04/18/2008 12:00AM

Meiner Charles heads Japanese 2000 Guineas

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Meiner Charles is the horse to beat in Sunday's Satsuki Sho at Nakayama. Better known in the Western world as the Japanese 2000 Guineas, the 1 1/4-mile turf contest is the first leg in the Japanese Triple Crown and carries a purse of $2.2 million.

Trained by Ryuichi Inaba, Meiner Charles has won his last three starts over the Satsuki Sho course and distance, the latest coming on March 9 in the key classic prep, the Yayoi Sho. A handy sort, he tends to race close up under regular rider Masami Matsuoka.

Black Shell, a Kurofune colt who will be ridden by Yutaka Take, was three-quarters of a length behind Meiner Charles in the Yayoi Sho, appears to be the main danger.

Smile Jack, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Spring Stakes at Nakayama on March 23 is a consistent sort, while Spring Stakes third Shonan Alba, one of the few War Emblem colts in existence, won the Kyodo News Service Hai earlier this year, but has drawn widest of all in post 18. Take Mikazuchi, third in the Yayoi Sho, has a chance to finish in the first three.

The race is conspicuous by the absence of Japan's champion juvenile, Goshawk Ken. Only 12th in his seasonal debut in the New Zealand Trophy on April 12, the Bernstein colt will be kept to a mile and aim for the NHK Mile Cup at Tokyo on May 11.