Group 1 Satsuki Sho Preview 2023

The Japanese 2000 Guineas has an almighty honour roll and 2023's edition takes place at Nakayama on Sunday.

Won by some absolute greats of Japanese racing in recent years, including the late, great Deep Impact, Orfevre, Gold Ship, Duramente, Contrail and Efforia.

It'll be a tough ask for the boys to produce something as special as Liberty Island did last week in the Oka Sho, but there's so much upside in these lightly raced three-year-old stayers, anything can happen.

Interesting to note that no horse has won the race at their third race start, with Equinox running second last year at start three.

That doesn't mean one can't defy history, but it's interesting in terms of a horse's maturity taking on a full field in a high pressure race, and because one of the leading chances in this race has only had two starts.

Sol Oriens could hardly have been more impressive first notably at the track and distance in the Group 3 Keisei Hai (2000m), winning by 2.5 lengths and running to 110 with Timeform. I like that he's already had a start at Nakayama, and over 1 1⁄4 m, although barrier one may be a bit troublesome, given how he took the corner last start. He shifted out very wide from back in the field showing his inexperience but lengthened beautifully to win well.

A son of Kitasan Black, who ran third to Duramente and Real Steel in the 2015 Satsuki Sho, he'll need to do everything right from the inside but has huge upside.

The highest rated horse in the field is actually Bellagio Opera, who ran to 117 at his third race start, taking out the Group 2 Sho Spring Stakes (1800m), at Nakayama on wet ground. He's shown good versatility to lead and win two starts back and gave the impression 1 1⁄4 m will be no worry.

Not with the most favourable connections, he has to warrant respect given that rating last time out, and he proved he can handle a strongly run race last start, and with rain predicted over the weekend, he's proven if we are on soft ground.

Phantom Thief is currently the favourite in Japan. He's had four starts and won well last start at Tokyo over 1 1⁄8 m, getting a good run on the pace in the Group 3 Kyodo News Hai (1800m). Interesting to note he ran fourth in the Group 1 Hopeful Stakes (2000m) at Nakayama at two, seemingly with every chance in a messy race.

Last year's winner, Geoglyph, came through the Kyodo News Hai to win and Phantom Thief was as strong as anything late there.

Also running in the Hopeful was Top Knife, leading that field and clinging on to second behind shock winner Dura Erede, who ran second to Derma Sotogake in Dubai. Top Knife resumed in the Group 2 Yayoi Sho (1800m) at Nakayama and had every chance behind Tastiera who was holding the length margin on the line. I don't think that's the A1 form for this and Tastiera was beaten on his merits by Phantom Thief prior.

Danon Touchdown is a fascinating runner. He won his debut race at Chukyo over a mile, starting favourite in the Group 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (1600m) before a spell and running into second. The form out of that race looks very shaky with Dolce More (1st) and Labelling (3rd) both well beaten at their next outing, the latter some 7 lengths in arrears of Phantom Thief at Tokyo. I think there's also a query on Danon Touchdown at 1 1⁄4 m, but his SP profile says $19 is a bit big.

Australian jockey Damian Lane returns to Japan following the Sydney Autumn carnival and picks up the ride on Hrimfaxi, as last start winner of the Group 3 Kisaragi Sho (2000m) at Chukyo. He started $1.30 there and got the job done, remaining unbeaten from three starts. A rating of 111 there is solid but I think he'd need to improve a fair bit to be winning.

Very tough edition of the Satsuki Sho with no real stand out (yet). I've got a slight leaning to Sol Oriens at $5- his win last start was one of a horse with huge talent, but he'll need to put it all together, especially from the inside gate. Bellagio Opera is a danger at $7.50, especially if the track is wet, which is a very real possibility. He's a bet. No knock-on Phantom Thief who brings the A1 form having beaten a few of these last time out, and Danon Touchdown is certainly in play at $19 although I do have a query on him at 2000m.

Sign up for our free newsletter.

© 2023 Sky Racing World. All rights reserved.