Codino is perfect in three career starts.

Codino is perfect in three career starts.

Japan Racing Association

Undefeated Colts Meet in Asahi Hai Futurity

Codino and A Shin Top bid to close year undefeated in Japan's top race for juveniles.

Codino and A Shin Top will bid to close the year undefeated Dec. 16 in Japan’s marquee race for juvenile males, the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (Jpn-I) at Nakayama Racecourse.

Sunday Racing Co.’s Codino looks to be the early favorite among a full field of 16 contenders for the 1,600-meter (one-mile) race worth 135,740,000 yen ($1,626,763).

The colt by Japan’s current second-leading sire King Kamehameha is perfect in three career starts that include two of the five prep races for the Asahi Hai Futurity, both at 1,800 meters (1 1/8 miles): the Sapporo Nisai Stakes (Jpn-III) Sept. 1 and the Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai (Jpn-III) in a stakes record time of 1:46 Nov. 17.

Codino has always raced among the front-runners, and though he cuts back a furlong in Asahi Hai Futurity, he possesses the sharp turn of foot needed to win at Nakayama, where races at 1,600 meters can be challenging for horses rallying from off the pace.

“I'm not worried about having a furlong less,” said Daisuke Tsumagari, an assistant to trainer Kazuo Fujisawa, who is seeking his first top level win since 2006. “He still has a lot to learn and we haven't seen all he can give yet, but I'd say from where he is now we can expect a lot from him."

Eishindo Co. Ltd.’s A Shin Top, a Kentucky-bred colt by Ashford Stud’s Tale of the Cat , also is unbeaten, with three starts at 1,400 meters (seven furlongs), including the Keio Hai Nisai Stakes (Jpn-II), a designated lead-up to the Asahi Hai Futurity Nov. 10. The half brother to multiple grade I winner General Quarters scored going wire to wire in his first two starts, but tracked from second in the Keio Hai behind his pacesetting stablemate before winning by three-quarters of a length, indicating he can handle the extra furlong and a slightly slower pace in the Asahi Hai Futurity.

“That race had the fastest last three-furlong time in the past 10 years. He did even better than the margin would indicate,” trainer Masato Nishizono said of A Shin Top, a $400,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase in 2011 from agent Pat Costello’s Paramount Sales consignment.

“He still looks like he has more to give," Nishizono added. "I think he has both the power and the speed to handle the tricky Nakayama course, so I'm looking forward to the race. He understands racing now. He's a smart horse.”

Other entrants include H. Takahashi’s Sarastro, by White Muzzle, and Masatsugu Takezono’s T M Inazuma, by Black Tide, who also won group prep races for the Asahi Hai Futurity.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s promising Japanese-bred Knowledge finished second, a head behind Sarastro, in the Niigata Nisai (Jpn-III) in August. A victory in the Asahi Hai Futurity would provide sire Street Sense  with a first winner at the group I level. The former Central Kentucky stallion is among the leading second-crop sires in the U.S. this year, but will stand in Japan for Darley in 2013.