and she is up against the boys now which will make life more difficult though she doesn’t seem to know how to run a bad race and she has to be added to the shortlist here.
15 SUNGRAZER – A son of Deep Impact who has only finished out of the first four home once in thirteen starts and at the age of four he may well have even more to offer. Admittedly he still needs to break his duck at this level but he wasn’t beaten far when third in the Mile Championship at Kyoto last Autumn in a race won in a record time and with the Tokyo track giving him plenty of time to wind up down the home straight he looks sure to be thereabouts as they flash past the line today.
16 WIN GAGNANT – Arrives with plenty of experience after twenty-six career starts for eight victories but yet to win at this level with the Grade Three Toyota Sho Chukyo Kinen in July last year his best ever victory. Seventh in the Grade Two Keio Hai Spring Cup here over seven furlongs last month after a thirteenth at Kyoto in January he looks more likely to finish last than first and is easily opposable in this ridiculously strong field.