By Jon Lees
Italy: Satoshi Kobayashi, who left Japan because he couldn’t pass the trainers’ examination, has achieved top marks in Europe after landing the Italian Derby.
Kobayashi, 46, said he had many messages from friends both surprised and delighted by his first Group victory in the historic European Classic achieved with the grey colt Tokyo Gold.
Based in Chantilly, France for the last 12 seasons, Kobayashi had not won above Listed level until Cristian Demuro steered the Teruya Yoshida-owned Tokyo Gold to a four lengths victory at the Capannelle. It was Demuro’s fifth win in seven years in his home Derby.
“I had never won any Group races so this is my first success ever,” said Kobayashi. “I was very excited to win the Italian Derby. Even though it is now Group 2, the Italian Derby is a Derby so I am very happy.”
Kobayashi, a former assistant to John Hammond, Mikel Delzangles and Richard Gibson, became the first Japanese to train in France when he got his licence. He has trained 131 winners in France.
Tokyo Gold, bred and owned by Japan’s leading owner Yoshida, won at Listed level last year and finished third in the G3 Prix Noailles before he went to Rome. Towards the back for most of the race, he was produced up the middle of the track to stretch to an impressive Derby Italiano victory.
“I hope he was a good Derby winner but I think this year the level is a little bit low, the trainer said. “We will see how he runs the next time with other horses.
“I don’t know where that will be yet. Travelling from Chantilly to Rome is a very long trip. He will get home on Tuesday evening and I want to see how he is.
“I think I will give him a little bit of a break and maybe he can run in Deauville during the summer.”
Future targets this year are unlikely to include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the holy grail for Japanese race fans. Kobayashi had Japanese champion Orfevre boarding at his stables when he twice finished runner-up in the Arc.
“He is not entered in the Arc,” said Kobayashi. “I think maybe he can improve again, that’s why I chose to go to Italy. He was entered in the Prix du Jockey Club in Chantilly but I don’t think he is at the level at the moment.”
He added: “I have won three Listed races and now I won a G2 so things are getting better and better. I try to do my best with horses. I have 25 now. I have French, Swiss and Japanese owners in the yard. Mr Yoshida owns three horses, including the full sister of Tokyo Gold.”
Kobayashi tried and failed twice to pass the strict Japan Racing Association trainers’ examination before deciding his future lay in France.
“Many, many people have sent messages who were very surprised,” he said. “I think things will change now for me.”