NAKAYAMA GRAND JUMP BETTING TIPS
There is no doubting that Oju Chosan is, once again, the one to beat here. His star asset is clearly his staying power with the nine-year-old only suffering one defeat over at least 3,900m (2m3f) and that came in 2015.
A search of Oju Chosan will show up various replays of his four previous wins in this race and in all of them he just looked in a different class to his opponents. His victory in 2018 was especially comfortable with his rivals not even in camera shot. And it is no surprise given the manner he easily glides over the obstacles, which appear to be a tad smaller than typical British fences.
He is another year older but trends suggest horses of his age can continue to win the race, with Karasi landing the prize at the age of 10, 11 and 12 between 2005 and 2007. More importantly, he shows no signs of aging having won the Grade 2 Hanshin Spring Jump - a key trial for this race - in a record time last month. He also proved his strength over plenty of his rivals here that day.
He is the best horse in the race, proven in the conditions and comes here in top shape. It is only a case of either whether he turns up to his best of the day or an improver takes a big leap forward.
Oju Chosan’s biggest danger, according to Japanese bookmakers, is the Satoshi Oehara-trained Shingun Michael. The progressive six-year-old has enjoyed a fine season, winning two decent races at Tokyo before taking the Grade 1 Nakayama Daishogai (4,100m / 2m4f) in the absence of Oju Chosan.
That performance was pretty authoritative and he seemed to win with a bit up his sleeve but the form has not worked out that well with the second Bright Quartz, a son of Derby winner Workforce, then running a poor race next time out.
Next time out Shingun Michael took on Oju Chosan but was put in his place by the winner and ran on late to finish a fair second. As they swung for home Shingun Michael was pressed to go and win the race but when they realised Oju Chosan was just too good, they settled for second most probably with the big race in mind.
On all the evidence so far, Shingun Michael is not good enough to win but can be there if Oju Chosan does not run his true race.
Shingun Michael had Meisho Dassai behind in third in the Nakayama Daishogai but that rival could reverse those placings having won impressively since. The seven-year-old, trained by Yuji Iida, was sent off favourite in the Pegasus Jump Stakes and won with a fair bit of ease.
That win on March 20 was not a Graded race, so he will need to step up considerably here. But he had Meadowlark in second who had won a Grade 3 back in September, so perhaps it was quite a decent race in preparation for the Nakayama Grand Jump.
The key doubt with Meisho Dassai is the distance with his only start on a trip over 4,000m resulting in the third to Shingun Michael. But he should be fine and he has leading place claims here on the merit of his win last time.
One who could be worth a look at a bigger price is the Yasuo Takeichi-trained Thinking Dancer. The seven-year-old ran a stormer to finish second in this race last season, and he got as close as any horse has to stopping the brilliant Oju Chosan. That was a big performance and a repeat of that would certainly give him a bold chance of winning this race.
He got his head in front in November, winning the Shuyo Jump Stakes at Tokyo in good fashion, but he has failed to reproduce that quality in two starts since. Thinking Dancer finished fourth to in the Grade 1 at Nakayama and filled the same spot in the trial for this at Hanshin with Oju Chosan and Shingun Michael in front.
It is worth remembering that he was sent off favourite in that Grade 1 Nakayama Daishogai and, although beaten, he put in a brave effort and was by no means disgraced. Perhaps if Thinking Dancer was closer to the leader before the turn for home - where he was moved wide - and if he jumped better, the outcome may have been different. He is worth a second chance again.
Although there has been plenty of big jump races in Japan in 12 months it looks like backing history to repeat itself is a good option. With Oju Chosan looking impossible to impose and poised for a fifth Nakayama Grand Jump success.
But Thinking Dancer looks a great each-way bet and perhaps can finish second to the star of Japanese jump racing once again.
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