The internationalisation of Asian Racing Federation (ARF) racing was on display at Nakayama, Japan, on Sunday when the Darley bred Fine Needle (JPN) won the 52nd running of the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m).

Fine Needle (JPN) and Yuga Kawada winning the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakajama, picture Japan Racing Association
Fine Needle (JPN) and Yuga Kawada winning the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakajama, picture Japan Racing Association

Fine Needle is a fine example of the length and breadth of thoroughbred racing throughout the ARF. The five-year-old Admire Moon entire is raced by the world-wide Godolphin racing stables, he was bred by their Japanese breeding arm under the Darley Japan K.K. banner, trained by Japanese trainer Yoshitada Takahashi and ridden by Japanese jockey Yuga Kawada.

The Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner became the fifth horse in history to claim both JRA-Grade 1 sprint races in the same year, the first since Lord Kanaloa (JPN) in 2013. Fine Needle was 12th in last year’s Sprinters Stakes after claiming the Grade 2 Centaur Stakes, but he has had a most successful five-year-old campaign with four wins out of five starts.

Fine Needle was also fourth in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize over 1200m at Sha Tin in April in his first overseas campaign. He may now return to Hong Kong for the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on December 9th.

“I will talk with the owners about future plans,” trainer Yoshitada Takahashi said. “Hong Kong could be an option and I hope to show an even more powerful horse to Hong Kong if we do go."

Sunday’s win was the first Grade 1 win since the Takamatsunomiya Kinen for both Takahashi and Kawada, it was the second overall for Takahashi and 12th for Kawada.

Fine Needle was sent wide off the final turn by Kawada for clear running room. He showed a strong turn of foot all the way to the finish line picking off his rivals one by one and finally catching Love Kampf (JPN) under Ryuji Wada in the final strides to win by a neck.

Rhein Spirit (JPN) was third under veteran jockey Yutaka Take who the day before had become the first rider to reach 4,000 winners on the JRA circuit, further enhancing his position as Japan’s greatest-ever jockey.

Fine Needle, out of the Mark Of Esteem mare Needlecraft, has now won 10 races from 27 starts and earned stakes of ¥ 491,413,600.

ARF jurisdiction Hong Kong was represented in the race by the Francis Lui trained Lucky Bubbles (AUS), the winner of the 2017 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Lucky Bubbles broke smoothly under Brett Prebble and was tracking the eventual winner in mid-division and three wide when they suddenly broke away from the field approaching the final turn. Unfortunately Lucky Bubbles pulled up with a ruptured suspensory ligament in his left foreleg.

Lucky Bubbles was quickly attended to by veterinary staff and he was able to walk onto the equine ambulance. He will recover from the injury but will not race again.

In other ARF international news Racing Victoria’s Werribee International Horse Centre is now at full capacity for the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival after Japanese stayers Chestnut Coat (JPN) and Sole Impact (JPN) arrived on Monday.

The pair have arrived in Melbourne to target feature staying races with both holding entries for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 20th and the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 6th.

Among the horses currently at Werribee are 11 runners from Godolphin’s Newmarket stables with one, Jungle Cat (IRE), already winning at Group 1 level in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes over 1400m at Caulfield on September 22nd.

This is the first time that the Werribee quarantine facilities have been at capacity showing that the strength of ARF racing attracts runners from all over the world.