JRA weekend preview: Jan. 16-17

TOKYO (TR) – The Grade 3 Aichi Hai will be held today at Chukyo Racecourse. The 68,920,000 yen international handicap race, previously held in December, is open to 4-year-old and up fillies and mares. Currently, 5-year-old Sundarbans by Heart’s Cry and 4-year-old Maximum de Paris by King Kamehameha are vying for favorite status.

Of the field of 18 Sundarbans has the most impressive resume with her 7th place finish in the Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup in November where she finished 0.2 seconds behind winner Marialite, but the momentum might be with Maximum de Paris, a consistent earner who is coming off a great year where she failed to show only once in eight races. If Maximum de Paris is still on her game, she will be formidable.

Punters are also getting behind 5-year-old Happiness Dancer by Meisho Samson who is coming off consecutive victories. Other contenders include Earthwise who won the Count Down Stakes in November, and dark horse 6-year-old Felice Regalo who seems to be getting the silent treatment from punters who did not care for her 14th place finish in the Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup.

Kyoto Racecourse

The first Grade 2 race of the year will be held at Kyoto Racecourse on Sunday with the Nikkei Shinsun Hai for 4-year-olds and up. The purse for the 2,400-meter race is 109,520,000 yen with 57,854,000 yen going to the winner.

Early odds has the three 4-year-olds in the field of 12 getting all the attention. Cheval Grand is currently down as the strong favorite. The 4-year-old colt by Heart’s Cry will be ridden by leading jockey Christophe Lemaire who has tallied up seven wins out of 31 rides this year. Cheval Grand is coming off three consecutive wins, each time the favorite. (Video: Cheval Grand in 5th race at Orion Stakes on Dec. 13, 2015)

The next 4-year-old on the toteboard is Reve Mistral by King Kamehameha who has been struggling since his last win in May in the Aoba Sho (G2). Reve Mistral caught the inside post and will by guided by Yuga Kawada. Third is Beruf by Harbinger who showed a strong performance in December’s grade 2 Kinko Sho finishing 6th .3 seconds behind winner Mitra.

Some of the big name older horses that punters can’t ignore are 8-year-old D’accord, winner of the grade 3 Niigata Daishoten in May, 6-year-old Derby Fizz, winner of the grade 3 Hakodate Stakes in July, and 2014 Nikkei Shinsun Hai winner, Satono Noblesse. The 6-year-old by Deep Impact is trained by Yasutoshi Ikee and has been showing all the signs of coming back into form.

Nakayama Racecourse

The weekend’s third graded race, the 2,000-meter Keisei Hai G3, is for 3-year-olds and will be held at Nakayama Racecourse. Francis Berry will take out the current favorite Umbruch, a colt by Deep Impact. Umbruch (3.7) is just coming from his maiden victory in December and will have to contend with the following up and comers:

  • Zenno Rob Roy colt Maitres d’Art (5.1) who won the Habotan Sho for 2-year-olds in December and will be ridden by top jockey Keita Tosaki from the inside post
  • Prince Charmant (15.7) by Jungle Pocket who won the Hyakunichiso Tokubetsu in November and came in second to Prodigal Son in the Fuyo Stakes in September
  • King Kamehameha colt Quelle Freude (13.9) who won the Kimmokusei Tokubetsu for 2-year-olds in November and ran well in the The Radio Nikkei Hai Kyoto G3 for 2-year-olds and finished 6th .3 seconds by unbeaten Dreadnoughtus
  • And finally Yasutoshi Ikee trained Profit (9.3) who missed winning the Sapporo Nisai Stakes by a nose in November and ran well in the Hagi Stakes for 2-year-olds in October coming in fifth .3 seconds behind winner Black Spinel

The lone filly in the field of 15 is Lunation by Admire Moon currently ranked 11th at 25.6.