Satono Aladdin carried the weight of expectation from “million dollar baby” to Group One winner but there is still plenty at stake in terms of stud value when the Yasutoshi Ikee-trained stallion’s career comes to a close in Sunday’s Hong Kong Mile.
Satono Aladdin was the first horse Ikee bought for high-profile owner Hajime Satomi, who paid Ұ136,500,000 (HK$9.52 million) for the well-bred foal by Deep Impact out of out of stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Magic Storm at the 2011 Select Sale.
Through the first part of Satono Aladdin’s career he failed to live up to the lofty expectations and the pressure to add a résumé-building Group One title only grew when his older full sister Lachesis scored at the top level in 2014.
“He was an expensive foal so people were expecting big things but it took a long time to win a Group One race,” Ikee said.
That defining victory finally came with a dominant performance in this year’s Yasuda Kinen but before then Ikee admits he erred in targeting longer races.
“I think 1,600m is his best distance,” he said. “We tried 3,000m early but at that time we didn’t know his best distance range. There are always some unknowns with a younger horse.”
After finishing off the pace in the 2015 Hong Kong Cup, jockey James McDonald suggested targeting 1,600m races in future and Satono Aladdin returned last year with an unlucky seventh in the Mile.
Which stud Satono Aladdin stands at and for how much is yet to be decided and a good result on Sunday would provide a much-needed boost to his value.
To cap his career with a Group One win, Satono Aladdin will have to stage a dramatic form reversal though, after two tepid performances over the last six weeks.
A torridly run Tenno Sho (Autumn) on a bottomless track left beaten runners with plenty of excuses but Satono Aladdin’s 12th in the Mile Championship on November 11 was even more disappointing.
Ikee is hoping the unplaced run was a result of backing up after the gut busting run behind a rampant Kitasan Black three weeks earlier.
“Even though he didn’t seem to be affected by that Tenno Sho performance heading into the race, there was only a quick break and it was asking a lot – maybe he wasn’t geared up mentally for the Mile Championship,” Ikee said.
Still, Ikee maintains that if three key ingredients are present – “fast pace, firm ground and a clear run from an outside barrier” – then his horse can contend off another three-week back up.
“It is a quick break again, and we have to travel from Japan, so I can’t ask him to do too much in the mornings,” he said. “The focus is to build him up mentally and have him feel good.”
Ikee is Bowman’s sponsor during the Australian’s stint in Japan but the trainer is yet to talk tactics with his jockey, who rides Satono Aladdin on Sunday.
“I haven’t seen him in Hong Kong yet,” he said. “The horse will gallop tomorrow and we can speak after the barrier draw.”