Japan's Kikuka Sho Preview

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TwinSpires Staff

October 20th, 2017

by Alastair Bull

Japan’s Triple Crown is rounded off Oct. 22 by the Kikuka Sho (G1) at Kyoto. The Japanese equivalent of England’s St Leger, it’s run over 3,000 meters (about 1 7/8 miles).

Unlike the St Leger, the Kikuka Sho is not regarded as a negative for a colt’s stallion prospects, and thus its recent honor roll includes many of Japan’s greats. Wonder sire Deep Impact completed the Triple Crown by winning this in 2005. Subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Delta Blues won the race in 2004, and in recent years the winners include Triple Crown winner Orfevre and the top-quality gallopers Gold Ship, Epiphaneia, Kitasan Black and Satono Diamond.

As always, the biggest test for punters is working out which horses will stay the trip. This is especially challenging as none of the main lead-up races exceed 1 ½ miles, but they can still provide a clue.

One of the most important lead-ups was the 1 ½-mile Kobe Shimbun Hai (G2) at Hanshin. The victor, Tokyo Yushun (G1, Japanese Derby) winner Rey de Oro (King Kamehameha), is being aimed at the 1 ½-mile Japan Cup instead of the Kikuka Sho, but the runner-up Kiseki (Rulership) put in a great trial, finishing very solidly in the final stages. He looks a good chance to stay 1 7/8 miles. The third-place finisher, Satono Arthur (Deep Impact), can’t be ignored either.

Al Ain (Deep Impact), the winner of the first Triple Crown leg, the 1 ¼-mile Satsuki Sho (G1), faded to fifth in the Tokyo Yushun but comes into this race having finished second in the 1 3/8-mile Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen (G2). The biggest question mark about him must be stamina.

The winner of the Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen was Mikki Swallow, a son of Tosen Homareboshi (Deep Impact), was hugely impressive in the final furlong, and might be the toughest horse to beat. Third that day was Satono Chronicle (Heart’s Cry), who should have stamina on his side.

It will be a highly competitive race, but Mikki Swallow looks to be the one to beat, with Kiseki probably his toughest challenger.