• Kyodo

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Race favorite Danon Premium bested the pack in a late comeback on Sunday to claim his first Grade 1 victory at the 69th running of the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse.

The two-year-old colt, ridden by jockey Yuga Kawada, started strong out of the first box but was overtaken by early frontrunners K T Clever and Fast Approach. After the final turn, however, Danon Premium sprinted out the pack and cleared his way to an uncontested finish in 1 minute, 33.3 seconds.

“We had a good start,” said Kawada. “As soon as a path opened, I gave him the green light and we opened up a steady lead.

“I think I was able to show the power of this horse.”

Third-favorite Stelvio (1:33.9) finished in second place 3½ lengths back, while second-favorite Tower of London, ridden by Japan Racing Association No. 1 ranked jockey Christophe Lemaire, finished third by a neck.

“Honestly, I’m happy,” said trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida, who also bagged his first G1 victory. “I thought we had won it when he came out. It was a strong race.”

Sunday’s race marked the third consecutive win for the trio, as well as the first Asahi Hai victories for each. Danon Premium extended his graded record to 2-0, coming off October’s G3 win at the Saudi Arabia Royal Cup.

The winners take home ¥70 million (about $620,000) in prize money.

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