Daiwa Scarlet had no problems downing a shot of Vodka on Sunday afternoon.
Daiwa Scarlet, half sister of three-time Grade 1 champion Daiwa Major, took the initial leg of the filly’s triple crown, holding off red-hot favorite Vodka in the 1,600-meter Oka Sho at Hanshin Racecourse.
Third favorite Daiwa Scarlet, trained by Kunihide Matsuda, beat Vodka by a convincing length and a half for the first-place check of 89 million yen, exacting revenge for her defeat in the Oka Sho tune-up, the Tulip Sho, last month.
Katsumi Ando, the nation’s leading jockey, won the Oka Sho for the second consecutive year, after winning in 2006 aboard Kiss to Heaven.
Ando said his intent was to force the Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Vodka into using her pace early.
“I didn’t have anything up my sleeve, but I did feel that we didn’t have the explosion that she did,” said the 47-year-old Ando. “So I somehow wanted to get her to use her pace as early as possible.”
With long-shot Amano Cherry Run setting a relatively slow pace, Daiwa Scarlet came on strong late for a 1 minute, 33.7 second victory, two tenths of a second off the race record.
Two-year-old filly’s champion Vodka settled for silver in just her second defeat from six career starts, but still finished three and a half lengths in front of third-place Katamachi Botan, the seventh favorite.
Second choice Aston Machan, ridden by five-time Oka Sho winner Yutaka Take, stalked Amano Cherry Run for most of the trip but ran out of gas down the final straight, fizzling to seventh place among the full field of 18.
Robe Decollete and Excuse came home fourth and fifth, respectively.
Ando did not anticipate Daiwa Scarlet to experience any problems for next month’s Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), which is 800 meters longer than the Oka Sho.
“She felt good all the way to the finish,” Ando said, referring to the 2,400-meter Japanese Oaks next month at Tokyo Racecourse. “She should have no problems with the added distance.
“I wasn’t at all concerned where to position her during the trip. But I had been thinking about making the move as soon as possible all long.”
Shonan Talent, expected to take the lead early, failed to break from the blocks, allowing Amano Cherry Run to move in front. Aston Machan followed, with Daiwa Scarlet and Vodka right on her tail.
It didn’t take long for Ando’s mount to pass Aston Machan down the home stretch. And while Vodka briefly caught up with Daiwa Scarlet, the eventual winner pulled away with force halfway through the straight and hit the wire with the sizeable lead.
Daiwa Scarlet, by Agnes Tachyon out of Scarlet Bouquet, has won three of five starts with a pair of second-place finishes. With the Oka Sho victory, she took her earnings to more than 172 million yen.
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