The best bet for the 2021 Japanese Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

May 29th, 2021

How would you like to bet an exciting spring classic, featuring some of the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds in training, held over 1 1/2 miles at a historic racetrack?

No, we’re not talking about the Belmont (G1), though the description certainly applies. We’re referring to Sunday’s Tokyo Yushun (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan.

Also known as the Japanese Derby, the Tokyo Yushun (post time 2:40 a.m. ET) takes place over 2,400 meters on turf and serves as the second leg of the Japanese Triple Crown. A large field of 17 has been entered, but you can bet most eyes (and wagering dollars) will be focused firmly on #1 Efforia.

The favorite looks formidable

An undefeated son of 2014 Japan Cup (G1) winner Epiphaneia, Efforia delivered a powerful performance to win the 2,000-meter Satsuki Sho (G1) at Nakayama last month. Facing 15 rivals in the first leg of the Triple Crown, Efforia tracked the pace from fourth place, then dashed home decisively to score by three lengths.

Notably, Efforia showed no hesitation handling a rain-soaked course labeled good, which is important since the Tokyo Yushun may take place over similarly dampened footing.

The Satsuki Sho has produced eight of the last 10 Tokyo Yushun winners, and Efforia is bred top and bottom to relish stretching out over 2,400 meters. Any way you slice it, the favorite looks tough to beat.

Newcomers can vie for the minor awards

Eight other horses are exiting the Satsuki Sho, including runner-up #14 Titleholder, a speedy son of 2015 Tokyo Yushun winner Duramente. But since Efforia was tons the best at Nakayama, perhaps newcomers to Japan’s Triple Crown scene are more likely to challenge the favorite than his beaten Satsuki Sho rivals.

Key contenders for the exotic wagers include:

#4 Red Genesis: Conditioned by Yasuo Tomomichi, who has won two of the last five editions of the Tokyo Yushun, Red Genesis enters off back-to-back victories. The improving bay colt was a comfortable winner of Chukyo Racecourse’s 2,200-meter Kyoto Shimbun Hai (G2) three weeks ago, a race which has produced two of the last eight Tokyo Yushun winners.

#16 Satono Reinas: The lone filly in the Tokyo Yushun field has placed second multiple times at the Group 1 level, including when beaten a neck in the 1,600-meter Oka Sho (G1) to kick off 2021. The Oka Sho unfolded in the record time of 1:31.10, and Satono Reinas was absolutely flying at the finish, rocketing the final 600 meters in :32.90.

The best bet to play in the Tokyo Yushun

Both Red Genesis and Satono Reinas are progeny of 2005 Japanese Triple Crown winner Deep Impact, who has sired half a dozen Yokyo Yushun winners since 2012. Both are eligible to finish in the top three, so let’s key them underneath Efforia in a pair of trifecta tickets. We’ll spread deep for the final slot.

$2 Trifecta: 1 with 4,16 with 4,8,10,11,12,13,14,15,16 ($16)
$2 Trifecta: 1 with 4,8,10,11,12,13,14,15,16 with 4,16 ($16)
Total: $32

Good luck!