Ascoli Piceno ran her record to three wins without a loss while posting a determined victory in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1) Dec. 10 at Hanshin Racecourse.
The Daiwa Major filly, with Hiroshi Kitamura up, lowered the stakes record for the 1,600 meters (about 1 mile) to 1:32.6, just 0.3 seconds off the course record. The victory also represented an early step on a potential road to glory as previous winners include the likes of 2008 and 2009 Horse of the Year Vodka (JPN), 2010 Horse of the Year Buena Vista, and the 2022 winner, Liberty Island.
Ascoli Piceno got away to a decent start and took station about midway back as the 18-horse field ran down the backstretch with Chicago Sting setting a brisk pace. Kitamura closed things up while handling the sweeping, right-handed turn into the stretch run and found a seam to give his filly a clear run.
Chicago Sting's lead started to shrink, approaching the 100-meter mark with Ascoli Piceno ranging up on her outside. At the same time, Stellenbosch, with Christophe Lemaire in the irons, was gaining between horses nearer to the rail.
As Chicago Sting faded, Ascoli Piceno clung tenaciously to a narrow advantage and won by a neck from Stellenbosch. It was another 1 1/4 lengths to Corazon Beat in third. The favorite, Safira (JPN), was fourth, and Chicago Sting stuck around to get home fifth.
Kitamura reported mixed emotions.
"The filly broke better than in her previous start, was relaxed during the race, and responded well in the stretch," he said. "I was a bit worried for a second that we were going to get caught but she gave her all, all the way to the line."
Despite the flicker of concern, he added, "The stable staff did a great job and she was in very good condition, so I had every confidence in her.
Out of the Danehill Dancer mare Ascolti, Ascoli Piceno was bred by Northern Farm and races carrying the colors of Sunday Racing, Yoichi Kuroiwa trains.
"Her strong points are that she's agile and can run at a good speed at length," Kuroiwa said before the race, adding his charge "has matured well."
She opened her account with a victory in a newcomer race June 14 at Tokyo Racecourse, then stepped right into deeper waters in the Niigata Nisai Stakes (G3) Aug. 27. In the latter, she closed strongly down the long Niigata Racecourse stretch to collar the front-runner late, winning by 1 length.
Grade 1 racing continues Dec. 17 at Hanshin as 2-year-old colts and geldings go 1,600 meters in the Asai Hai Futurity (G1). The final top-level event of the Japanese season is also for 2-year-olds, the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) Dec. 28 at Nakayama Racecourse.