Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (G1) - Preview
It’s the turn of the two-year-old colts to do battle on Sunday, Dec. 17, when the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (1600m) will be run at Hanshin Racecourse, located between the cities of Osaka and Kobe.
The 69th running of the race has attracted 18 nominations for a maximum field of that same number. The race has had a varied history, and recent dates of note include 2010, when it became an international Grade 1, and 2014, when the race was switched to the Hanshin track, prior to which it was run at Nakayama.
A number of big names have claimed the race, including Triple Crown winner, Narita Brian in 1993, Dream Journey in 2006, and Japan Cup winner, Rose Kingdom, in 2009. The race is run on the outer turf course and starts in the backstraight. There is a downhill run from 600 meters out until the 200 meter mark, when the course rises before flattening out some 40 meters or so from the winning post. All the colts are set to carry 55kgs.
Step races leading into this year’s race have included the Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup run over 1,600 meters at Tokyo in October, Grade 2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes run over 1,400 meters at Tokyo in November, and Grade 2 Daily Hai Nisai Stakes run over 1,600 meters at Kyoto in November.
Winning favorites have been in short supply in the past 10 years, with just three of them winning, the latest being Danon Platina in 2014. The record time for the race is held by Meiner Recolte, who won the race in a time of 1 minute, 33.4 seconds in 2004, that race being run at Nakayama.
This year’s prize money totals out at around 152 million yen, with 70 million going to the winner. The Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes will be Race 11 on the Hanshin card on Sunday, with a post time of 15:40 local time.
Here is a look at some of the colts expected to be in the market:
Danon Premium: A couple of trainers look like being doubly represented in the race, and Mitsumasa Nakauchida is one of them. Danon Premium is a colt by Deep Impact, and has won both of his two starts so far, and has won them in good style. He won in a record time for 2-year-olds in his last start, taking out the Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup over 1,600 meters at Tokyo in a time of 1 minute, 33.0 seconds. After that victory, jockey Yuga Kawada said: “It was his first race at Tokyo, and just his second overall, but it was a great performance. Everything’s been perfect with him.” The trainer is hoping Danon Premium can supply him with his first ever Grade 1 victory.
Tower of London: Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa won the race last year with Satono Ares, and looks to have an exciting prospect in Tower of London. The colt by Raven’s Pass was bred at Darley Japan, and his three wins from four starts have already netted around 68 million yen in prize money. Jockey Christophe Lemaire has ridden the horse in all his races, and will be looking to claim his fifth Grade 1 this year, after his memorable hat trick of big race wins back in the spring. The trainer commented: “He closed well last time to win, and I’m thinking and hoping, that he’ll just about get the 1,600 meters.”
Danon Smash: The colt by Lord Kanaloa has been working well recently in training with his race jockey, Yuichi Fukunaga. The jockey says the horse is “good in his races, comes out of them well, and developing nicely.” All his races have been over 1,400 meters so far, but he’s coming off an easy win in the Momiji Stakes at Kyoto in October. Trainer Takayuki Yasuda, who trained Lord Kanaloa, will be looking for his 12th JRA Grade 1 win.
Asakusa Genki: The American bred colt by Stormy Atlantic is two wins from five starts, and has only been unplaced once. He won the Grade 3 Kokura Nisai Stakes in September over 1,200 meters, and finished third most recently to Tower of London in the Grade 2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes. Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi said, “He generally starts well and that was the case last time, when he got into a good position early. It was a hectic pace and he just couldn’t maintain it at the end.” Asakusa Genki’s jockey will most likely be Yutaka Take, who is looking to become the first jockey to win all JRA Grade 1 races.
Fast Approach: The other representative from trainer Kazuo Fujisawa’s yard, Fast Approach can boast of a sire (Dawn Approach) who was unbeaten as a 2-year-old, and among his career wins were two at Royal Ascot. Fast Approach was bred at Northern Farm and is one win and two seconds from a four-race career to date. He’s coming off a second place finish over 2,000 meters at Nakayama in September. The colt usually runs up with the pace, and the trainer thinks he has a good chance here. “This would look to be his best distance. He was unable to run on over the distance of the Sapporo Nisai Stakes,” Fujisawa said.
Frontier: The colt by Daiwa Major runs in the Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. colors and gives trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida another string to his bow here. Frontier won his first two races, before being slightly unlucky last time when finishing fourth to the well regarded Gendarme in the Grade 2 Daily Hai Nisai Stakes over 1,600 meters at Kyoto in November. The trainer said: “He was unlucky last time, but that’s racing. He’s come out of the race well though.”
Stelvio: Another colt by Lord Kanaloa, Stelvio began his career this June and promptly notched up two straight wins. He was second most recently to Danon Premium in the Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup, for which he started favorite. Trained by Tetsuya Kimura, Stelvio’s big race jockey is likely to be Christian Demuro, looking for his second JRA Grade 1 victory.