TOKYO (TR) – Makahiki and Christophe Lemaire beat favorite Leontes and Mirco Demuro by a neck in the 2,000-meter Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho G2 at Nakayama Racecourse on Sunday.
Leontes, by King Kamehameha and Cesario, was favored at 1.8 and is considered one of Japan’s top 3-year-olds. Support among punters and the press was strong leading up to the race, but the question of Makahiki whether he could do it always lingered.
Makahiki, by Deep Impact, entered the race unbeaten and coming off the 2,000-meter Wakagoma Stakes victory in January in which he finished the last 200 meters in a record-setting 32.6 under his own power.
With Daily Hai Nisai Stakes G2 winner Air Spinel in the lineup, the race appeared to be a three-horse race in the days just prior.
After a clean break Demuro settled in mid-pack, and Lemaire held back until the second turn and then began a perfectly timed stretch run finishing the last 200 meters in 33.6 and winning in 1:59.9.
After the race Demuro said that he was further in front than he wanted to be, but is confident Leontes will be ready for the Satsuki Sho in April, the first leg of the Japanese triple crown.
Air Spinel stalked Leontes to finish third.
Makahiki paid 260 yen for the win, 440 yen for the 11-10 exacta, and 830 yen for the trifecta 11-10-4.
In other racing news, crowd favorite Buchiko won the 1,800-meter dirt Kazusa Stakes in the tenth at Nakayama by three lengths, and 18-year-old Nanako Fujita, the first female JRA jockey in 16 years, finished second in her debut race in the second race on Saturday at Nakayama.