This Sunday (4 October) Nakayama Racecourse to the east of Tokyo, will host the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m), the first big race of autumn and the second top-level sprint of the year.
Headlining the nominees is the Deep Impact-sired Gran Alegria, seen as most likely to become the first of the late sire’s progeny to land a Group 1 sprint, though she is yet to win one in her eight-race career. The Kazuo Fujisawa-trained champion miler has two top-level wins and comes in first-up off her victory in the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) in early June. She preceded that with a second by a nose in her first sprint, the Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) in late March.
The four-year-old looked impressive as she worked over the woodchip flat at Miho under jockey Christophe Lemaire on Wednesday (30 September) for a time of 1m 07.1s over 1000m. “She’s much more relaxed now,” said Fujisawa of his filly, whose fiery temper had often made training difficult earlier in her career.
Running neck and neck in the billing with Gran Alegria is Mozu Superflare, who won her first G1 at her third bid in this year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen. Unlike Gran Alegria, who will be racing at Nakayama for the first time, Mozu Superflare is not only an experienced sprinter but she has been highly successful over the Nakayama 1200m. Her five previous starts at the venue, all over 1200m, landed her three wins and two seconds, including a half-length second to Tower of London in last year’s Sprinters Stakes.
Returning after five months off, Mozu Superflare ran second last start to Red en Ciel in the G3 Kitakyushu Kinen (1200m) on 23 August. This time, the five-year-old will have the weight advantage, carrying 4lb less than she did in the Kitakyushu Kinen, whereas Red en Ciel’s burden remains the same.
Mozu Superflare, based at the Ritto Training Centre in western Japan, under the care of trainer Hidetaka Otonashi, breezed up the 800m hill course on Wednesday (30 September) under jockey Fuma Matsuwaka for a time of 50.8s. Working alone, she picked up speed over the first half and finished sharply.
“The main thing was to keep her happy and she felt really good,” Matsuwaka said.
“She has the same rotation as she did last year, but last year she was still a bit heavy – I think she’s better now,” Otonashi said, who has 12 Group 1 wins to his name, is gunning for his first Sprinters Stakes success.
Another popular pick on Sunday is five-year-old Danon Smash, son of champion sprinter Lord Kanaloa whose record time of 1m 06.7s in the 2012 Sprinters Stakes still stands.
Danon Smash, also based at Ritto and trained by Takayuki Yasuda, won his sixth Pattern race last start in the G2 Centaur Stakes (1200m). He beat Meisho Glocke by one length that day, with Mr Melody a neck behind in third. In last year’s Sprinters Stakes, Danon Smash turned in his best G1 result yet, a third-place finish behind Mozu Superflare, by only a neck.
Both Meisho Glocke and last year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner Mr Melody received approving nods from trackmen after this week’s fast work. Diatonic (stablemate to Danon Smash and also by Lord Kanaloa) and Right on Cue, coming off a second in the Keeneland Cup (G3, 1200m) at Sapporo on 30 August, were also lauded in newspaper reports the following day.