Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1) - Comments from runners' connections

The Grade 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) over 3,000 meters on the outer turf course at Kyoto Racecourse is on Sunday. It is the final Classic of the year in Japan and there’s a real buzz in the air that there could be a Triple Crown winner just waiting to walk away with the title. Contrail is looking to become just the eighth Triple Crown winner in Japanese racing history, and the first since Orfevre in 2011.

Hidetaka Otonashi, trainer
“He’s been training with his usual pattern of work on the woodchip course, and running well. I think he’s just right going into the race. It’ll be the same for most of the other horses when it comes to taking on the 3,000 meters, but he’s a horse with a lot of stamina. I think he doesn’t have to lead in a race, but I do want him to run in an economic way where he gets to save things for the finish.”

Tamio Hamada, trainer
“I was pleased with his final piece of work, when he picked up well at the finish. The jockey thinks the horse’s condition has improved and he’s more muscular now. Seeing how he ran last time, I don’t think the distance will be a problem. I’ll rely once again on the jockey to get the best out of him, getting the horse to run with his best natural rhythm. It’s possible he might just sit off the lead in the race.”

Ikuo Aizawa, trainer
“The jockey says the horse is moving well. There’s a good shape to him now and he’s moving lightly and smoothly. He’s better for his last race and should improve again. Although he hasn’t gotten results racing right-handed, I think he’ll be suited to the wide Kyoto track, and the distance shouldn’t be a problem looking at his bloodline. Hopefully he’ll be able to save things in the early part of the race to finish off strongly at the end.”

Akihide Tsumura, jockey
“He did his hard work last week, so this week I just concentrated on his finish. He’s getting into the flow of things well. He’s probably better now than he was for his last race.”

Black Hole
Ikuo Aizawa, trainer
“He had a short break at the farm after his last race, and everything was timed so we could prepare him for this race. The jockey has been working him well in training. The horse might have lost a bit of weight, and last week I thought he hadn’t done enough, but in his last piece of work on the woodchip course he ran very well. On his breeding, I don’t feel bad about the distance, and I’d like to see him run as well as I think he can.”

Chimera Verite
Kazuya Nakatake, trainer
“He’s given it his all in training and has been moving well. As a smart horse, I think he can handle the turf and the distance satisfactorily.”

Koichi Shirakura, assistant trainer
“We don’t honestly know about the distance until we try, but it’s the same for the other horses. I think after his last race, it’ll be easy for him to come out here and take up a front-running role. He ran well in the Wakaba Stakes, showing that he can handle races on turf. Even though the opposition’s strong, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do if he gets to run his own race.”

Contrail, picture Japan Racing Association

Shigeki Miyauchi, assistant trainer
“He’s run well right up to the end of his trackwork. The jockey’s been saying just how good the horse is. I think there won’t be a problem over the 3,000 meters, and it’s the same for the other horses, particularly with them all being the same age, when it comes to settling in the race and running well.”

Yoshito Yahagi, trainer
“He’s been fine at the stable. We didn’t overdo things last week. This week, considering the going on the training track, his final furlong time of 12.9 seconds was fine. There are no problems with him and he knows when to switch on and off when it comes to his racing. He showed last time in the Kobe Shimbun Hai what a great turn of foot he has.”

Yuichi Fukunaga, jockey
“There’s been no real change with him. If anything, his reactions have become better when it comes to getting his big strides in. He can handle the pre-race environment fine. He’s had gate practice, so he should be fine at the start. His racing sense has improved a lot. With the first corner coming shortly after the start of the race, I’d like a draw that’s not too wide.”

Danon Gloire
Sakae Kunieda, trainer
“He’s the type to improve with a race. He’s won consecutive races against older horses, and he didn’t get to run in the spring against the other strong horses in this line-up. He’ll be in good condition this time, and the extended distance and wide track should suit him, so I hope he’ll give a good account of himself, as we look to the future with him.”

Deep Bond
Ryuji Okubo, trainer
“He gets better with a race under his belt, and he’s looked sharp in training. He didn’t get results in his last two races, but this time I hope he can run like he did in the Kyoto Shimbun Hai. He’s the type to pick up well in a race, and even though the distance is long, I hope he can save himself without tiring for a shot at the finish. I’d prefer it if he gets good ground on the day.”

Diamant Minoru
Masaru Honda, trainer
“He’s continuing to keep his condition. I think he’ll be suited by the longer distance of 3,000 meters. Of course, there’s one strong horse in the race, but I think he’s capable of finishing in a good position. I hope he’ll get a draw that helps him into the race.”

Galore Creek
Hiroyuki Uehara, trainer
“Everything was fine in his last piece of work and we are keeping in mind that he has to transport a long way to the track. He’s still a young horse and still improving, and his last race was his first for a while. The jockey knows how to get the best out of him, and I think the horse gets into the flow of a race well. His strong point is being able to run from any position, and I hope he’ll run a big race here.”

Manabu Ikezoe, trainer
“We’ve worked on his finish in training. His reactions are better than before, and it feels good to take on this race with him. He has a good stride on him and I’m not worried about the distance. It was a bit of a muddling race last time, and it goes to show he needs to be able to get his big strides in when it matters. The start will be important this time, with a short run to the first corner.”

Kohei Matsuyama, jockey
“He’s run well in the final 100 meters in training. He’s not always the quickest to pick up, but he’s feeling quicker now. I think he’ll be able to adjust to running the 3,000 meters. He’ll come on for his last race, and even though it’s a strong field, I want to ride a good race on him.”

Man of Spirit
Takashi Saito, trainer
“After having a race, he’s better, and he’s showed this in training since last week. He’s not pulling, and I think the 3,000 meters will be fine. It’ll be good for him to run on the outside course at Kyoto, and providing he’s a bit more serious, he should do well.”

Mirco Demuro, jockey
“Since last week there’s not much change in the way he’s been moving. He can be a little difficult, which is why he didn’t run so well last time when racing left-handed. He seems to be doing things right now. With his stamina, I hope he can run better this time, bearing in mind he’ll be racing to the right and over 3,000 meters.”

Robertson Quay
Toru Hayashi, trainer
“He’s in good condition and has trained well. I think racing right-handed and over a trip will be fine for him, and his pedigree doesn’t suggest it’ll be a problem either. The jockey does well with him, and he’s looking forward to riding him in the big race. I hope things go as we anticipate with the kind of race the horse can run.”

Takuma Ito, jockey
“I’m enjoying riding now and want to get a lot more rides. I’m pleased to have this ride, and am grateful to connections for putting me up. I want to do the job well.”

Satono Flag
Sakae Kunieda, trainer
“He’s in about the same condition as he was for his last race. In his final training this week, he moved well, and I was pleased with his responses. He’s relaxed too. I hope he can run smoothly in the early stages of the race, and run well over the 3,000 meters. Among his own generation, I think he can do well, and despite the one strong horse in the race, there wouldn’t be much in it between him and the others. I’d like a firm track on the day.”

Keita Tosaki, jockey
“He switches on well in training, and I take care not to overwork him. He ran a strong race last time, and he’s a different horse from a year ago. His footwork has improved, and he’s also an easy horse to ride. I’ll think about a race plan after the draw, but I wouldn’t want to get too far back in the race.”

Satono Impresa
Yoshito Yahagi, trainer
“The horse’s condition is better now than in the spring. He wasn’t tired after his last race, and even though there’s only a short interval between races, there doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about. He’s been moving well and looking sharp at the finish in training.”

Shigeki Miyauchi, assistant trainer
“It’s just been enough to go quite easy with him, given his last race was very recent. He ran a clever race in the Derby over 2,400 meters, and so if he can do something similar this time, the 3,000 meters will be alright.”

Turkish Palace
Mitsugu Kon, trainer
“His movement is good now. Fortunately he’s able to get a start in this race. It was no problem for him to up the distance last time to 2,200 meters, and I think it’ll be a minus for some of the other horses this time with the distance, so he shouldn’t be too disadvantaged. There has been some recent rain to take the sting out of the ground at Kyoto, and hopefully this week some more rain might be around, and this would help his chances.”

Yasuo Tomomichi, trainer
“Things didn’t go his way last time, when he was coming back from a spell, as well as not getting a good draw. He’ll be better for that run. He’s a talented horse, and what with his stamina and ability to get into a race well, he’ll be much better suited by the longer trip and the wide course. I want him to show his best here.”

Yasutoshi Ikee, trainer
“He’s a different horse than he was earlier this year. He’s more mature and muscular now. His responses and breathing have been good in training, as well as changing leads smoothly when it matters. He should improve for his last run.”

Hiroshi Kanetake, assistant trainer
“There’s been a good feel to him when he’s been working on the woodchip course, and things will be good leading into the race. He has enough stamina to handle the 3,000 meters, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can get closer to the winner (Contrail) of the trial race last time.”

Kenichi Ikezoe, jockey
“I feel the horse is in good condition, and in his last piece of work, from the five furlong mark, he put in a strong run, posting a good time and running smoothly with confidence. His footwork is light too. He seems like a good match for these big races like the Derby, and I’m not concerned about him getting into the flow of the race.”