Horse Racing
Derby standouts Justin Milano, Regaleira capture hearts

24/05/2024 12:26

Sunday’s (26 May) G1 Tokyo Yushun (2400m) – more commonly known as the Japanese Derby – will feature 18 of Japan’s top three-year-olds as they compete for a purse of JPY648 million (approx. HK$32.46 million) at Tokyo Racecourse.

Regaleira is gunning to become the first filly to win the Japanese Derby in 17 years, the first since 2007, when Vodka became the first filly in 64 years to win the coveted prize.

Regaleira, having competed against colts in all her four starts to date, captured the G1 Hopeful Stakes (2000m) on her third outing, but was sixth in the G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m), the first leg of the Triple Crown, under a new rider as regular partner Christophe Lemaire was still recovering from his fall in Dubai.

Lemaire, back in the saddle on 5 May, won the G1 Yushun Himba (2400m) aboard Tetsuya Kimura-trained Cervinia. Kimura is also Regaleira’s trainer and, back with regular partner Lemaire, the filly looks to join ranks with Vodka.

“She was coming off a layoff and up against colts in the Satsuki Sho,” says Lemaire of Regaleira. “She finished sixth but over the final furlong she ran very well and I think she’ll do well this time.”

Lemaire, who rode her fast work last week, said: “Her responses were excellent and she made her move on her own. Her movement, footwork and breathing were all perfect. She’s in top condition.”

Of the distance, he said: “She’s a very easy horse to ride. She’s always cool-headed. If she stays relaxed, I think she’ll be able to gain ground after the hill in the stretch. Though it is a big challenge, I think she has a big chance.”

Unbeaten Justin Milano, with only three starts to his name, looks to become one of the few horses to win the Japanese Derby with a perfect record. He debuted at Tokyo over 2000m, then won a Group 3 over 1800 metres. The Kizuna colt next claimed the G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m) at Nakayama and now returns to Tokyo. He’s fielded by Ritto-based Yasuo Tomomichi, who has had three Derby wins - Makahiki in 2016, Wagnerian (2018) and Do Deuce (2022.)

Rider Keita Tosaki said: “In the Satsuki Sho, there were a lot of things he had to overcome, and he cleared them all, with ease, and really showed his talent.

“The change from the Nakayama 2000 metres to the Tokyo 2400 metres shouldn’t pose a problem, either.

“In fact, I’ve always thought Tokyo would suit him better. As for the distance, he hasn’t raced over it before, but from the feeling I have riding him I would say there is no need for worry.”

The only concern is whether he’ll load well: “I’ve spent a lot of time with him and recently he’s been a bit on edge. I’m praying we’ll both get into the gate without mishap,” Tosaki said.