No Equal for Unrivaled in Japanese 2,000

Colt takes command at head of stretch for Yasunari Iwata and wins by 1 1/2 lengths.

(from Japanese Racing Association report)

Unrivaled took command of the $2.3 million Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) at the top of the stretch and held off a late charge from Triumph March to win by 1 1/2 lengths before 71,201 at Nakayama Racecourse April 19.

Ridden by Yasunari Iwata, Unrivaled was sent off as the third choice in the 2,000-meter event (about 10 furlongs) for 3-year-old colts and fillies, the first leg of the Japanese triple crown. He trumped favored Logi Universe (14th), who went into the race with a perfect record after four starts, and the Yutaka Take-ridden Reach the Crown (13th), the second choice. The winning time, 1:58.7 over firm ground, was .2 of a second off the stakes record.

“It was the strongest race he’s run yet,” said Iwata, who won his first Satsuki Sho. “I was just trying to get him into a good rhythm. I hope we can get to the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) fit, without any injuries."

Unrivaled sat near the rear of the 18-horse field behind a fast pace established early by Golden Ticket that cooked the frontrunners such as Reach the Crown.

The bay colt advanced to 11th while racing just off the rail leaving the backstretch, but angled to the outside on the corners to burst to the lead at the top of the homestretch. Under urging, Unrivaled responded when challenged in the final furlong by Triumph March, who had rallied from last. In the last 200 meters of the uphill climb to the finish, Unrivaled pulled away from Triumph March to win comfortably.

“When I gave him the green light at the last turn, he passed everyone in a heartbeat," Iwata said. "I was praying that he would just hang on to the finish.”

“Everything went like clockwork since the last race,” said Unrivaled’s trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, referring to the March 22 Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes also at Nakayama, which he won by a half length. “He’s been relaxed, and I didn’t have a thing to worry about today. The horse was a lot calmer than the last time he was at Nakayama, and he was all in the hands of the jockey.

“Of the three favorites, I thought the race would unfold in our favor," Tomomichi said. "He’s good at any distance beyond 1,800 meters, and it was amazing to see him explode off the fourth turn. The jockey said it was incredible being along for the ride. He struggled to stay because of a slow race last time, but today that wasn’t an issue."
Seiun Wonder finished third, a half-length behind Triumph March. Logi Universe, racing sixth nearing the homestretch, was in position to mount a charge never responded, falling back after Unrivaled roared to the front and quickly wrested the lead from Golden Ticket.

“It would have been nice if we had won, but the horse who won today was too strong,” Triumph March’s jockey Koshiro Take said. “By the time I came through, he was already in the clear.”

Unrivaled, now 4-for-5, will head to the Japanese Derby on May 31 at Tokyo Racecourse, a race won by his sire Neo Universe and his half-brother Fusaichi Concorde.

“His father and his brother won the Derby, and I hope he follows in their footsteps,” said Tomomichi, who won last year’s Tenno Sho (Spring) with Iwata aboard Admire Jupiter. “There’s not much more to ask of him; he just needs to get to the race healthy and in one piece. I expect some horses who we haven’t met yet to emerge before the Derby, so all we can do is focus on our own work.”

Sunday Racing Co. owns Unrivaled, who was bred by Northern Farm. He is out of the Sadler's Wells mare Ballet Queen.