Odds-on favourite CONTRAIL (Deep Impact – Rhodochrosite by Unbridled’s Song) claimed this year’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) and added his name in JRA history as the third undefeated Triple Crown winner after Symboli Rudolf (1984) and his sire Deep Impact (2005) and the eighth colt to win all three titles — it is also the first time in history for a father and son to accomplish the feat.
The Deep Impact colt extended his winning streak to seven while notching his fourth G1 title after the Hopeful Stakes last year, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby). Trainer Yoshito Yahagi, who scored his 13th JRA-G1 title with the win, became the first trainer to claim four G1 titles for two consecutive seasons. Jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, now with 28 G1 wins, claimed his second Kikuka Sho title after his victory with Epiphaneia in 2013 and became the fourth jockey in JRA history with 10 Classic titles.
Contrail broke smoothly and settled nicely between horses in mid-field behind Chimera Verite who set a relaxed pace while being pressured by Aristoteles on his outside. Yuichi Fukunaga managed to keep the colt in hand as the son of Deep Impact appeared keen to go along the backstretch while gradually making headway through the last two corners and soon taking command entering the stretch. Stalked throughout the whole trip and still challenged by Aristoteles as Contrail attempted to pull away from the rest of the field, the undefeated three-year-old demonstrated terrific tenacity to prevail by a neck at the wire for a history making victory.
“I can’t say that I was successful in keeping him relaxed during the race with so much pressure from Aristoteles. It turned out to be a tough race for us with Aristoteles looking quite strong and persistent, and this race may not have been his best performance, but I kept my faith in Contrail and he certainly showed how strong he is to have maintained his position up to the end of the 3,000-meter trip,” commented Yuichi Fukunaga.
Aristoteles under Christophe Lemaire quickly assumed position outside Contrail and raced in tandem with the eventual winner in mid-division. The improving Epiphaneia colt accelerated impressively and remained strong as the two colts dueled to the wire but was unable to wear down the winner, finishing a neck behind in second.
Satono Flag, unhurried and traveling fourth from the rear, angled out approaching the third corner and made headway along the outside. Entering the stretch with Contrail and Aristoteles in view down the center lane, he exerted a strong turn of speed to make up ground and seize his place in third through the last strides while unable to threaten the top two finishers.