An all-male field has been nominated for the G1 Japanese Derby (2400m) on Sunday, 28 May, the second race in the Japan Triple Crown.
Three colts, Admirable, Rey de Oro and Al Ain, are the names likely to be included in the wagers of most fans betting in Japan.
Expected to be the Derby favourite, the Hidetaka Otonashi-trained Admirable has won the last three of his four career starts and topped the G2 Aoba Sho (2400m) field by two and a half lengths with a remarkable show of late speed. “It was an incredibly easy win for him,” said current leading jockey Mirco Demuro, who also has the ride in the Derby.
On Wednesday, Demuro rode Admirable up the hill course at Ritto with a training partner. The Italian rider held his mount back for the first half, then eased off and the Deep Impact colt surged forward to finish on top of the other horse by two lengths. His time up the hill over four furlongs was 52.9 seconds, with the last furlong in 12.5 seconds. “It was a good workout. He felt like he always does,” a satisfied Demuro reported.
Rey de Oro failed to make the winner’s circle for the first time in four career starts when he ran fifth in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m), last time. Christophe Lemaire has ridden the colt in all his races and will be in the saddle again on Sunday.
Rey de Oro worked on the flat with two other horses on Wednesday, easily overtaking the others to finish in a time of 52.2 seconds over four furlongs. Lemaire rode the colt in work for the second week in a row and said, “It was an excellent workout and his responses in the stretch were good.”
Rey de Oro was coming off a layoff for his run in the Satsuki Sho and was unable to gain sufficient ground amid an extremely fast finish. “It was the first time in a long time that his responses had been a bit off, but this time he is in top shape and I believe he will be showing us some fine racing,” said Lemaire.
Satsuki Sho champion Al Ain was in fine form on Wednesday as he clocked 11.8 seconds with no urging over the last of four furlongs on the flat under jockey Kohei Matsuyama, who rode Al Ain in the Satsuki Sho. Al Ain easily overtook his workout partner after shifting smoothly into high gear. Matsuyama expressed his satisfaction with the exercise, saying: “His movement was good and he used every bit of his body.” Matsuyama also said the colt showed improved concentration and was more relaxed.
Only missing the board once in his five starts thus far, Al Ain had raced only at the mile and over 1800m before the Satsuki Sho, which was his first time over 2000m. The main concern for Sunday’s task is the distance, but Matsuyama was confident: “He is able to settle very nicely and the feel I get from him is that he will be fine.” Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee too felt the colt will be able to handle 2400m. “Looking at his running style, I think he is better suited to a less busy race,” he said.
Also to be watched is another Ikee charge, Satono Arthur, who has finished second in his last two starts, both G3 races over 1800m. Though he won his debut over 2000m, Sunday’s race will be his first at Tokyo and his first over 2400m.
Suave Richard, sixth in the Satsuki Sho, will also be attempting the distance for the first time. However, he has good form at the left-handed Tokyo venue, a first and a second, both at G3 level over 1800m.