JRA weekend preview: Feb. 6-7

TOKYO (TR) – With unfamiliar names included in a few of the Japan Racing Association Grade 2 and 3 races last month, it’s understandable if you can’t remember what exactly happened. But February is here, and people are talking about this weekend’s races with new energy. We’ve got a gang of 4-year-olds out to take the Tokyo Shimbun Hai from their elders, and a blood feud in the Kisaragi Sho that should bring the house down.

The Tokyo Shimbun Hai G3

In the 1,600-meter Tokyo Shumbun Hai on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse all eyes will be on Danon Platina by Deep Impact who performed brilliantly in the Fuji Stakes G3 in October beating his older half-brother Satono Aladdin by a neck. The grade 3 race has fallen to 4-year-olds before, but the last favorite to win was in 2007, and Danon Platina is currently on top at 2.6, and will likely stay there. (Video: Danon Platina wins 11th race at Fuji Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on Oct. 24, 2015)

Two other 4-year-olds fill out the top three positions on the tote-board. The second favorite currently at 3.1 is American bred 4-year-old Dashing Blaze by Kitten’s Joy. The colt has won his last three races including the open class 42.3-million-yen purse Regal Stakes in December where he won by a half a length as the heavy favorite. The third spot goes to Stay Gold colt Grand Silk who has been earning, but missing the winner’s circle by narrow margins.

Older horses in the field have demonstrated the capacity to win this race. Daiwa Liberal by Daiwa major is coming off two recent wins. In the New Years Stakes a month ago, the 5-year-old beat competitor Grand Silk by a neck.

Tosen Stardom, winner of the 2014 Challenge Cup G3, and yet another Deep Impact offspring, ran a respectable half second behind Maurice in the Mile Championship G1, and the 5-year-old has both trainer Yasutoshi Ikee and sixth ranked jockey Fran Berry in his corner.

The lone lady in the field is 6-year-old Smart Layer also by Deep Impact. Boys beware as Smart Layer missed the The Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup in November by a half a length finishing fifth to winner Marialite. In October she came in second in the The Fuchu Himba Stakes G2. Do mares win this race? 6-year-old Whale Capture won in 2014, so, yes, they do.

Last, there is 2015-2016 earnings leader T M Taiho who missed the Kyoto Kimpai G3 on January by a half a length to Win Primera.

Kisaragi Sho G3

The 1,800-meter Kisaragi Sho G3 to be held at Kyoto Racecourse on Sunday has been trimmed down to nine entrants with George Cinq and Yoshio not making the cut. Less than a month ago it was all about Deep Impact offspring Leukerbad after the colt handily won the 2000-meter Fukujusho Tokubetsu in 2:00.4 by three-quarters of a length. Yet, he is currently the second favorite at 2.8 as his half-brother out of Malpensa by Orpen, Satono Diamond, sits on top of the board at a strong 1.7. The colt is two for two 2 — both at 2000 meters and both in 2:03.8.

The 241-million-yen foal is trained by Lovely Day trainer, Yasutoshi Ikee, and will be taken out by third ranked jockey Christophe Lemaire.

Leukerbad, a 252-million-yen foal out of Azeri by Jade Hunter, also won his last two races and will be ridden by veteran jockey Yutake Take, who won his 3,800th race last Sunday.

The top two favorites debuted together in December when Satono Diamond, the younger by a month, beat Leukerbad by two lengths which is no doubt the reason for the current wide gap in the odds.

The third favorite and potential spoiler is Roi Absolu by Zenno Rob Roy. The colt easily won his debut race at 1800 meters by three lengths in December at Hanshin Racecourse. Top jockey Mirco Demuro will be in the irons and could be looking to put last weekend’s performance – dead last four times – in the rearview mirror.

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