Satono Aladdin Seeking Hong Kong Mile Glory At Final Race Start

Satono Aladdin at trackwork
Satono Aladdin at trackwork in Hong Kong ahead of his final race
Highland Reel will not be the only horse looking to retire to stud on a winning note in Hong Kong on Sunday with Japanese cult horse Satono Aladdin seeking glory in the Hong Kong Mile at his final start.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Satono Aladdin is one of the most brilliant closers in Japanese racing.

Bought at the 2011 Japan Racing Horse Association Select Sale foal session on a bid of 130 million yen (US$1,585,365) for the high-profile Tokyo-based owner Hajime Satomi, the six-year-old horse by Deep Impact out of G2 Monmouth Oaks winner Magic Storm (Storm Cat) has had a lot of expectations to live up to since his birth.

One of Japan’s leading trainers and a regular Hong Kong traveller, Yasutoshi Ikee, said, “People were expecting big things from him even when he was just at the pre-training farm, and my stable has had lots of hopes for him since his debut.”

It took a long time for Satono Aladdin to achieve his full potential, but the G1 title finally came this year. That Yasuda Kinen victory has sealed a stallion role, which the dark bay will take up after Sunday’s swansong run in the G1 Hong Kong Mile.

Following several defeats at graded stakes level, Satono Aladdin notched his first win at that level in the G2 Keio Hai Spring Cup (1400m) in 2016 and he claimed the G2 Swan Stakes (1400m) later that autumn. His first G1 run had come two seasons earlier in the 2014 Kikuka Sho, Japanese St. Leger, over 3000m.

“I tried a variety of distance from 1600m to 3000m early on. I could not figure out his best distance,” Ikee said.

Victory in this year’s Yasuda Kinen (1600m) in June, Japan’s early summer Mile championship, was his seventh start at G1 level. Two of those previous failures came at Sha Tin, in the 2015 Hong Kong Cup and the 2016 Hong Kong Mile, in which he placed 11th and seventh respectively.

After the 2015 Hong Kong Cup disappointment, Ikee finally determined the best distance for Satono Aladdin was a mile – a view backed by the jockey that day, James McDonald. In 2016, he hit the board in five starts before he returned to Hong Kong for an unlucky seventh place – rattling home late and wide from the rear.

Satono Aladdin Winning the G1 Yasuda Kinen
Satono Aladdin Winning the 2017 G1 Yasuda Kinen (photo: Twitter)

Things have not gone entirely to plan since the Yasuda Kinen win. His next start was a good effort in the G2 Mainichi Okan (1800m) in October, in which he was just beaten by a neck with the fastest split time among the field over the last 600m in 32.6 seconds. It was his first start over longer than 1600m since the Hong Kong Mile last December.

Ikee was tempted to try to see if Satono Aladdin might stay better now over 2000m in the G1 Tenno Sho Autumn, however he was never a factor on the rain-soaked track.

“There are three key ingredients for him – a fast pace, a firm track and an outside barrier for his burst of speed. In the Tenno Sho there was nothing good for him,” he said.

Ikee thought the horse came out of the Tenno Sho well enough to run him back a few weeks later in the G1 Mile Championship in November.

“There was only three weeks off between the two races, so maybe I asked too much of him which is why he didn’t show up at the Mile Championship,” he said.

A soft track again affected Satono Aladdin’s performance and he did not finish well.

“Coming into the Hong Kong Mile, it is a quick turn around again and he has had to travel outside of Japan, so I have not asked him to work too hard. But we have been trying to build him up mentally. He looks well and is concentrating on his galloping with the addition of blinkers. I am happy him,” Ikee said after he supervised his final gallop ahead of Sunday.

Satono Aladdin will start from gate four, which is not ideal – Ikee believes his charge he needs an outer draw. However, Ikee is far from being pessimistic.

“I have talked to Hugh (Bowman), and he said to me when he watched some replays for the horse, he had some different ideas. I have been thinking that the outside gate has been a must for his best performance, but from what Hugh has in mind, the draw (4) might be good for him,” he said.

According to Ikee, Satono Aladdin will retire to stud next season so his racing career will come to end with Sunday’s Hong Kong Mile.

“It has not been announced yet where he will stand next year, but in terms of his stud value a win this weekend would be great. I hope he runs his best and comes back safe. I am looking forward to Hugh’s tactical magic.”

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