Gendarme Stretches Out for Hopeful Stakes at Nakayama

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 27th, 2017

The final Group 1 race of the year is coming up on December 28th, that being the Hopeful Stakes for two-year-olds going 2,000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) over the turf course at .

In North America, there are no graded stakes races for juveniles held over such an extended distance, but Nakayama has had no difficulties finding horses to start in the Hopeful, as the race attracted a huge field of seventeen starters.

Among the horses expected to vie for favoritism in the wagering are Time Flyer and Lucas. The former has finished in the exacta in each of his last four starts, including a narrow defeat in the Kyoto Nisai Stakes (Jpn-III) going 2,000 meters last time out. Lucas has also been impressive, showcasing strong late rallies to win a newcomers’ race at Sapporo and a runner-up effort in the Tokyo Sports Hai Stakes (Jpn-III) at Tokyo.

But Time Flyer and Lucas will have to be sharp to defeat Gendarme, who stretches out in distance off of two impressive wins going 1,600 meters, including a decisive triumph in the Daily Nai Nisai Stakes (Jpn-II) at Kyoto. A son of the American stallion Kitten’s Joy, Gendarme will have the legendary jockey Yutaka Take in the saddle and would likely be favored if not for the fact that he’ll be stretching out 400 meters in distance for the Hopeful Stakes. According to quotes released by the Japan Racing Association, trainer Yasutoshi Ikee mentioned that “On [Gendarme’s] breeding, particularly his mother’s side, it’s unsure if he’ll get 2,000 meters or further,” but Yutaka Take took a different view, stating that “I don’t think he’ll be limited to shorter distances, despite his mother only winning over them, and I get the feeling he’ll be able to handle distances of over a mile.”

The front-running Jun Valerot, winner of two straight races going 2,000 meters at Kyoto, is stepping up in class but could be a live longshot to consider. Flatley, a respectable fifth in the Ivy Stakes at Tokyo; Charlemagne, runner-up in that same race and third in the Tokyo Sports Hai (Jpn-III); and Sans Rival, 2-for-2 with a strong win over this course and distance in the Fuyo Stakes last time out, are others that figure to attract wagering support.

Post time for the Hopeful Stakes is 3:50 p.m. local time, which translates to 1:30 a.m. Eastern.