FUNABASHI, CHIBA PREF. – No. 1 favorite Saturnalia pulled away from a tight pack of contenders to win the Satsuki-sho, the last Japanese Classic of the Heisei Era, on Sunday.
Saturnalia, ridden by French jockey Christophe Lemaire, edged fourth pick Velox by a head at Nakayama Racecourse with Danon Kingly a nose further behind. The winning time was 1 minute, 58.1 seconds.
Saturnalia, who has won all three career starts including the G1 Hopeful Stakes in December before he went on a three-and-a-half month break, became the first unbeaten horse since Deep Impact in 2005 to win the 2,000-meter turf race for 3-year-olds.
“I had a good feeling since we were in training and I was confident all along,” Lemaire said.
“The horse wasn’t in 100 percent condition because he was coming off a break, but I hope he’ll be in perfect shape at the (Japanese) Derby,” he said of the second leg of Japan’s Triple Crown on May 26.