Babbit beats Nakayama rivals but the mighty Contrail lies in store in Kikka Sho

A spurt from Babbit at the top of the home straight proved the decisive moment in Monday's Grade 2 Asahi Hai St Lite Kinen at Nakayama.

The turf contest for three-year-olds over 1m3f is the premier trial for the Grade 1 Kikka Sho, and it was the Tamio Hamada-trained and Hiroyuki Uchida-ridden Babbit who best highlighted his credentials with a one-and-a-half-length success over favourite Satono Flag. Galore Creek, the second favourite, was third of the 12 runners, a further half-length back.

The Yayoi Sho winner Satono Flag, who raced on the outside of the pack, ran well but couldn't catch the winner.

For Babbitt, this was a fourth consecutive win, starting with his maiden in April, and his second Graded stakes victory, from six career starts.

Uchida said: "He was a graded stakes winner coming into this, but his previous race was not of a high level, so I thought this race would be a good test for him.

"He has good stamina and stayed on well until the finish. He is not just a front-runner, but he begins his races well, and I let him run as he likes.

"He always spurts after waiting to the last turn, and I guess that he understands the way to win. For his next race [the Kikka Sho], the distance will be longer, but he can run calm too if I ride him well, and we have a chance."

Satono Flag's rider Keita Tosaki said: "It went as I expected and the winner was the scariest rival I thought.

"I felt that his condition wasn't perfect because it was his first race after a rest and it told at the finish. I'd expect him to be better next time."

Whoever turns up for the Kikka Sho will likely have a huge task in trying to beat spring champion Contrail, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) and Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winner, who is attempting to become the third unbeaten triple crown winner in JRA history.

He will run in Sunday's Grade 2 Kobe Shimbin Hai at Chukyo, which will be his first race after a summer rest and a prep for the Kikka Sho at Kyoto on October 25.

He has been prepared at the Ritto Training Centre since returning from his summer break on September 4, and has clocked two fast training sessions in a week. 

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi said on Sunday after his workout: "It went as planned. I am satisfied because his training is really on track. The last fast training will be on Wednesday. This race is, of course, important, but more so is keeping his condition for the big race and title challenge."

Regular rider Yuichi Fukunaga added: "I feel he is in good condition and coming on for the rest. He idled a little bit once he hit the front, but that's no problem - just evidence of his good rest over the summer. He's now going to be perfect, both physically and mentally."