JRA weekend preview: Feb. 13-14

TOKYO (TR) – The Japan Racing Association will hold three graded races this weekend (including two Grade 3 races) in a showcase of some of Japan’s best 3-year-olds. The headliner is the Kyoto Kinen G2 for 4-year-olds and up on Sunday at Kyoto Racecourse, but the excitement is on the three-year-olds in the Daily Hai Queen Cup for fillies on Saturday, and the Tokinominoru Kinen on Sunday, both at Tokyo Racecourse.

Horses in these G3 races for 3-year-olds have a knack for finding their way to the major spring G1 races, so fans are looking for the next Gold Ship or Duramente.

Kyoto Kinen G2

All the nominees made the cut in Sunday’s 2,200-meter G2 at Kyoto Racecourse, and following the money won’t help. Reve Mistral, winner of the Shinshun Hai G2 in January is the current favorite at 3.0. The royal-blooded 4-year-old colt is by King Kamehameha and G1 winner Reve D’Oscar who also produced G1 winner Reve d’Essor. Fifth ranked Yuga Kawada will be in the irons. What could go wrong?

Well, there’s a lot of talent on the field, and the race is yet another joint Deep Impact and King Kamehameha family reunion. It’s wide open. Deep Impact is being represented by Historical, Tosen Reve, and Touching Speed. The King’s kin are Reve Mistral, Suzuka Devious, Toshin Monstera, and Yakamhatsu Ace. What could go wrong? (Video: Reve Mistral wins the 11th race at the Nikkei Shishun Hai G2 at the Kyoto Racecourse on Jan. 17)

The Daily Hai Queen Cup G3

It could be as simple as follow the money. Early odds has Major Emblem by Daiwa Major on top. The filly’s four races in the last eight months have earned the Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. 94.6-million yen. The current top jockey in Japan, Christophe Lemaire, has been with her every ride and will be there again on Saturday.

The horse standing in Major Emblem’s way is likely to be B B Barrel, wire-to-wire winner of last month’s G3 Fairy Stakes. The daughter of Pyro weighs in at about half the money Major Emblem has earned.

The rest of the attention is falling on King Kamehameha progeny, L’Oeuf. She won her debut race in November by hanging back and making her play late into the stretch, a skill that might come in handy in this race full of frontrunners.

The purse for the 1,600-meter race is 75.7 million yen with 35 million yen going to the winner.

Tokinominoru Kinen G3

In this 1,800-meter turf race at Tokyo on Sunday it’s all about Hartley, a Deep Impact progeny prodigy that has racked up 72.4-million yen in two races. The colt performed brilliantly in December’s Hopeful Stakes G2 as Huge Bowman took the 2-year-old wide and outgunned favorite Lord Quest in the stretch. Fran Berry had been slated to take Hartley out on Sunday, but Mr Berry is on a forced holiday back home as he was caught drifting last Saturday. Seventh ranked Norihiro Yokoyama will step in.

Hartley will be matched against competing favorite Smart Odin by Danon Chantilly. In November the colt took out Prodigal Son in the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes G3 and has earnings of 45.8 million yen. Early odds has Smart Odin at 2.5 against 2.1 for Hartley.

There are a few more unknowns in this race compared to the Queen Cup. Respect Earth and Maitres d’Art both performed well in their grade race debuts. Respect Earth by Manhattan Cafe finished a head behind Dreadnoughtus to take second in the Kyoto Nisai Stakes G3 in November. Maitres d’Art ran well on January 17 in the Keisai Hai G2 for third place behind Quelle Freud and winner Prophet. There’s not going to be a lot of daylight between the odds of these two contenders and the two favorites.

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