Danon Premium, undefeated in four starts, looms as the likely favorite for the May 27 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1)—the second leg of Japan's Triple Crown—despite missing the main preliminary with a minor injury.
Danon Premium, a Deep Impact colt, won three starts as a 2-year-old, culminating with a victory in the Asahi Hai Futurity (G1) at Hanshin Dec. 17. He returned to win his March 4 season debut at Nakayama in the Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (G2), negotiating 2,000 meters (1 1/4 miles) for the first time.
He was targeted for the Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas, G1) but was sidelined by a "stone bruise," said Teruhiko Saruhashi, assistant to trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida. "So his target then became the Derby. We've concentrated on getting him back into top condition, and there's no issue at all with the injury he sustained."
In the Tokyo Yushun, Danon Premium will face many of those who contested the 2,000-meter Satsuki Sho, including upset winner Epoca d'Oro. The Orfevre colt won the first leg of Japan's Triple Crown by two lengths while the favorite, Wagnerian, finished seventh. Sans Rival and Generale Uno finished second and third.
"There was a lot of pace up front," said Epoca d'Oro's assistant trainer, Nobuyuki Tashiro. "But he was content to sit off the pace and just run at his own rhythm. This paid off in the end when he was produced well and went on to win, proving that it was a successful trial race for him."
Epoca d'Oro, a three-time winner from five starts, will be testing the Tokyo turf while also running left-handed for the first time. Sans Rival and Generale Uno are both back for another try, and Wagnerian is nominated in hope of reversing his form from the last race.
The Derby is one of Japan's most popular races and routinely attracts crowds well in excess of 100,000 to Tokyo Racecourse. The race is contested at 2,400 meters (1 1/2 miles), starting in front of the massive grandstand. The purse is ¥380 million (US$3.47 million) with ¥200 million ($1.83 million) to the winner.
Last year's victor, Rey de Oro, went on to finish second behind Cheval Grand in the Japan Cup (G1) in November and finished fourth in his most recent start, the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan Racecourse.