Fine Needle goes for G1 double in Sprinters Stakes
Fine Needle attempts to join a select group of horses to win both of Japan’s G1 sprints in the same year when lining up in the Sprinters Stakes over six furlongs at Nakayama, Japan, on Sunday, 30 September.
Trained by Yoshitada Takahashi and ridden by Yuga Kawada, he quickened strongly to beat Let’s Go Donki by a nose in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen over the same distance at Chukyo in March and now bids to become only the fifth horse to complete the notable double.
The five-year-old Admire Moon horse, finished 12th in last season’s Sprinters Stake. He returns in excellent form following an easy victory in the six-furlong G2 Centaur Stakes at Hanshin on 9 September – a race he also won in 2017.
His only defeat this year came in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize, also over six furlongs, at Sha Tin, Hong Kong, in May, in which he kept on to finish fourth.
He is joined in the Sprinters Stakes by eight-year-old Teehaff (Yusaku Kokubun/Katsuichi Nishiura), who has gained seven victories, all over six furlongs including the G3 Hakodate Sprint Stakes at Hakodate in 2015 and the Kurama Stakes at Kyoto in May.
The son of Storming Home has acquitted himself well at G1 level, notably when fourth in the 2017 Takamatsunomiya Kinen, and steps back up in grade after finishing down the field behind Nac Venus in the six-furlong G3 Keeneland Cup at Sapporo on 26 August.
The two Godolphin challengers oppose 14 rivals headed by Red Falx, going for a third consecutive Sprinters Stakes victory, last year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner Seiun Kosei, Let’s Go Donki, Nac Venus and the 2017 Chairman’s Sprint Prize victor Lucky Bubbles.
Harry Sweeney, President of Godolphin in Japan, said: “Fine Needle is in great form. His trainer and jockey are very happy with him, while he has been drawn in stall eight of the 16 runners, which we consider ideal.
“However, with such a large field in a six-furlong sprint and having to navigate one bend, he will need normal racing luck.
“We see Nac Venus, ridden by Joao Moreira, as a very significant threat, while there are some other clouds on the horizon, literally - Typhoon Trami is due to hit the Japanese archipelago on Sunday so a lot of rain could influence the outcome.
“In Japan, a change in the going is not allowed as a reason to withdraw so even if the going became heavy all 16 runners will still go to post.
“Teehaaf is now an eight-year-old and, although a winner this year, we will be delighted if he finishes is the first half of the field.
“Incredibly, he is a relative youth in the field as Snow Dragon, who is 10 years old, also runs!”