By Nicholas Godfrey
Tokyo: Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) G1 ¥418.8m (£3.12m) 1m4f, turf, 3yo
Shahryar (Hideaki Fujiwara/Yuichi Fukunaga)
Odds-on favourite Efforia was touched off in the final stride as Shahryar came from the clouds to win a thrilling edition of Japan’s Derby in race-record time.
Having raced well back in a 17-runner field for Japan’s premier Classic, the 11-1 shot burst through horses inside the final furlong to challenge unbeaten Guineas winner Efforia, who had taken over from star filly Satona Reinas in the Tokyo stretch after hugging the rail throughout from his inside draw.
Although it looked for a stride or two as if Efforia might struggle for a run, he was manoeuvred out easily enough and looked sure to win as he took command, only for Shahryar – maybe four lengths down 200 yards out – to charge after him from finally getting a run from the middle of the pack.
Only a brave (or foolish) individual would have called the result with any degree of confidence as the pair flashed past in unison but Shahryar got the nod, by the official margin of a nose. Arc entry Stella Veloce took third a further length and a quarter away.
Shahryar, a full-brother to 2017 Satsuki Sho winner Al Ain, has now won three of his four career outings; he landed the G3 Mainichi Hai on his previous start. He is a record seventh winner of the Tokyo Yushun for legendary sire Deep Impact, whose progeny went 1-3-4-5 in a race won by his offspring in seven of the last ten years.
Despite a moderate-looking gallop set by Bathrat Lyon until after midway, Shahryar stopped the clock in 2m22.50s on fast ground, eclipsing the previous race record of 2m22.90s set by Roger Barows two years ago.
His jockey Yuichi Fukunaga has now ridden three of the last four Derby winners after Wagnerian (2018) and Contrail (2020), while trainer Hideaki Fujiwara won the 2010 edition with Eishin Flash.
“We were keeping an eye on the favourite but the race didn’t go as smoothly as planned and we were in a tight spot,” said the jockey. “We were forced to make our charge late, but this colt really gave a terrific effort. It’s so great to have won the Derby, which I made my target with this colt ever since his debut.”
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