This Sunday (17 April), Nakayama Racecourse hosts the Satsuki Sho (2000m), JRA’s fourth turf Group 1 of 2022 and second Classic race. Following on the heels of the all-female G1 Oka Sho (1600m), the Satsuki Sho is the first race in Japan’s Triple Crown.
It will be an all-male field for the 82nd running of the Satsuki Sho, a 2000m turf event at the right-handed venue, and 18 of the 21 nominees will go to the gate.
There’s no standout and top candidates for the Satsuki Sho winner’s prize are traditionally those who have performed well in three races in particular – the G3 Kyodo News Hai (1800m) at Tokyo, the G2 Yayoi Sho (2000m) at Nakayama and the G2 Spring Stakes (1800m) at Nakayama.
A newer trend, however, sees success to be had by those going directly to the Satsuki Sho from the G1 Hopeful Stakes (2000m) at Nakayama at year-end.
In the past 10 Satsuki Sho runnings, the top three finishers also have come off successful bids in the Listed Wakaba Stakes (2000m) at Hanshin, the G3 Keisei Hai (2000m) at Nakayama and the G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (1600m) at Hanshin.
Danon Beluga, Ask Victor More and Be Astonished captured the first three races mentioned above, with Killer Ability taking the Hopeful Stakes. Desierto, Onyankopon and Do Deuce were the winners of the last three.
The search for the top three finishers is an especially difficult task this year. Do Deuce, the expected favourite in Japan, is one of three colts fielded by Osaka Hai-winning trainer Yasuo Tomomichi. The Heart’s Cry colt, winner of the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, demonstrated he can also handle the Satsuki Sho distance when he ran a close second in the Yayoi Sho on 6 March.
Yutaka Take will mount his 27th Satsuki Sho bid and will be gunning for his fourth win, his first since Deep Impact’s victory in 2005. If he wins, Take will become, at just over 53 years of age, the oldest jockey to capture the race yet.
Do Deuce, more of a miler by conformation, has been taking the bit better than he had in the Asahi Hai and is calmer and more mature. Though still a bit heavy-looking despite a hard workout the previous week under Take, he should be ready after final work Wednesday.
The two-from-two Equinox is a son of the seven-time G1 winner Kitasan Black, a late-bloomer who finished third in the Satsuki Sho. Despite not having raced since his win in the G2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes (1800m) at Tokyo on 20 November, Equinox has a dazzling sheen to his coat and is looking in excellent shape.
Young Takeshi Yokoyama, who won the Satsuki Sho last year aboard Efforia, breezed Killer Ability over the Ritto woodchip flat on Wednesday (13 April). The Hopeful Stakes winner is going directly to the Satsuki Sho, following in the steps of 2019 Satsuki Sho winner Saturnalia and Contrail, who won the Satsuki Sho (and the Triple Crown) in 2020.
A difficult horse to settle, Yokoyama says the colt is still problematic but he has focused on keeping him calm.
“He’s still immature and this is still a concern, but he has a great deal of talent and he had a hard workout last week,” he said.
Key will be how well the colt can settle in his second time over the Nakayama 2000m in his first race in nearly four months.
Another difficult colt is the Deep Impact-sired Ask Victor More, with three wins, two thirds and coming off a victory in the G2 Yayoi Sho (2000m). Over the past decade, the Yayoi Sho winner has gone directly to the Satsuki Sho and won four times. Ask Victor More, who hails from the Miho stable of Yasuhito Tamura, has notched all his wins at Nakayama, once over 1800m and twice over 2000m.
“He is now much easier to handle and very calm,” claims Tamura.
The unbeaten Desierto displayed excellent racing sense in acing his first start over turf in the Listed Wakaba Stakes (2000m) on 19 March. With his two previous wins over dirt, he is fielded by the Ritto-based Takayuki Yasuda.
Other names of interest are Hopeful Stakes runner-up Justin Palace, who also heads in to the Satsuki Sho first-up and is said to have matured considerably and looking in excellent condition.
Be Astonished has made the money in all but one of his six starts, but has yet to win over 2000m. Geoglyph comes off a second in the G3 Kyodo News Hai (1800m), but has also proved himself to the right in the G3 Sapporo Nisai Stakes (1800m) last September.
Yayoi Sho fourth-place finisher Justin Rock, Keisei Hai winner Onyankopon, and Born This Way, third in the Yayoi Sho, are also worth consideration.