By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: The global racing scene has a new superstar in the shape of Contrail (Yoshito Yahagi/Yuichi Fukunaga), who fully delivered on every expectation with another brilliant victory as he took his career record to five out of five in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) on Sunday.
British-based bookmakers immediately cut the winner to around the 10-1 mark for him to become Japan’s first winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
However, JRA sources said connections had ruled out any trip to ParisLongchamp this year and will instead target the final leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Kikuka Sho, back at Tokyo racecourse on October 25.
Only seven horses have won the Triple Crown, the most recent being Orfevre in 2011; he subsequently went on to twice finish second in the Arc in his later years.
Either way, there seems to be no doubting Contrail’s ability. Hot favourite to become the 24th horse in history to win the first two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown, the son of the legendary Deep Impact landed the world’s most valuable Classic in superb style as he powered away from arch rival Salios inside the final furlong.
The principals had finished one-two in the Satsuki Sho (2,000 Guineas) with only a half-length between them but this time the margin of superiority was extended to three lengths.
Frankly, the winner was value for more, though one (minor) caveat is that he benefited from racing close to a slowish pace while his chief rival had to be produced from a long way back in ¥432 million (£3.26m) event.
On the other hand, such a pace scenario usually means a bunch finish – and Contrail was miles the best here and his closing splits were exceptional.
Contrail’s performance oozed class, the only disappointment being that instead of 100,000-plus fans to witness such a stellar display in the flesh, Tokyo racecourse was virtually empty under the current coronavirus protocols.
Sent off a 2-5 chance in a maximum 18-runner field, Contrail found a nice position on the rail, never worse than fifth a few lengths off the pace.
Eased out around the turn into the straight, he was delivered towards the middle of the track, Yuichi Fukunaga yet to move a muscle as they approached the furlong marker.
For a brief moment, it looked as if we might have a race on our hands as Salios charged up on the outside but the result was never really in any jeopardy as soon as Fukunaga asked Contrail to lengthen and he cleared away.
Fukunaga, who also won the race in 2018 on Wagnerian, even suggested the best was yet to come.
“Although he still has room for improvement – he tends to lose his focus when he’s leading – he’s still able to win like he did today,” he said. “So he’s got great potential and there’s a lot to look forward to.”
• More about Japanese racing at the JRA website