The 52nd running of the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m), one of two top-level sprints in Japan, sees Fine Needle as the likely favourite as he attempts to complete the Takamatsunomiya Kinen-Sprinters Stakes double on Sunday (30 September).
Aside from Fine Needle’s fourth-placed effort in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin in April, the Admire Moon five-year-old has been unbeaten in three domestic starts this term.
In the G2 Centaur Stakes (1200m) at Hanshin on 9 September, Fine Needle produced a strong stretch run to win the traditional prep for this race. Trainer Yoshitada Takahashi said: “He had to carry 128lb and it was his first race since returning from overseas, so I was a bit concerned, but it was a good start for his autumn campaign.”
Fine Needle galloped over the uphill course at Ritto Training Centre on Wednesday and clocked 52.5s over 800m under jockey Yuga Kawada.
Kawada, who has spent the summer at Newmarket riding for Roger Varian, said: “The track condition on the uphill course was not good because of the rain, so I took the route on the rail and he lost concentration at some points. However, I believe there is no worry about his condition.”
Seven-year-old Red Falx has won the Sprinters Stakes the last two years and aims to accomplish his third straight victory in the race, an unprecedented feat. Named JRA Champion Sprinter last year, Red Falx has not tasted success in three outings this term, with his best effort being a third in the G3 Hankyu Hai (1400m) at Hanshin in February.
The Tomohito Ozeki-trained grey galloped on the woodchip track at Miho Training Centre on Wednesday. His regular rider Mirco Demuro has been suspended for four racedays, so Keita Tosaki takes the mount on Sunday. Under Tosaki, Red Falx had an easy time over 800m in 54.2s.
Tosaki said: “He is feeling loose in his back and his hindquarters. He moved nicely and shifted into top gear smoothly.”
Nac Venus should be suited here, with the five-year-old registering two wins and four seconds from six starts over the Nakayama 1200m on turf. The mare has not missed the board in her eight most recent starts and has finished in the first three at her last four outings. Her temperament has proven an issue at times, but Joao Moreira unlocked the key to her as he guided her to a first graded win in the G3 Keeneland Cup (1200m) at Sapporo.
Nac Venus galloped with her stablemate over the rain-affected woodchip course at Miho Training Centre on Wednesday, recording 51s over 800m. Trainer Hiroaki Sugiura said: “She did all she needed to last week, so I only asked the rider to test her a bit stronger towards the end of the gallop today. She moved very nicely and she is fit and ready for the race.” Moreira has been booked to ride her again.
The winner of six from twenty at 1200m, Ares Barows showed dramatic improvement this summer when scoring his first graded success in the G3 CBC Sho (1200m) at Chukyo before adding the G3 Kitakyushu Kinen (1200m) at Kokura. The six-year-old breezed on the uphill course at Ritto on Wednesday and clocked his last 800m in 56.2s. Trainer Koichi Tsunoda said: “He did not do much over the week because he was galloping steadily last week. Everything has gone as planned.”
Jockey Yusuke Fujioka will ride Ares Barows for the first time since April, 2016, when they combined to win at Fukushima. Fujioka said: “I will have to give him a smooth trip at 1200m. He has a great sense and is easy to ride. He has improved a lot mentally.”