Epoca d'Oro Seeks Another Classic Win in Kikuka Sho

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 18th, 2018

A classic winner and an up-and-comer with an impressive recent victory are among the eighteen horses entered to contest Sunday’s Kikuka Sho (Jpn-I) at Kyoto racecourse in .

The 3,000-meter turf test serves as the third and final leg of Japan’s Triple Crown, and while the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner is skipping the race, the runners that have been entered are a quality group and should put on a good show.

Leading the way is , who scored a two-length victory in the Satsuki Sho (Jpn-I)—the first leg of the Triple Crown—before finishing a very game second in the Tokyo Yushun, beaten just a half-length. Four months later, Epoca d’Oro returned to action with a fourth-place finish in the Kobe Shumbun Hai (Jpn-II) at Hanshin, but while he was beaten on the day, Nobuyuki Tashiro—assistant to trainer Hideaki Fujiwara—told the Japan Racing Association that they’re expecting improvement on Sunday. “After beginning his autumn campaign, he’s in pretty good shape, and I don’t think the 3,000 meters is a problem. He just lacked a little in his last race, but he will come on for that run.”

Epoca d’Oro’s main competition could come from , who has compiled a 4-for-5 record with his lone loss being a fifth-place finish in the Tokyo Yushun. Last month, the son of Harbinger won the 2,000-meter Niigata Kinen (Jpn-III) by nearly two lengths while running the final 600 meters in a quick :33.50 seconds.

Etario and Meisho Tekkon, who finished ahead of Epoca d’Oro when checking in second and third in the Kobe Shimbun Hai, will be back to challenge the Satsuki Sho winner once again, as will Stay Foolish and Time Flyer, Tokyo Yushun competitors who finished fifth and sixth in the Kobe Shimbun Hai.

Cosmic Force, who ran a strong third in the Tokyo Yushun, could contend here on his best day, but will need to rebound from his disappointing seventh-place finish in the St. Lite Kinen (Jpn-II) last month. The speedy winner of that race—Generale Uno—figures to be part of the pace in the Kikuka Sho, though it remains to be seen whether he can carry his speed over 3,000 meters.

Grail and Oken Moon, who finished 14th and 15th in the Tokyo Yushun, will hope for better luck on the classic trail this time around, while Grandiose—who has won three of his four starts against easier competition—will be stepping up sharply in class. Completing the field are Aithon, You Can Smile, Kafuji Vanguard, African Gold, Fierement, Chardonnay Gold, and Glory Vase.

The Kikuka Sho is the eleventh race on the card, with a post time of 2:40 a.m. Eastern.