Hitherto best known for upsetting Highland Reel in last December’s Hong Kong Vase (G1), Hajime Satomi’s Satono Crown landed his first major in Japan in Sunday’s $2,826,000 Takarazuka Kinen (G1).
The Noriyuki Hori trainee thereby earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) according to the “Win & You’re In” provisions, but the Hanshin feature was also good for a spot in the Caulfield Cup (G1). Connections will have to decide whether to point for Del Mar, Australia, or the lucrative fall prizes at home.
While the result of the Takarazuka Kinen gave Satono Crown options abroad, it ended the international ambitions of 2-5 favorite Kitasan Black, who tired to an uncharacteristic ninth. The reigning Japanese Horse of the Year had been eyeing the October 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) before Sunday’s reverse.
Kitasan Black, winner of four of his past five including the Japan Cup (G1), was coming off an other-worldly victory in the April 30 Tenno Sho Spring (G1). After blasting the two metric miles at Kyoto in a record 3:12.5, he understandably felt some residual effects.
“After that race, he did get a lot leaner and he was somewhat tired,” trainer Hisashi Shimizu said quite openly.
Although Shimizu believed Kitasan Black was back on song ahead of the Takarazuka Kinen, he lacked his usual spark as the race unfolded. A wide trip throughout from post 10 was an additional complication, but it alone wouldn’t account for his finish, especially since Satono Crown lost ground in his slipstream from post 11. Kitasan Black took up an early stalking spot without looking as relaxed as usual. Ranging up to challenge pacesetter Cheval Grand and the advancing Sciacchetra on the turn for home, Kitasan Black soon began treading water down the lane. He could not get on terms with Sciacchetra, and jockey Yutaka Take took care of him once he was clearly beaten.
Wider out, Satono Crown was being unleashed by Mirco Demuro, and the 8-1 shot burst past Sciacchetra. The race wasn’t put to bed yet, however, for Gold Actor emerged as a threat on the inside. Satono Crown had enough to contain him, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 2:11.4 for about 1 3/8 miles on the good course.
“We were able to race well while eyeing the strong Kitasan Black,” Demuro said. “He felt really good turning the fourth corner and exerted a remarkable kick in the straight. He’s really a Group 1 horse. I think this type of ground suits him. I always had confidence in him.”
Mikki Queen, Japan’s champion three-year-old filly of 2015, closed smartly for third after appearing to be jostled in upper stretch. Sciacchetra was unable to maintain his momentum in fourth. Cheval Grand weakened to eighth, a nose ahead of Kitasan Black in the 11-horse field.
Take didn’t believe the ground was a factor for Kitasan Black.
“It didn’t rain much so it didn’t have much influence on the ground,” the veteran reinsman said. “He was in good form and there was no disadvantage either. He just didn’t respond as he usually does. To be honest, I really don’t know why.”
Kitasan Black’s European campaign has accordingly been called off, as tweeted by Sports Hochi (@Hochi_horse_en). He’d been given an entry in the Irish Champion (G1) as a potential stepping stone to the Arc. Racing Post’s Masakazu Takahashi reported that his fall itinerary will comprise the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) and Arima Kinen (G1).
Satono Crown was not nominated to the Arc, but his owner already has a leading candidate in Satono Diamond and another hopeful in Satono Noblesse. Satomi also campaigns Satono Aladdin, winner of the June 4 Yasuda Kinen (G1), a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
It remains to be seen if Satono Crown would venture much further afield than Hong Kong.
“He is very nervous when he goes to the races, so I try to make countermeasures for it,” Hori told Racing Post. “He is not the perfect horse in strange environments, but he was good today.”
Satono Crown became the third Hong Kong Vase alum in the past week to earn a Group 1 laurel, the other two coming at Royal Ascot. Highland Reel, just denied by Satono Crown at Sha Tin, added the Prince of Wales’s (G1) to his august resume on Wednesday. Big Orange, 11th in the Vase after being unfortunately bustled early, dethroned Order of St George in Thursday’s epic Gold Cup (G1).
Also a two-time winner of the Kyoto Kinen (G2), Satono Crown sports a mark of 14-7-0-1. That third came in the 2015 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1). Earlier in his career, the son of Marju was effective at shorter trips, taking the 2014 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai (G3) at two and the Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (G2) as an aspiring classic contender at three. Satono Crown later began to need 11-12 furlongs to perform his best, a pattern underscored by his most recent sixth to Kitasan Black in the April 2 Osaka Hai (G1) at about 10 furlongs.
Satono Crown is a full brother to 2011 Cheveley Park (G1) heroine Lightening Pearl, and their dam, the Rossini mare Jioconda, was a stakes winner and Group 3-placed as a juvenile in Ireland. Further back in the family, one finds Classic Cliché, the 1995 St Leger (G1) and 1996 Ascot Gold Cup star, and his multiple Group 1-winning half-sister, My Emma (also by Marju), ancestress of multiple Group 3 stayer Mizzou, who was second in last year’s Gold Cup.