By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan Nakayama: Hopeful Stakes G1 ¥136 million (£970,000) 2,000 metres (1m2f), turf, 2yo
Danon The Kid (Takayuki Yasuda/Yuga Kawada)
The 11-10 favourite Danon The Kid claimed Japan’s third and final G1 event for two-year-olds in 2020 as he overpowered his rivals inside the final furlong to extend his unbeaten record to three races in the Hopeful Stakes.
Won last year by subsequent Triple Crown winner Contrail, this ¥136 million (£970,000) event was upgraded from G2 only in 2017 and it featured a 15-horse field in which Danon The Kid was the sole previous graded winner.
Like Contrail, Danon The Kid duly completes his two-year-old season unbeaten in three starts; both horses had won the G3 Tokyo Sports Nisai Stakes on their previous start.
However, it could have been very different in Saturday’s race because second favourite Land Of Liberty led in the Shadai colours and still looked to be travelling comfortably when he ran out at the final turn and deposited his rider Kosei Miura on the Nakayama turf. With chest bruising, the jockey was stood down from his Sunday mounts.
Although eventual runner-up Orthoclase inheriting the lead on the inner, he could not withstand the challenge of Danon The Kid four wide and the son of Dubai Duty Free winner Just A Way won going away by a length and a quarter.
The win was trainer Takayuki Yasuda’s 12th JRA G1 title and his first since the brilliant Lord Kanaloa in the 2013 Sprinters Stakes. Mind you, the bare stat is a little misleading: Yasuda won the G1 Hong Kong Sprint earlier this month with Danon Smash, while the trainer also took the JRA Ladies’ Classic, a rich G1 on the NAR circuit, in November.
Jockey Yuga Kawada, who also won last week’s G1 with Grenadier Guards, was landing his 15th G1 success on the JRA circuit. “I’m just so happy that I have at last been able to win on one of my mentor and teacher Mr Yasuda’s runners,” said an emotional rider.
“The stable staff did a great job in tuning up the colt and he ran much better than he did in his previous start but still he couldn’t find a good rhythm and was not steady in the last two turns today. There is still a lot of room for improvement and we intend to work hard so he can kick off a good three-year-old campaign.”
All the ‘Danons’ are owned by Danox Co Ltd, and they enjoyed a notable ‘Danon’ double on Saturday as Danon Fantasy (Mitsumasa Nakauchida/Yusuke Fujioka) returned to her very best with an emphatic victory in the G2 Hanshin Cup, a 7f event won 12 months ago by star filly Gran Alegria. Odds-on favourite Indy Champ was only third.
• Visit the Japan Racing Association website