The previous weekend offered especially a G1 gem in the Japan Cup, held in Tokyo over the distance of a mile and a half, where a bunch of European horses showed up, yet had no luck when local rising star Vela Azul landed the feat under Ryan Moore. After overcoming some traffic difficulties in the final stretch, the five-year-old horse defeated second Shahryar. The G3 Keihan Hai was another of Sunday’s events, headlining the card in Hanshin this time, where Toshin Macau left behind his elders easily. On Saturday, Gruner Green bettered his two-year-old peers in the G3 Kyoto Nisai Stakes in Hanshin.
Kyoto Nisai Stakes
Fifteen two-year-old colts lined up for this G3 turf race, offering the purse of 63,360,000 Yen, while chestnut Gruner Green (134-10) handled the distance of a mile and a quarter the best, even if by a head.
The Ikuo Aizawa-trained son of Lovely Day was quick out of the gates, charged for the lead, and remained there for the whole race. His rivals were closing on Gruner Green in the final stretch; however, Mirco Demuro aboard knew well where the wire was and kept his mount on his toes until it was safe to lay his hands down.
Gruner Green held on to the first place and scored his premiere Graded victory in 2m 0.50s, leaving second Top Knife (76-10) behind by a head, with Wurttemberg (41-1) defying the odds to finish third.
The successful colt aimed at the race with two outings under his belt, having finished third in his maiden and then winning a maiden easily; therefore, his Saturday effort wasn’t that shocking; still, Top Knife’s chances looked more appealing before the race. The same applied to favorite Grande Venus (2-1), who managed only sixth place.
The Keihan Hai
Three-year-old Toshin Macau (14-5) proved the best in this G3 turf race over six furlongs as he settled in fourth and bolted forward in the final stretch.
The handsome chestnut delivered a beautiful finish, passed by his rivals, and scored the 78,110,000 Yen event by one and ¼ of a length in 1m 7.20s. The Mizuki Takayanagi trained colt was piloted by Katsuma Sameshima and left Kir Lord (153-10) in second, while Smart Courage’s (36-5) turn-of-foot was enough to grab third place.
The victorious son of Big Arthur proved to be a proper G3 runner by this success, and because his team seems to finally have come to terms with Toshin Macau being a sprinter, he might actually climb even higher if adhering to short distances.
The purse of 765,580,000 Yen was up for grabs in this G1 turf race over a mile and a half, while Vela Azul (7-2) came out on top of the field of 18 three-year-old and older horses. Piloted by Ryan Moore, the five-year-old horse galloped in the midpack and, most of the time looked a bit uncomfortable about being enveloped by his rivals, which unsurprisingly resulted in Vela Azul having no room to rally forward in the final stretch.
However, neither he nor Ryan Moore gave up, successfully found several gaps into which the jockey pushed his mount, and in the end, Vela Azul managed to get to the front in time. Against all odds, he crossed the wire in 2m 23.70s with the advantage of ¾ of a length over second Shahryar (12-5), who ran a great race, which also applies to third Weltreisende (17-2).
The Kunihiko Watanabe-trained Vela Azul didn’t cause an upset by scoring the Japan Cup, but his journey towards glory caught an eye as prior to Sunday’s outing, the son of Eishin Flash recorded just one Graded triumph.
Until the ongoing season, Vela Azul specialized in Stakes races, where he spent most of his career; however, in October, he delivered an impressive victory in the G2 Kyoto Daishoten, which rendered him a lively place contender for the Japan Cup.
Under Ryan Moore, he achieved much more, though, while for his jockey, it was his second success in the Japanese feat as back in 2013, he landed the spoils aboard Gentildonna.
Second Shahryar galloped at the rear of the field to show a good turn of foot that was enough to take second place in front of Weltreisende. Mare Daring Tact (12-1) then denied the talks about her lackluster form when finishing fifth before the best three-year-old, Danon Beluga (16-5).
Like in 2021, mare Grand Glory (56-1) was the best European guest as she came home in sixth, signing off her career with another solid performance.
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