Marvelous Kaiser takes 135th Nakayama Daishogai

The history of the Nakayama Daishogai dates back to 1934 when the biggest jump race in Japan was established in the aim of providing equal excitement to the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), which was the most popular race in flat racing. The highest level of steeplechase racing was originally held as a biannual event held in April and December until the spring version was renamed the Nakayama Grand Jump in 1999. Still, the two jump races continued to position itself as the only two obstacle races of J-G1 level of equal standard and its results serving as a decisive factor in the selection of the seasonal JRA award for Best Steeplechase Horse. In addition to the Nakayama Grand Jump, which was designated an international race in 2000, the Nakayama Daishogai became an international steeplechase event open to foreign contenders in 2011.

The Nakayama Daishogai features 11 jumps over the figure-of-eight-shaped course which includes six up-and-downs over the banks. The first half resembles that of the Nakayama Grand Jump while the Nakayama Daishogai does not include the movable hurdles along the outside turf track and the total distance being 150 meters shorter. The uphill stretch before the wire also is quite a test for many of the runners especially after running at a solid pace throughout the race.

2011 Best Steeplechase Horse Majesty Bio was the heavy favourite  having continued to excel this season with another overwhelming eight-length victory in the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) in April. He came off his third win this year in the Illumination Jump Stakes (3,570m) early this month. Basel River, who finished second in the spring J-G1 this year after his first grade-race victory in the Hanshin Spring Jump (J-G2, 3,900m), was also among the top favourites having come off a runner-up effort in the Kyoto Jump Stakes (J-G3, 3,170m) last month. Meiner Neos, who finished fourth in the Nakayama Daishogai last year, had come off a ten-month break after recovering from a tendon injury, while Spring Ghent had also just come back from a leg injury incurred during his fifth-place performance last year—the 2009 Nakayama Grand Jump winner came into the race with one start on the flat earlier this month. This year’s line-up also included Merci A Time, a consistent jumper who won the 2007 version of this race while finishing second in six J-G1 events at Nakayama between 2005 and 2011. The ten-year-old son of Chief Bearhart, who also suffered a tendon injury after his runner-up effort in the Nakayama Grand Jump (held in July due to schedule change following the earthquake), made his return start over the flat last month to prepare for his first jump start in 17 months.

Symboli Montreux (JPN, by Mogami) set the record when winning the 1991 Nakayama Daishogai (Autumn) in 4:37.2.

Marvelous Kaiser’s first grade victory came in his first attempt at the highest level in this year’s Nakayama Daishogai, denying the challenges of two-time J-G1 winner and heavy favorite Majesty Bio and second choice Basel River who had finished first and second, respectively, in the spring version of the race in April but was nowhere near the winner in this race while with no excuse regarding their performances. The four-year-old son of Marvelous Sunday, also the sire of two-time Nakayama Daishogai winner  King Joy (2008, 2009), proved an immediate success over jumps in his first steeplechase test which he won by nine lengths in October 2011 after registering two wins out of 13 starts on the flat earlier in his career. Coming off his second win following a runner-up effort in the spring this year, he was third in his first grade-race challenge over jumps in the Kyoto High-Jump (J-G2, 3,930m) and scored another third-place finish in his fall debut prior to his Nakayama Daishogai start. Jockey Shigefumi Kumazawa, who is also well recognized in flat racing with three G1 titles to his name, had won nine grade-race jump titles since the grading system was first adopted in steeplechase racing in 1999, but a G1 title was his first this time. It was also the first G1 title for trainer Masami Shibata.

All broke smoothly with Sexy Sweet taking command to set the pace as Spring Ghent, I T Gold followed a few lengths behind. Marvelous Kaiser was forwardly placed behind that beside Merci A Time in fourth or fifth as all the horses cleared the water jump. Heavy favourite Majesty Bio sat around eighth position while Basel River kept track of the defending champion another length behind that in mid-pack.

The field continued to travel at a moderate pace over the course rated good after the rain earlier in the day as Sexy Sweet maintained a comfortable margin up to around two thirds of the race, but the four-year-old filly began to tire after clearing the big hedge (fence seventh) and was overtaken by Spring Ghent approaching the final fence.

Marvelous Kaiser also made headway to challenge and caught the 12-year-old veteran who gave a terrific fight to duel with the four-year-old chestnut up to the last turn. However, once entering the stretch for home, Marvelous Kaiser found another gear, despite keeping pace with the leaders for the whole trip, and was uncontested for the rest of the way as Basel River and Majesty Bio desperately rushed to contention but failed to close the gap behind the winner in second and third, respectively.

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