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Legendary Japanese trainer puts Danon Smash on a par with champion Lord Kanaloa

April 23, 2021, 8:30:28 AM

Takayuki Yasuda has sent an ominous notice ahead of Sunday's (25 April) HK$18 million G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) by proclaiming Danon Smash to be the equivalent of superstar Lord Kanaloa, the best horse the respected Japanese trainer has managed in a long and distinguished career.

Yasuda, who was delighted with Danon Smash's barrier five draw for Sunday's race, said the speedster's victory in last December's G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) from gate 14 sparked comparisons to Lord Kanaloa – a six-time G1 winner and Danon Smash's sire.

“Last December, I honestly thought Danon Smash was not up to Lord Kanaloa's standard at the time, but after winning the race, he changed significantly,” Yasuda said. “I believe Danon Smash has now hit the same level as Lord Kanaloa.

“Two years ago (2019), Danon Smash visited Hong Kong but was defeated (finishing eighth behind Beat The Clock in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint). He won in December, which was a happy moment for me, so I'm hoping for another good showing on Champions Day.

“He is now six years old, he has grown and progressed greatly in the later part of his career, and I am really looking forward to the race this weekend.”

Yasuda, who has more than 860 wins, including 18 G1 victories, is a hugely esteemed figure who is not prone to hyperbole – a cautious demeanor that lends weight to the contrast of his present and former charges.

With a last-start win in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) at Chukyo Racecourse on 28 March, Danon Smash is still on track to equal Lord Kanaloa's portfolio, as Yasuda suggested the bay could be primed for more Hong Kong sorties.

“We agreed to come to Hong Kong in April shortly after he won the Hong Kong Sprint last December,” Yasuda said. “Danon Smash will take a break after the Chairman's Sprint Prize. The Sprinters Stakes will be my next target, and then I'd like to return to Hong Kong for the foreign races.”

Danon Smash is the lone foreign entrant – and likely favorite – for Sunday's 1200m chase, where the efforts of Wellington (barrier three), Sky Field (one), Stronger (eight), unexpected G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) champion Amazing Star (four), and Jolly Banner (11) will provide insight into the strength of the local sprint ranks.

Yasuda's generous reference to Lord Kanaloa shocked Joao Moreira, who would ride Danon Smash.

“Lord Kanaloa is the best sprinter I've seen turn up here in Hong Kong, so I'm shocked Mr Yasuda has put Danon Smash on his standard, but I'm very happy to be riding him,” said the Brazilian.

“Gate five, in my mind, is incredibly good; he will have the opportunity to place himself anywhere he wishes.

“It's a tricky race for some fast horses on the inside and outside.

“I am extremely pleased with the gate. Any gate this time was going to be better than 14 last time, so I assume he'll have an easy time getting into the race this time.

“In my mind, it was a very remarkable victory. It was a better race than the one we have this weekend. I don't expect him to behave much differently; he seems to be in as fine, if not stronger, shape.

“I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to ride such a fine horse.

“It's an open plain with little standing out. If there is one, Danon Smash is the one; based on his shape and ability, the locals would have a difficult time defeating him. He'll have an easier time getting a place in the race.

“Jolly Banner must be admired, but the most important horse is Wellington, who has proved to be a reliable horse.”

In the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m), Golden Sixty will start from gate five against five rivals, including defending champion Southern Legend (four), Ka Ying Star (six), Mighty Giant (one), More Than This (three), and Healthy Happy (two).

Caspar Fownes' Southern Legend is expected to have tough competition for Golden Sixty as Hong Kong's top-rated galloper chases a 17th victory from 18 starts, a 14th win in a row, and a fourth G1 in a row, according to Karis Teetan.

“It's just a small area, and I believe Southern Legend will run very well again with luck,” the Mauritian said. “He really gives his best effort.”

Tony Cruz admits that Exultant's chances of winning consecutive races in the HK$25 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) are obviously jeopardized by the inclusion of a quartet of high-class Japanese raiders – Daring Tact (one), Kiseki (three), Loves Only You (five), and Glory Vase (six) (seven).

“The Japanese seem to be very strong,” Cruz said, assessing the chances of Exultant (two) and Time Warp (one) (four). “Exultant is in top shape, and Time Warp can do admirably, but the Japanese are extremely impressive.”

Glorious Dragon, rode by Matthew Poon and owned by Francis Lui, will leave from gate six.

The HK$25 million FWD QEII Cup (2000m), the HK$20 million FWD Champions Mile (1600m), and the HK$18 million Chairman's Sprint Prize are the three Group 1 races on FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin (1200m).