It was a familiar story for Blizzard with a brave but battling fifth in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen as a couple of Japanese sprinters threw down serious credentials for next month’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin.
Godolphin’s Fine Needle (Yuga Kawada) beat Let’s Go Donki (Yasanuri Iwata) in a thrilling finish to the Group One at Chukyo and the result should be enough for both horses to secure an invite to Sha Tin on April 29.
Blizzard’s effort was typical of the game chestnut’s previous career results at the top level and the finishing position identical to his Sprinters Stakes effort six months ago at Nakayama.
Jockey Karis Teetan positioned Blizzard just off the speed but felt the six-year-old struggled to gain traction as he asked for effort up the rise at the top of the straight.
“He was like a car in the mud spinning his wheels,” Teetan said. “He had a beautiful position early and he had the horses in front that were providing the speed. But when we got to the straight I think he lost his action a little bit on the ground, he was too deep in the grass. He still tried, but he likes firmer tracks more.”
Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai was proud of his horse’s performance and agreed the surface did not suit the son of Starcraft.
“At the top of the straight he seemed to struggle to balance himself,” he said. “The ground on the inside was quite chopped up. Maybe there was some kick back he didn’t like either. He wasn’t far behind them and I’m happy with his effort.”
It was a fitting time for Godolphin’s Japanese operation to land its first Group One, with the global giant switching to a variation of the famous blue silks, from maroon and white, this weekend.
Fine Needle won last year’s Group Two Centaur Stakes and the five-year-old’s top level win gives Godolphin a home-bred stallion prospect to stand in Japan.
There are other overseas options for Fine Needle as Godolphin go in search of more black type for the emerging talent, trainer Yoshitada Takahashi revealing a Royal Ascot trip could be on the cards.
“We have entered him for Hong Kong and it is definitely an option if we are lucky enough to be chosen,” he said via a translator. “However, there has also been some thought of an English campaign, including Royal Ascot, so we need to sit down and plan it out. As trainer, my job is to have him prepared for whatever race he targets, whether it be in Hong Kong or in England.”
Let’s Go Donki is a more likely visitor to Sha Tin next month but trainer Tomoyuki Umeda also has options.
The honest mare was sixth in the 2017 Hong Kong Sprint but also has form over further and connections could opt for a place in the Group One Champions Mile instead of the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
“She ran well today and getting back to a right-handed track will suit her,” Umeda said. “I hope that we can return to Hong Kong again, the owner wants her to go back so we just have to hope for an invitation now.”