A strong performance in the closing seconds of the 82nd Satsuki Sho propelled Geoglyph to a win by a length over Equinox on Sunday afternoon, April 17 at Nakayama Racecourse in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.
Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga’s ride was at the forefront of the field throughout the 2,000m race, the first leg of this year’s Japan Racing Association Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds.
It was a recipe for success for 45-year-old Fukunaga, who earned his 34th career JRA Grade I win and his second Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) triumph. He won the 2020 race for the first time aboard Contrail, who ended the year by winning the Triple Crown. Contrail retired after winning the 41st Japan Cup in November 2021.
The fifth favorite, Geoglyph sired by Drefong, added even more intrigue to the excitement of the sprint, passing his stablemate Equinox to claim the win. (Watch a video recording of the race here.)
Christophe Lemaire piloted the Kitasan Black-sired Equinox into second place, a length behind Geoglyph, who was clocked in 1:59.7s on the grass course. (Al Ain, sired by Deep Impact, set the race record of 1:57.8 in 2017.)
Legendary jockey Yutaka Take finished third aboard favorite Do Deuce, completing the final three furlongs in 33.8 seconds. Geoglyph covered that distance in 34.3, Equinox in 34.6 in the 18-horse race, which had a total prize purse of JPY325 million (about US$2.82 million).
Geoglyph and Equinox trainer Tetsuya Kimura claimed his second JRA G1 win.
After Do Deuce, Danon Beluga (ridden by Yuga Kawada), Ask Victor More (Hironobu Tanabe) and Onyankopon (Akira Sugawara) all finished a neck length in a row.
Geoglyph burst out of the gate at the 14th post and sped straight, positioning himself near the middle of the course.
Ask Victor More was the early pacesetter and held the lead for most of the race. The 3-year-old bay faded in the last 200 meters.
Desierto, driven by Yasunari Iwata, held onto second place from start to finish before slipping down to 16th place.
Too close for comfort
Shortly after the halfway point in the race, the top four consisted of Ask Victore More, Desierto, Born This Way (Shu Ishibashi), and Be Astonished (Ryuji Wada).
Struggling for position, the front of the field shuffled and other competitors emerged.
Equinox was in the lead with 200 meters to go. But Geoglyph had leeway and overtook his stablemate with an intriguing conclusion on the wire.
“His start was good and we were able to sit in an ideal position, which was crucial for today’s win,” said Fukunaga later. “I already knew he was in good shape when I rode him during training and I had no doubt he could win today even though the stallion was fifth choice.
“The stallion has the strength to maintain his speed so I set him wide and made an early bid before the fourth turn. I’m just glad I was able to do my job. In the coming [Japanese] Derby, we have to see if he can cover the extra 400 meters.”
A look ahead
The Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), which is held over 2,400 meters, is the second leg of the Japanese Triple Crown. This year’s race will take place on May 29 at Tokyo Racecourse.
On October 23, the Kikuka Sho (St. Ledger in Japanese), a 3,000 meter test of speed and endurance, will be held at Hanshin Racecourse to conclude this year’s Triple Crown series.
TIED TOGETHER: An overview of Japan’s top races for 2022
Author: Ed Odeven
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