Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas)(G1) - Preview
Liberty Heights (horse #10)
Encore Plus (horse #9)
Hanshin Racecourse hosts its second Grade 1 in as many weeks this coming Sunday (April 8), after a thrilling Grade 1 Osaka Hai last week, when Suave Richard became a new top flight champion. The Hanshin track, between the cities of Osaka and Kobe, and a stone’s throw from Osaka’s Itami airport, has long been the venue for the first Classic of the year, the Grade 1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas). This year sees the 78th running of the race, run over a mile on the outer turf course, which is fairly level throughout, until the final uphill push from the 200 meter mark to the winning post.
Competition among the 3-year-old fillies looks stiff, with there being twenty five nominations for a maximum field of eighteen come Sunday. The horses carry a set weight of 55kgs, and a prize money boost this year means 105 million yen awaits for the first filly to cross the line in this year’s race. Lead up races to this year’s Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) include three races run in March. They are the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue at Hanshin over 1,400 meters (an official Guineas trial), the Grade 2 Tulip Sho, also at Hanshin over 1,600 meters, and the Open Class Anemone Stakes over 1,600 meters at Nakayama.
Harp Star and Apapane tie the race record when they posted the time of 1 minute 33.3 seconds in 2014 and 2010 respectively, and both those fillies were sent off first favorite, Harp Star being the last favorite to win the race. There have only been three market leaders to win in the last ten years, and the race occasionally throws up a winner at a big price, as in last year, when Reine Minoru struck at 40/1.
Everyone hopes the cherry blossoms will just stick around another week to provide the perfect backdrop to the race that takes their name. The Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) will be Race 11 on the card at Hanshin on Sunday, with a post time of 15:40 locally.
Here’s a look at some of the fillies expected to head the market:
Lucky Lilac: The impeccably bred chestnut filly is indeed an exciting prospect, as she has won every one of her four career starts so far, the latest when she ran out a 2 length winner of the Grade 2 Tulip Sho last month over 1,600 meters at Hanshin, her only start as a 3-year-old. The daughter of Orfevre won last year’s Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies also at the track, and was a unanimous choice for Champion 2-year-old filly last year. Trained at the JRA Ritto Training Center by Mikio Matsunaga, the man knows what it takes to win the race, having won it as a jockey twice, aboard Kyoei March in 1997 and Cheers Grace in 2000. He commented recently on Lucky Lilac: “In a small field last time out, she was able to demonstrate her strength and ability, and looking ahead we could take a lot from that. She has good natural speed, does her work well, and because she’s relaxed we can train her as we’d like. She has a good appetite, so we can put her through her paces in the final week before the race.”
Almond Eye: The likely big race ride for jockey Christophe Lemaire, the filly by Lord Kanaloa will go into the race having won the Grade 3 Nikkan Sports Sho Shinzan Kinen in January, over 1,600 meters at Kyoto. Trained by eleven times Grade 1 level race winning trainer, Sakae Kunieda, who sent out Apapane to win in 2010, the trainer has a good prospect in Almond Eye. “She’s not always a fast starter, but last time she settled well, and even in the wet, she was able to display a turn of foot to win her race. Since then she’s had her usual break at Northern Farm Tenei,” the trainer said.
Mau Lea: The filly by Deep Impact has done little wrong in her five race career so far. She was third in last year’s Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, and was second to Lucky Lilac last time in the Grade 2 Tulip Sho over 1,600 meters at Hanshin. Yutaka Take is expected to ride her for the second time after his efforts in the Tulip Sho. Trained by Takahisa Tezuka, who won the race in 2013 with Ayusan, staff at the stable recently commented: “After her last race, we kept her at Ritto, where she seems happy and is eating rather better. We’d like her to gain a bit of weight, but she’s recovered from the long transportation she had to undergo last time.”
Lily Noble: Another filly in the Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. silks, the daughter of Rulership has had four starts all over 1,600 meters, and boasts two wins as a 2-year-old, as well as a second and third in her other two races, the latter her only start as a 3-year-old. She’s been touched off by Lucky Lilac in two of her runs, so is out for some revenge here. Trainer Kenichi Fujioka said, “We wanted her to try and keep a bit in hand last time in her race, but she wanted to get on with things, and it was such that she just ran out of steam in the end. We hope she can adjust with training.”
Liberty Heights: Bred at Shadai Farm, the daughter of King Kamehameha is two wins, one second and one third in her four career starts. She’s coming off a narrow win in the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue over 1,400 meters at Hanshin in March, where she was sent off the eighth favorite. Trainer Tomokazu Takano commented: “She usually starts well, which is a good point. Rather than worrying about her position in a race, getting her to run smoothly is important. After her last race, she had a break at the farm, and came back to the stable on the 22nd (March).”
Encore Plus: The dark bay filly by Deep Impact is owned and bred by Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co. Ltd., and the respected owner has an interesting filly in Encore Plus. The horse is two wins from three starts, and has won and finished second in two races at the Hanshin track. Trained by Yasuo Tomomichi, the trainer has yet to win the Oka Sho, but would like to make it his ninth Grade 1 success here in Japan. Of the filly, he said, “She missed the break last time, and another horse cut in front of her, but despite these things, she still put in her usual good finish. She came out of the race fine and is relaxed.”
Harlem Line: The filly by Manhattan Cafe has won her last three races, the latest the Anemone Stakes over 1,600 meters at Nakayama in March, and this makes her unbeaten as a 3-year-old. Jockey Takuya Ono has partnered her six times, so he certainly knows what the filly is about. Harlem Line’s trainer, Kiyotake Tanaka, said, “She won well last time, having gone to the front quite naturally. She came out of that race well, and has been relaxed in her training.”
- Barrier draw
- Past performances of runners
- Race result
- 2018 English
- 2017 English
- 2016 English
- 2015 English
- 2014 English
- 2013 English
- 2012 English
- 2011 English
- 2010 English
- Photo Gallery
2018 Winner: Almond Eye
2017 Winner: Reine Minoru