Star filly #3 Resistencia and #17 Satono Impresa are both pegged at 3-1 in the past performances for tonight’s NHK Mile Cup (G1) at Tokyo (post time 2:40 a.m. ET). But there’s reason to believe that the up-and-coming colt is likely to go off at a slightly better price than the filly, and I look for him to finish more strongly as well.

The quibble about Resistencia isn’t about her tackling colts. Fillies have done well in the 24-year history of this sophomore prize, winning five times including back-to-back runnings in recent years with Major Emblem (2016) and Aerolithe (2017). In the latter, Rieno Tesoro was runner-up to complete the all-female exacta.

Moreover, Resistencia has something in common with the last four fillies to win here: all were coming off the Japanese 1000 Guineas equivalent, the Oka Sho (G1) at Hanshin. Resistencia was second as the favorite that day, but as Ron Flatter notes in his NHK Mile preview, she was arguably beaten more by a battling trip on yielding ground.

So why my continued resistance to Resistencia as a win candidate? While respecting her dangerous speed, I’m stuck on the fact that her championship laurel rests on one freakish performance in the Dec. 8 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1). She’s classy and reliable, sporting a 5-3-1-1 record, but that record-setting tour de force at Hanshin nags me as an outlier.

The stiffer mile around Tokyo isn’t the easiest place for a free-wheeling type either, and I can’t get past the idea that one (or two) of the colts will be able to run her down late. If so, you can take your pick of three primary alternatives, two of them unbeaten and another with the best formline.

Undefeated Satono Impresa is my top pick, mainly because I’ve been taken with his relentless closing style. A perfect 3-for-3 so far, the son of Deep Impact and Sun Chariot (G1) three-peater Sahpresa levels off like a hunter in pursuit of his prey, even cutting down horses who appeared to have made a winning break.

Satono Impresa successfully handled graded company in the Mainichi Hai (G3), an about 9-furlong affair that has produced six NHK Mile Cup winners, and keeps Yutaka Take (who rode Resistencia last out). The Yoshito Yahagi trainee has raced only on good or yielding so far, which helps if the rain comes much earlier than forecast, but he doesn’t have the action of one needing it soft. Post 17 might not be a material factor since Satono Impresa will ease off the pace anyway.

Fellow unbeaten #14 Lufstrom (5-1) exits the historically most productive prep, the New Zealand Trophy (G2) at Nakayama, and picks up Australian jockey Damian Lane. The wrinkle is that of the nine New Zealand Trophy graduates who’ve gone on to win here, only three turned the double, and six had lost that warm-up.

Also, although Lufstrom overcame trouble to extend his record to 3-for-3, third-placer #18 Win Greatest (20-1) was hampered too in the chain reaction. When Lufstrom altered course, he came over into the path of Win Greatest, who wound up being pushed widest turning into the stretch. Eligible to keep improving as a son of late-developing Screen Hero, the intriguing longshot can add value underneath.

#2 Taisei Vision (4-1) is currently the joint second favorite by the Japan Racing Association odds (as of 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday), trading at nearly 4-1 along with Satono Impresa to Resistencia’s nearly 3-1. The Turtle Bowl colt has the proven form in the book, having finished best of the rest to Salios in the Asahi Hai Futurity (G1). Salios came back to run champion Contrail close in the first jewel of the Triple Crown, the Satsuki Sho (G1). Taisei Vision returned victorious in the Arlington Cup (G3) at Hanshin, defeating the filly Gilded Mirror (who had been a close second to Satono Impresa). The Arlington Cup hasn’t been as much of a pointer, but to be fair, it used to be held earlier in the season until moving to April in 2018.  

In another recent change, two of the last five NHK Mile Cup winners were cutting back in trip from losses in the Satsuki Sho. Admire Mars (2019) and Clarity Sky (2015) had competed in the Asahi Hai Futurity as well, Admire Mars winning the juvenile championship and Clarity Sky placing third. There’s no such “dual qualifier” in Sunday’s field.

The only one emerging from the Satsuki Sho is the well-beaten 15th, #9 Rhinebeck (35-1), whose talking points are that he’s 2-for-2 at a mile (at left-handed Chukyo) and his parents are Deep Impact and Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown heroine Apapane.

Another who could spice up the exotics at a price is #8 Succession (12-1), who shortens up after a better-than-appears third to Galore Creek (the next-out third in the Satsuki Sho). #5 Shine Garnet (15-1), like Gilded Mirror a daughter of Orfevre, has the distinction of handily beating Lauda Sion and other males in the Falcon (G3) in her latest. Like Succession, Shine Garnet sports a win at this track and trip at two.

Good luck!