Last year’s Japanese Triple Crown was a tour de force for Contrail, who swept through the series undefeated. The May 30 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1) showed this year’s series will be more of a scramble.
Shahryar, came flying through the final 200 meters of the middle leg of the series and just nailed the favorite, Efforia, by a nose at the finish, ending the latter’s undefeated run and putting an end to his Triple Crown hopes.
Efforia, an Epiphaneia colt, was an easy winner in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas, G1), April 18 at Nakayama. The victory was sufficiently impressive that he was sent off favorite to win his fifth race without a loss in the Derby.
Shahryar, by contrast, entered the Derby with only three previous starts, none of them above the grade 3 level and none beyond 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles). He won at first asking in October at Kyoto, then was put away until Feb. 14, when he reported third in the Kyodo News Hai Tokinominoru Kinen (G3) over the Tokyo course.
He rebounded from that defeat to win the Mainichi Hai (G3) at Hanshin March 27 and jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, aboard for Shahryar’s first two races, said after that effort he was looking forward to the longer trip of the Tokyo Yushun.
The connections of Shahryar in the winner’s circle after the the Tokyo Yushun at Tokyo Racecourse
“The longer trip of the race is probably better than 1,800 meters, where he seems to have to work harder,” Fukunaga said.
All said and done, the Deep Impact colt needed every inch of the 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) in the Derby.
Both Shahryar and Efforia had traffic issues as the 17-horse field swung into the Tokyo Racecourse stretch and tackled the uphill rise. Takeshi Yokoyama opted to keep Efforia inside rivals and found room to surge to the front inside the 300-meter mark while Fukunaga had to swing out wider to get clear sailing for Shahryar.
For a brief moment, it appeared the only filly in the race, Satono Reinas, would be the main threat to Efforia’s Triple Crown hopes. But as she gave up the chase, it was Shahryar, gobbling up distance with each stride, who got alongside and prevailed by a head bob. Stella Veloce was third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Efforia, with Great Magician and Satono Reinas a pair of noses behind that one in fourth and fifth. The final time was 2:22.5.
Fukunaga admitted he was forced to improvise in the latter stages of the race.
“We were keeping an eye on the race favorite but the race didn’t go as smoothly as planned,” he said. “We were in a tight spot so 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 had made it my target with this colt ever since his debut,” said Fukunaga, who also won the race last year on Contrail and in 2018 aboard Wagnerian.
Shahryar was bred by Northern Farm and races in the colors of Sunday Racing. Hideaki Fujiwara trains the colt, who became the seventh Tokyo Yushun winner for his late sire, Deep Impact. Deep Impact was one of only three in Japan Racing Association history to complete a sweep of the Triple Crown while undefeated.
The Triple Crown participants now have nearly five months to mature before tackling the final race in the series, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1) at Hanshin Oct. 24. That race is contested at 3,000 meters (about 1 7/8 miles).