05/30/2008 12:00AM

Japanese Derby wide open


The absence of the injured Japanese 2000 Guineas winner Captain Thule has left this year's $3.2 million Tokyo Yushun, or Japanese Derby, up for grabs at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday.

Seven of the 18 runners in the 1 1/2-mile classic finished behind Captain Thule on April 20 in the 1 1/4-mile Guineas, the closest of them Take Mikazuchi, who was 2 1/2 lengths behind in second. Rainbow Pegasus, fourth that day, came flying late and is a better bet to stay the distance, as he is by the Sunday Silence stallion Agnes Tachyon and out of a Danehill mare.

The favorite will be Meiner Charles, third in the Guineas and winner of his three previous starts going 1 1/4 miles.

The Derby winner, though, may well come from among those horses who skipped the Guineas.

The versatile Deep Sky, an improving son of Agnes Tachyon trained by Mitsugo Kon, could be the one. He followed a three-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Mainichi Hai with an even more convincing 2 1/2-length score in the NHK Mile Cup at Tokyo on May 11, defeating two who will face him again him on Sunday: Admire Commando and Black Shell. Hirofumi Shii will have the ride breaking from the rail.

The dark horse breaking from the unfortunate 18 post is Crystal Wing. Casino Drive's owner, Hidetoshi Yamamoto, he is a son of Japanese Derby winner Admire Vega who finished second last time to Admire Commando in the 1 1/2-mile Aoba Sho at Tokyo. Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa thinks so highly of Crystal Wing that he has nominated him to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.