Fourth favorite Shahryar nosed past top favorite Efforia at the wire to win the 88th running of the Grade 1 Japanese Derby, the second leg of the Japanese triple crown, on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse.
With jockey Yuichi Fukunaga aboard, Shahryar won the classic for 3-year-olds in 2 minutes and 22.5 seconds, beating Efforia over 2,400 meters in a photo finish. Efforia and jockey Takeshi Yokoyama were unable to add the Japanese Derby title to their win in the triple crown’s first leg, April’s Satsuki-sho.
The race was Shahryar’s first Grade 1 championship and the first Japanese Derby with fans on hand in two years. It was the second straight Derby title for Fukunaga, who steered Contrail to victory in all three triple crown races.
“It was extremely tight, an extremely difficult race. I had hoped for a smoother run, but the colt pulled this out with his strength,” Fukunaga said.
Ninth-favorite Stella Veloce was third, over a length back, nosing past fourth-place Great Magician and fifth-placed filly Satono Reinas, with their places also decided by photographic evidence.
Efforia started on the rail and had an easier run to the wire, breaking out of the pack after the final turn with about 400 meters to go, while Fukunaga and Shahryar were still sifting their way forward.
When Shahryar was finally free, Efforia was two lengths ahead with just over 200 meters to go. But Fukunaga steered his colt up on Efforia’s left, where Yokoyama may not have seen him until it was too late.
Satono Reinas, with France’s Christophe Lemaire aboard, was attempting to become just the fourth filly to win the race.
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