04/12/2006 11:00PM

Karasi defends Grand Jump


At $1.43 million, Saturday's Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan is the world's most valuable jumps race, exceeding last week's Grand National Steeplechase in purse value by $210,000. In terms of racing value, however, it rates no better than a mid-level handicap chase in England or Ireland.

Three foreign invaders will take on the Japanese home team in the 3 5/8-mile Grade 1 event. The defending champ, Karasi, from Australia, finished three lengths second to the locally trained Telegenic in the 2 1/16-mile Pegasus Grand Jump on March 25, with a fellow Australian, Merlos, ninth, and Fontera, from New Zealand, 11th. More dangerous are the first four finishers from the 2 7/16-mile Grade 2 Hanshin Spring Jump on March 11: T M Dragon, Azuma Beyond, Balt Fountain, and Merci a Time, with T M Dragon very much the one to beat.

* Silent Witness attempts to get back on the winning track Saturday at Sha Tin in Hong Kong's Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup at seven furlongs. The winner of this race last year, Silent Witness finished third on March 26 in the six-furlong Chairman's Sprint Prize. The likely favorite, however, is Joyful Winner, an unlucky fifth last time as the favorite in the one-mile Chairman's Trophy.