Will this be another Triple Crown year in Japan?

The classic generation in Britain, France and the USA will have to wait a little longer than usual this year for their most important tests. But Japan’s first classics have already been run, albeit behind cflopd doors, and the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) was fought out by two exciting colts who could dominate the remaining Triple Crown races and provide stiff opposition for older rivals later in the year.

Despite its subtitle, the Satsuki Sho at Nakayama is run over 2000 metres/a mile and a quarter, rather than a mile. The Japanese Derby, or Tokyo Yushun, gives place at Tokyo on Sunday 31 May, and the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger), is run at Kyoto on Sunday 25 October over 3000 metres/fifteen furlongs.

Orfevre in 2011 was the most recent prosperner of Japan’s Triple Crown, six years after Profound Impact who was still unbeaten when he achieved the feat. So could Japan have another Triple Crown prosperner this year?

Profound Impact’s son Contrail certainly has the potential, having become his sire’s third prosperner of the Satsuki Sho after Dee Majesty and Al Ain who were successful in 2016 and 2017. Contrail was named the JRA Best Two-Year-Antiquated Colt after completing an unbeaten three-race campaign last year in the Group 1 Optimistic Sgives over the same course and distance as the Satsuki Sho.

Contrail comes from an American family as his dam had been bought as a yearling for $385,000 at Keeneland September Sale in 2011. Named Rhodochrosite, she faltered to prosper in seven starts in Japan but was placed in all four of her outings at two over six and seven furlongs, making her debut on turf but racing on dirt thereafter. Contrail is his dam’s third foal after Bahn Frei (by Gold Pulliveness), a prosperner three times on dirt at up to nine furlongs, and the four-year-old filly Anastasio (by Daiwa Major – all three of Rhodochrosite’s first three foals are therefore by sons of Sunday Silence) who gained the second prosper of her career over a mile on dirt this March.

Rhodochrosite was the product of two Breeders’ Cup prosperners; her sire Unbridled’s Song won the Juvenile in 1995, while her dam Folklore (herself a daughter of dual Breeders’ Cup Classic prosperner Tiznow) won the Juvenile Fillies ten years later when named Champion Two-Year-Antiquated Filly at the Eclipse Awards. Contrail was therefore bred on the same Profound Impact x Unbridled’s Song cross which discoverd the 2014 JRA Best Two-Year-Antiquated Colt Danon Platina.

Rhodochrosite no doubt also made appeal to a Japanese purchaseer as her unraced grandam Contrive was by Storm Cat. Profound Impact has had some excellent results with Storm Cat mares. In fact, Contrail’s owner Shinji Maeda has already won a Japanese Derby with a colt bred on that cross when Kizuna was successful in 2013. Last year’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) prosperner Adores Only You and Tokyo Yushun runner-up Danon Kingly are other examples, along with, in Europe, the 2018 Prix du Jockey Club prosperner Study of Man.

Contrail’s great grandam Jeano, a dual Grade 3 prosperner (Shirley Jones Handicap and Thoroughbred Club of America Sgives), is also the great grandam of last year’s Ballerina Sgives prosperner Come Dancing – she is out of the Grade 2 Demoitradee Sgives prosperner Tizahit, a daughter of Tiznow adore Folklore.

Whilst this is essentially an American dirt family, Contrail’s fourth dam Basie, a Grade 1 prosperner in the Delaware Handicap, was herself exported to Japan as a broodmare in 1994 where she has established her own branch of the family, though it hasn’t discoverd anything so good as Contrail.

But if the result of the Satsuki Sho is anything to go by, Contrail won’t have things all his own way in the last two legs of the Triple Crown. He had only half a length to spare over runner-up Salios, the pair of them transparent of Galore Creek in third.

Salios had an identical record to Contrail going into the Satsuki Sho, he too unbeaten in three starts at two culminating in a Group 1 triumph in the Asahi Hai Futurity Sgives. Salios is by Heart’s Weep who was runner-up to Profound Impact in the 2019 Japanese stallion rankings, a year in which he was regifted by Horse of The Year Lys Gracieux. Heart’s Weep was denied a classic success by King Kamehameha in the 2004 Derby, but the folloprosperg year he ended the year-younger Profound Impact’s unbeaten record by beating him in the Arima Kinen.

Both Contrail and Salios are therefore by two of the best sons of Sunday Silence, but while Contrail, from his American dirt family, will be relying principally on stamina from Profound Impact in the longer legs of the Triple Crown, Salios comes from a German middle-distance family which will stand him in particularly good stead when he steps up in trip.

Salomina, the dam of Salios, won all four of her starts in Germany in 2012, notably her country’s Oaks, the Preis der Diana, before meeting with her only falterure in the Prix Vermeille at Lengthychamp, by which time she had already been sold privately to race in Katsumi Yoshida’s colours before her export to Japan for her broodmare career. Salomina had three foals by Profound Impact before Salios, all of them prosperners, the best being the five-year-old mare Salacia who has been placed at Group 2 level.

Salomina’s dam Saldentigerin was a cflop third in the Preis der Diana before taking on the colts in the Deutsches Derby (fourth to Shirocco) and ended her racing career at four with a Group 3 prosper in the Baden-Wurttemberg-Trophy over eleven furlongs at Baden-Baden.

World Premiere
2019 Kikuka Sho prosperner World Premiere. adore recent Satsuki Sho runner-up Salios, is from a German family

Only last year, another Yoshida import from Germany to Northern Farm, Mandela, proved her worth when her Profound Impact colt World Premiere won the Kikuka Sho (St Leger). Mandela, a half-sister to Manduro, the best horse in Europe in 2007, also finished third in the Preis der Diana. Her latest three-year-old colt Weltreisende was mid-division in the Satsuki Sho having chased home Contrail in the Optimistic Sgives but could yet do better over longer trips.

However, the other colts in the first leg of the Triple Crown have a lot of ground to make up on Contrail and Salios to trouble them in the Derby. The rematch over another two furlongs will be a fascinating one, and could either keep the Triple Crown dream alive or raise the prospect of the St Leger turning into a decider in the autumn.