2023 Takamatsunomiya Kinen & Nikkei Sho Odds

A huge field of 18 runners go to the Chukyo gate for the 2023 Takamatsunomiya Kinen $2.5 million dollar pot, and all eyes will be on Pixie Knight who makes a comeback after one year layoff while in the Grade 2 Nikkei Sho Ask Victor More will face off defending champ Titleholder.

Takamatsunomiya Kinen

Grade 1 – Purse $2,530,000 – 1200 meters (6 furlongs) – Turf – 4-Year-Olds and Up

Can Pixie Knight return with a win after sustaining a near-life-threatening injury in the 2021 Hong Kong Sprint?

He won the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama before that run in Hong Kong and was the superstar of Japanese sprinters. It is a very tough assignment to come back after what was a bad experience in a multi-horse pile-up and priced up on the morning line at around 16/1, shows the task at hand.

Travesura has to be of interest even though he is not in the best form. He clearly thrives at this time of year and has finished fourth in the last two runnings of this race and is maybe one for exactas and trifectas at double-figure odds.

Kir Lord needs no introduction to Japanese race fans but US fans will not know much about him. He was third in last year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen so must be respected. He finished second in the Grade 3 KeiHan Hai on his last start of 2022 and has had a recent run in readiness for this race. He’ll be one of the runners closing late here.

Meikei Yell is a consistent performer at Grade 2 level and has won both starts in that grade recently, with the last of those being The Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes when he broke the track record at Chukyo over this 1200-meter distance. He was fifth in this race last year behind Naran Huleg, and the defending champ is back to try and win for a second year in succession.

Naran Huleg came from way back last year, and he has a great gate draw in six and will surely be trying to stalk the pace and strike late again.

Lotus Land has to be on the radar after finishing second last year, but one that is coming from left field is the recent Grade 3 winner Aguri. He has now won his last four races, and last time stepped up the class ladder to take the Hankyu Hai at Hanshin. That was his first attempt at graded stakes foes and this requires much more.

Namura Clair was a fine fifth in the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes back in October and warmed up for this assignment by taking advantage of some class relief last time when taking the Grade 3 Silk Road Stakes at Chukyo Racecourse.

She was placed in the Japanese 1000 Guineas as a three-year-old, and could well make up into a very useful sprinter, and should not be underestimated.

2023 Takamatsunomiya Kinen Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Water NavilleraH.Yoshida+3660
Kir LordR.Wada+5540
Daddy’s VividS.Akiyama+3660
Meikei YellK.Ikezoe+390
Naran HulegK.Maruta+2720
Vento VoceA.Nishimura+1310
Lotus LandY.Iwata+1160
Pixie KnightK.Tosaki+660
First ForceT.Danno+3660
Toshin MacauK.Sameshima+840
Namura ClairS.Hamanaka+420
Grenadier GuardsM.Iwata+3660
Buon VoyageH.Kawasu+11100
Win MarvelK.Matsuyama+3660

This looks like a very tough race to call and all eyes will be on Pixie Knight to see if he can come back and run a good race. However, it will be tough and one that looks sure to run well and could hit the board is Aguri who is on an upward curve.

Any number of these can win but a narrow vote goes to NAMURA CLAIR who has a touch of class and can take advantage of her 2kg fillies allowance.

Of the others, last year’s winner Naran Huleg and runner up Lotus Land look sure to be involved.

Nikkei Sho Stakes

Grade 2 – Purse $990,000 – 2500 meters (1 mile 4 1/2 furlongs) – Turf – 4-Year-Olds and Up

Can the young pretender Ask Victor More topple the older horses to take out the Grade 2 Nikkei Sho Stakes by beating last year’s winner Titleholder?

A fascinating race with the habitual front-runner Titleholder taking a class drop. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is a proven top-class Grade 1 performer. He won the Japanese St Leger in 2021 and last season was a dual Grade 1 winner, taking the Takarazuka Kinen over 2200 meters (1 mile 3 furlongs) after having previously won the Tenno Sho over 3200 meters (2 miles)

He was disappointing in the Arima Kinen when last seen, but it was the same as the previous season, and it is this time of year when he is seen to the best effect. He will surely attempt to go gate to wire here and could be very tough to peg back on the speed.

His big challenge looks sure to come from the younger Ask Victor More who won last year’s Japanese St Leger over 3000 meters (1 mile 7 furlongs) as a three-year-old, and he looks like a star marathon performer in the making.

Prior to that classic win, he was a fine fifth in the Japanese 2000 Guineas ( Satsuki Sho) and then went on to hit the board in the Japanese Derby. He clearly improved each time he stretched out in distance and will be the likely chalk here.

Boccherini finished behind Titleholder in The Arima Kinen at the end of last year and it was the same when he was runner-up in this race last year behind Titleholder. He is a solid graded stakes performer but it could be tough to beat his old adversary, and a slice underneath is probably the best he can hope for.

One of the interesting runners at bigger odds is Lilac. She is very lightly raced with just eight career starts and put up her best performance last time when chasing home the highly regarded Geraldina in the Queen Elizabeth 2 Cup at Hanshin in November. She closed late that day into a strong pace, and this additional stretch-out in distance gives plenty of upside.

The other runner we have to give a shout-out to is Heat On Beat who is a constant runner in these top-class graded races for marathon runners. He has hit the board in sixteen of his twenty-two career starts. Only four wins have come from those runs, but there are not many more consistent horses in Japan and he can be in the firing line at the business end of the race.

Nikkei Sho Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Kotobuki ThetisY.Shibata+14700
King of DragonM.Matsuoka+3330
Ask Victor MoreH.Tanabe-111
Meiner FanrongY.Tannai+6270
Machaon d’OrK.Tosaki+7330
Heat on BeatK.Ikezoe+1550

It is a very tough race to call and Ask Victor More is sure to put in a strong bid to topple last year’s winner and he looks sure to hit the board.

The vote, however, has to go to TITLEHOLDER who does not lack speed and he will look to control the race from the front and attempt to go gate to wire.

The consistent Heat On Beat can hit the board once more and take a share of this lucrative purse.

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