Sunday’s first jewel of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Satsuki Sho (G1), promised to be a thriller between juvenile champion Contrail and fellow unbeaten Salios, and the Nakayama classic did not disappoint as the duo engaged down the lane. Contrail’s staying power proved decisive in the final strides, strengthening his claims ahead of the May 31 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1).
Last seen landing the Dec. 28 Hopeful (G1) at this track and about 1 1/4-mile trip, Contrail drew the rail as the 17-10 favorite. The Deep Impact colt settled well off the early pace set by Chimera Verite, who came back to the field cornering for home. By that point, jockey Yuichi Fukunaga had extricated Contrail from being buried on the fence, and he was zooming out wide.
Meanwhile, Salios got the perfect split between foes to strike the front, but Contrail was already attacking, and the battle was joined. Although Salios tried mightily, Contrail was too strong. The Yoshito Yahagi pupil pulled away by a half-length in 2:00.7 on a course rated good.
As a measure of their dominance, there was a 3 1/2-length gap back to 40-1 shot Galore Creek in third. Win Carnelian, who was prominent most of the way, tired to fourth. Satono Flag, the slight second choice over Salios, wound up fifth of 18.
“He won strongly today,” Fukunaga recapped. “The race itself wasn’t the way as I had expected. I actually had the idea of him racing further up in front as usual, but as it turned out, he wasn’t keen to go up front early. And I didn’t push him, so we were positioned much farther behind going around the second corner.
“So I had no choice but to change lanes to the outside after that. But with the way he was moving in the post parade and the response once I took him to the outside, I had every confidence in him entering the stretch.
“His power was so that I thought we might pull away, but Salios didn’t let us win so easily. Winning the way he did today, I am confident that he has every reason to handle the extended distance in the coming Derby.”
Contrail is the third winner of the Satsuki Sho – the Japanese “2000 Guineas” – sired by Deep Impact, following Dee Majesty (2016) and Al Ain (2017). But he’s arguably better suited to follow up in the Japanese Derby. If so, Contrail could bid to emulate his sire with a Triple Crown sweep in the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) (G1) on Oct. 20, unless connections would entertain a French excursion for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).
Now 4-for-4, Shinji Maeda’s homebred has been favored in each appearance. Contrail debuted going about 1 1/8 miles at Hanshin Sept. 15, captured the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai (G3) in a record 1:44.5 for the same trip, and wrapped up divisional honors in the Hopeful.
Contrail is out of Rhodochrosite, a daughter of Breeders’ Cup-winning juveniles Unbridled’s Song and Folklore. Contrail has three Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) champions close up in his pedigree, with Deep Impact being by Sunday Silence (1989), Unbridled’s Song by Unbridled (1990), and Folklore by Tiznow (2000-01).