Group 1 racing returns to Japan after a break over the Summer and fittingly it is the sprinters up first, with a field of sixteen set to run.
Last year, colt Pixie Knight became the first three-year-old to win the race since filly Aston Machan won in 2007, with the older, seasoned sprinters typically dominating. He ran to a mark of 121, with superstar sprinter/miler Gran Alegria rating 123 winning the year prior, Japan's pin-up sprinter Lord Kanaloa running 127 & 126 winning in 2012/13.
I can't forecast anything like that this year with the sprinting ranks in Japan looking a touch thin. I'll touch on the key chances in a race with plenty of interesting angles.
Naran Huleg ($9)- Looks a good starting point in the race given he won the only other G1 sprint in Japan this year, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo earlier this year, coming from near last to win narrowly and earn himself a rating of 121 in doing so. In a strange bit of placement, he was then given a two-month let up to run over a mile in the Yasuda Kinen, running credibly in ninth (beaten 2.75L). Much better suited back to six furlongs he has to be considered a strong chance of becoming just the sixth horse in history to win the G1 sprint double in the same year. The question is whether that peak stands alone (and so far, it does), or whether he can find it again.
Meikei Yell ($2.80)- One of the most intriguing runners in the race, and sure to be near to, if not at the top of betting. Now a four-year-old, she was dominant winning the traditional lead up, the Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes at Chukyo, running a sizzling, record breaking 1.06.20 for the 1200m. It's fraught with danger to compare that to Australian times but I'm going to do it anyway. The fastest time Black Caviar ever ran 1200m was in 1.07.36, winning the 2011 Newmarket with 58kg, over a full second slower than Meikei Yell the other week. She rated 119 with Timeform there after running fourth as a three-year-old filly in the Sprinters' Stakes last year. She was held by Naran Huleg at Chukyo but it's worth noting she started about 1/5th of his price. She was a bit of an enigma early days, seemingly either winning or running unplaced, but she seems to be putting it all together and this easily looks her best chance in a Group 1.
Schnell Meister ($3.70)- The highest rated horse in the race, having twice earnt a figure of 125, but both times over a mile. Third to Danon Kingly and Gran Alegria in the 2021 Yasuda Kinen and again bridesmaid to Gran Alegria in the Mile Championship at Hanshin, he comes here first up off another second at a mile in this year's Yasuda Kinen. He's typically a mid-back marker over a mile and if the pace is on over 1200m, I'm struggling to see how he'll keep up. Maybe one to watch for late, with the Mile Championship on November 20th his likely goal and happy to let him go as second favourite here.
Namura Clair ($5) One of three three-year-olds trying to emulate Pixie Knight and she looks the most likely. A multiple G3 winner over 1200m and G1 placed over a mile, she returned with a strong third at Kokura, not appearing to handle the corner all that well and having to wait for runs back to the inside. She was sent out favourite there and looked the run of the race, rating 110 with Timeform, below her peak of 114 when bolting in at Hakodate prior to a break. That rating puts her in the mix if Meikei Yell and Naran Huleg don't run to their best, which is more than possible given the former's erraticism and the latter's likelihood to regress to his mean of ~111. She may be the safe, each-way option, if so inclined.
2022 Sprinter's Stakes Tip:
#13 Meikei Yell @ $2.80