Following its annual summer hiatus, Group 1 racing will return to Japan on Sunday, September 29 with the prestigious Sprinters Stakes (G1) at Nakayama Racecourse.

The 1,200-meter dash offers a “Win & You’re In” berth to the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita, and while it remains to be seen if the winner will accept the invitation (Japanese participants are rare in the Breeders’ Cup), the Sprinters Stakes is still a race worth watching. With sixteen starters, the event has the potential to be a great betting race.

The probable favorite, and an obvious contender, is Danon Smash (#2). A son of two-time Sprinters Stakes winner Lord Kanaloa, Danon Smash is a tried-and-true 1,200-meter specialist with four wins from six starts over this distance. One month ago, Danon Smash produced a sharp rally from midpack to win the Keeneland Cup (G3) at Sapporo, a prominent prep for the Sprinters Stakes.

But flying at the finish of the Keeneland Cup was Tower of London (#8), who fell less than a length short of catching Danon Smash while sprinting the final 600 meters in :34.9 seconds, the fastest finishing fraction in the field. Once a classy miler, Tower of London has recently reinvented himself as a late-running sprinter. The son of Raven’s Pass followed up his Keeneland Cup effort with a powerful triumph in the 1,200-meter Centaur Stakes at Hanshin, in which he powered home from midpack to score by three lengths in the blazing course record time of 1:06.7.

Owned by Godolphin and conditioned by Kazuo Fujisawa, one of Japan’s leading trainers, Tower of London will be guided as usual by acclaimed jockey Christophe Lemaire. With his improving form, strong back class, and superior post position draw (inside posts have a poor record in the Sprinters Stakes), Tower of London can turn the tables on Danon Smash and secure his first Group 1 win.

For the exotics, I’ll respect the chances of Fantasist (#16), an up-and-coming three-year-old who finished second in the Centaur after tracking a blazing pace. His own final time of 1:07.2 was excellent, and this son of Lord Kanaloa seems to have found his niche sprinting after several unsuccessful forays running a mile or longer against top company. Legendary jockey Tutaka Take has the mount.

WAGERS

$16 to win on #8 Tower of London
$10 exacta: 8 with 2
$4 exacta: 8 with 16

Good luck!

PHOTO: Tower of London (c) Japan Racing Association