JRA weekend preview: Jan. 30-31

TOKYO (TR) – While the Japan Racing Association is focused on two G3 sprints this weekend with the 1400-meter dirt Negishi Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse and the 1,200-meter turf Silk Road Stakes at Kyoto Racecourse, the rest of the nation will be mesmerized with Buchiko, the 4-year-old queen of cute, in the Kitayama Stakes on Saturday at Kyoto Racecourse. Buckiko will be facing a tougher group in her first stakes race for horses with winnings up to 16 million yen, but she has the energized consciousness of Japan behind her, she’s a contender, and she has polka dots.

Negishi Stakes G3

Top jockey Keita Tosaki and Moanin could breathe a little life into the listless Negishi Stakes if they win the 1,400-meter race on Sunday at Kyoto Racecourse. The 4-year-old colt by Henny Hughes has four wins out his five-race nascent career, and the off-day was third place in his grade race debut in the Musashino Stakes G3 in November. Moanin will have to take out the top two 2015 money earners on the field, Tagano Tonnerre and Laser Bullet, to claim nearly half of the 81.8-million-yen purse. Moanin is the favorite with early odds wavering between 2.3 and 2.4. (Video: Moanin places third in 11th race at Kyoto on Nov. 14)

Tagano Tonnerre, a 6-year-old gelding by Came Home, simply outraced Moanin in the Musashino Stakes by two lengths to finish second, a nose behind Nonkono Yume. The crowd is saying Moanin has improved since November, but consider Tagano Tonnerre’s last win at 1,400 meters in the Tempozan Stakes in June at Hanshin where he finished strong in 1:22.3. Early odds has Tagano Tonnerre at 3.9, but expect the odds between the leaders to tighten up by post time.

Returning for a second bite of the cherry is 8-year-old Laser Bullet by Brian’s Time. After winning the Keiyo Stakes open in April, Laser Bullet spent the rest of 2015 scooping up over 50 million yen in five NAR local circuit races.

Silk Road Stakes G3

The Silk Road Stakes attracts talent and produces winners, such as 2015 Victoria Mile winner Straight Girl (2014) and six time G1 winner Lord Kanaloa (2012).

At the top of the early odds tote board is Big Arthur by Sakura Bakushin O. The 5-year-old is the top 2015 earner on the field and has a bone to pick with a couple of contenders.  In December, Dance Director edged out Big Arthur for second place in the Hanshin Cup G2, and in November Satono Lupin snatched the win away in the Keihan Hai G3 beating Big Arthur by a head.

Clearly scores need to be settled, so trainer Kenichi Fujioka has tapped Mirco Demuro to deliver the hit, replacing Kota Fujioka who has ridden Big Arthur in every one of his nine outings. Big Arthur’s career record stands at 6-2-1-0. Weighing in at just over 520 kilograms, Big Arthur is big, bad, and deserving of the early favorite status.

Satono Lupin, Dance Director and Nero are all competing for the second favorite position with early odds wavering between 5.6 and 5.7.

Nero, a 5-year-old by Johannesburg, will be making his graded race debut. He is coming off two wins in pricey open stakes races and has 2015 earnings of 121.5 million yen, just under Big Arthur’s.

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