Contrail Aims To Be Third Undefeated Colt To Capture Japan’s Triple Crown In Sunday’s Kikuka Sho

Contrail, a son of the late Triple Crown champion Deep Impact, stands to become only the third colt to capture Japan’s classic treble while unbeaten, this Sunday (Oct. 25) at Kyoto Racecourse in Japan. His sire did it before him in 2005, and 21 years before that, Symboli Rudolf had been the first to claim the classic three with a pristine record.

The G1 Kikuka Sho (3000m, or approximately 15 furlongs), or Japanese St. Leger, is second only to the spring Tenno Sho Spring as Japan’s longest top-level flat race and caps the Triple Crown, which begins in the spring with the G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m, or approximately 10 furlongs) and the G1 Tokyo Yushun (2400m, or approximately 12 furlongs), or Japanese Derby.

Of the 23 horses who have claimed both spring classics, 15 went to the Kikuka Sho gate to claim that final feather in their cap, but only seven succeeded, beginning with St. Lite in 1941.

If any horse can do it again, it’s Contrail. This week, his last drill before the race took the colt up the hill course at Ritto under an assistant to trainer Yoshito Yahagi, who is eager to lay claim to his 17th big-race win and first Kikuka Sho victory.

Wednesday morning (Oct. 21), the woodchip surface was heavy and the colt, eager to run, was held back over the first half before slowly being allowed to accelerate. He used his body fully with exemplary form, for top marks and a time of 52.5 seconds for a half-mile with a final 200 meters (approximately one furlong) in 12.9 seconds.

“He’s switched on,” said the rider. “So I concentrated on not letting him overdo it. The ground was slow, but there were no problems with either his movement or breathing.”

Contrail’s training has gone smoothly, all according to plan. Returning from his spring campaign, he kicked off the fall with a win by 2 lengths over Weltreisende in the G2 Kobe Shimbun Hai at Chukyo on Sept. 27.

“He broke away from the crowd with stupendous acceleration,” said Yahagi of the race. “I was in the position of not being able to lose that race and, at the same time, not being able to push him too much, so that he’d be ready for the Kikuka Sho. It was quite a conflict and a very difficult race.”

The trainer and Contrail have overcome difficulties and look poised for success.

“Contrail seems to understand what our intentions are. He turns off after a race. He slowly revs up before one. He really is a very clever horse,” said Yahagi.

Contrail has started favorite in all six of his races (three of them Grade 1s), and this Sunday will be no different as he bids to write another page in the history books. There’s plenty of confidence from the stable too.

“It was a good win last time and we were relieved by that. That race was enough to get him switched on and so we don’t need to worry about anything. He’s come out of it well and has been at the stable in the three-week period since,” said assistant trainer Yusaku Oka.

Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga has struck up a good partnership with the horse and will be looking to get the best out of him again here.

No matter how good the chances that Japan will see a second unbeaten youngster capture a Triple Crown in as many weeks, the search is heated for the other two to fill out the winning trio.

G2 Kobe Shimbun Hai runner-up Weltreisende, by 2009 G1 Arima Kinen champ Dream Journey, is one of the most mentioned, as is Babbitt and Satono Flag.

Weltreisende was third in the Derby and has only figured out of the money once, when finishing eighth in the G1 Satsuki Sho. The extra distance of the Kikuka Sho will be a plus for him.

A likely longshot that may be most advantaged by the distance this time out is Black Hole (ninth in the Satsuki Sho, seventh in the Derby), a Goldship colt of stayer stature (978 lb).

Satono Flag looked in fine form with a first-up second in the G2 St. Lite Kinen on Sept. 21 at Nakayama. Satono Flag and Danon Gloire are the two colts nominated for Sunday’s race by super mare Almond Eye’s trainer, Sakae Kunieda.

Babbitt, by Nakayama Festa (second in the 2010 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), bypassed the Classics and, racing solely in the 1800-2200m range, has sped to his first G1 on a four-race winning streak that included the G2 St. Lite Kinen last out.

The 81st running of the Kikuka Sho is set for 2:40pm Hong Kong time this Sunday, 25 October.

The post Contrail Aims To Be Third Undefeated Colt To Capture Japan’s Triple Crown In Sunday’s Kikuka Sho appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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