Oju Chosan defends title in Nakayama Grand Jump
Report: Japan, Saturday
Nakayama: Nakayama Grand Jump (Grade 1) 2m4½f | turf | 4yo+
Japan's leading jumps performer Oju Chosan (Shoichiro Wada/Shinichi Ishigami) completed a back-to-back success – and a six-timer altogether – with a comfortable victory in the Nakayama Grand Jump.
The six-year-old is only the second horse to win the famous race more than once after Australia's Karasi, who recorded a hat-trick between 2005 and 2007.
The hot favourite took command two out to claim one of the world's richest prizes in jump racing, worth a total of 126 million yen (about £927,000).
Oju Chosan came home three and a half lengths clear of outsider Sanrei Duke, with second favourite Up To Date – Japan's champion steeplechaser in 2015 – a further eight lengths back in third place.
“I’ve finally got used to the pressure of having to start as favourite and today I was able to stay cool," said jockey Shinichi Ishigami.
"He was already pretty keen to go early at the backside, but he still had plenty when Sanrei Duke came from behind us. He’s a smart horse and got into gear on his own when the runner-up came too close – I didn’t even have to use my whip so he’s a pretty amazing animal."
The Grand Jump is an idiosyncratic contest by European standards, starting from stalls and featuring a weird-and-wonderful set of obstacles (among them the so-called Grand Hedge, with an artificial brick effect on its lower half), unusual gradients and usually firm ground, as was the case on this occasion.
The Willie Mullins-trained Blackstairmountain remains the only European winner in the race's history when scoring in 2013 under Ruby Walsh.