Admire Don emerged as Japan's champion 2-year-old colt with a three-quarter-length win of the 1,600-meter Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (Jpn-I) at Nakayama Racecourse on Dec. 9. Unbeaten in his previous two starts, the son of Timber Country went postward a strong favorite in the 16-horse field of classic hopefuls for 2002. Breaking well from the rail, Admire Don relinquished his forward position to settle about five lengths and six horses off the lead of the medium-paced race. Around the bend, jockey Shinji Fujita eased the colt forward and gutsily into the midst of the tightly bunched front-runners. Confidently and with a commanding turn of foot, Admire Don shook off the pack with 100 meters to go for the win. Covering the final 600 meters of firm turf in a swift :35.5, Admire Don finished only 0.2 seconds shy of the 1:33.6 stakes record. "I can see another Derby win coming," the 29-year-old Fujita said of Admire Don and in reference to 1999 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, Jpn-I) winner Admire Vega, who is also out of the two-time grade I-winning mare Vega (by Tony Bin).
Second choice Yamano Blizzard finished second, a half-length in front of American-bred Star El Dorado (Danzig--Electric Society, by Law Society), ridden by Italian jockey Mirco Demuro. Admire Don was bred in Hokkaido by Northern Farm. The colt is trained by the Ritto-based Hiroyoshi Matsuda and owned by Riichi Kondo. The victory was worth ¥60 million ($477,821). Irish jockey Kieren Fallon managed to notch one win at Nakayama Dec. 8 before being knocked out with a high fever. It was Fallon's first weekend of racing on a three-month, short-term license in Japan. This year's champion jockey in Britain was forced to sit out all 10 races he was scheduled to ride on Dec. 9, including the Asahi Hai Futurity. Fallon had been paired with Yamano Blizzard, who was ridden by Hirofumi Shii.