The gray, gloomy day put a damper on attendance at the Nakayama venue. The 70,000 fans on hand represented a 23% drop from last year. Handle, however, at just under ¥26 billion, was down only 8.5% from the previous year.
Sunday Silence progeny continued their sweep of this year's group I races as Japan's equivalent of the 2,000 Guineas, the Satsukisho (Jpn-I), went to race favorite Neo Universe (Sunday Silence -- Pointed Path, by Kris) by a head over second pick Sakura President (Sunday Silence -- Sedan Forever, by Maruzensky). The Triple Crown first leg win on April 20 marked the fourth group I victory this year for the late super stallion. Sunday Silence also posthumously notched, as sire, his third one-two finish in the Satsukisho, his sixth in Japanese 3-year-old classic races.Winning jockey Mirco Demuro from Italy, who had ridden the runnerup in last year's race, became only the third foreign rider in Japan on a short-term license to win a classic race, after Kent Desormeaux in the 2001 Oaks and Brett Doyle of England in last year's Satsukisho.Eishin Champ (Mi Cielo -- Eishin Michigan, by Manila) finished in third place 3 1/2 lengths behind Sakura President, with Run to the Freeze (Brian's Time -- Solo Singer, by Rivlia) in fourth place a neck later. The winner covered the 2,000 meters of firm turf in 2:01.2.Neo Universe hugged the rail until the final bend, where Demuro faced a wall and feared he wouldn't find an opening. "I had given up hope of winning when I found myself blocked in front. But, suddenly the door opened and I could go." Neo Universe squeezed between Ace in the Race and That's the Plenty to surge ahead, as did Sakura President. The two colts went neck and neck from the 200-meter mark. Sakura President momentarily took the lead, then lost it, and despite a fierce battle, failed to regain it to the end.The 24-year old Demuro, overjoyed and nearly speechless after his first group I win in Japan, managed to make note of the fact that it was Easter, a major national holiday in Italy. "I have no words for how I feel. I just want to thank God. This was the best present he could give me today," he said.Neo Universe improved his record to five wins in six starts. He was bred at Shadai Farm and is trained by the Ritto-based Tsutomu Setoguchi, who also trained third-place finisher Eishin Champ.