Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) - Preview
Shigeru Pink Dia
It’s the first Classic of the year in Japan this coming Sunday (April 7), and the race will be run at Hanshin Racecourse as usual, following hot on the heels of the Grade 1 Osaka Hai last weekend. The 79th running of the race for 3-year-old fillies is run over a mile on the outer turf course at Hanshin, and such is the competition for a start in the line-up, 28 nominations have been put forward for a maximum 18 runner field. The fillies are all set to carry 55kg.
The race became a Grade 1 back in 1984, and became a top level international race in 2010. Some big name winners in recent memory have included Buena Vista (2009), Apapane (2010), Gentildonna (2012), and Harp Star (2014). The latter was the last first favorite to enter the winner’s enclosure, as the principal market leader has only won the race three times in the last decade. It’s incredible to think now that last year’s winner, Almond Eye, went off the second favorite when she set a new record for the Oka Sho, winning the race in 1 minute 33.1 seconds.
Some of the step races leading into this year’s fillies’ Classic have been the Listed Anemone Stakes over 1,600 meters at Nakayama, the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue over 1,400 meters at Hanshin, and the Grade 2 Tulip Sho over 1,600 meters also at Hanshin, and all of these races were run in March. The Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) is invariably run on firm ground, and the best filly on Sunday will be awarded the ¥105 million winner’s check. The big race will be race 11 on the card at Hanshin on Sunday, with a post time in Japan of 15:40. Final declarations and the barrier draw will be available later this week.
Here’s a look at some of the fillies expected to be attracting attention:
Danon Fantasy: The Best 2-Year-Old Filly of 2018 got this year’s campaign off to a good start when she won the Grade 2 Tulip Sho over the same Hanshin course and distance in March, and the Deep Impact filly is now four wins from five starts. Trained by Mitsumasa Nakauchida, Danon Fantasy will be looking to give the trainer just his third Grade 1 success. Assistant trainer Teruhiko Saruhashi commented: “In the Tulip Sho she got into a good early position and was able to settle well. She had to be switched to the outside on the run for home, but accelerated well to go on and win. It was a good result to go into the big race next.”
Gran Alegria: Hailing from the stable of trainer Kazuo Fujisawa, who won the race in 2004 with Dance in the Mood, Gran Alegria will be making her first appearance of 2019 in the Oka Sho. She boldly took on the colts at the end of last year in the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, where she started favorite, but had to settle for third. Assistant trainer Masaru Oehara said, “In her last race, the winner took us by surprise, and she did hang a bit in the homestraight. The result was unfortunate. Since then she’s had a break at Northern Farm Tenei, but has returned to the stable, and after settling in again she seems her usual self.”
Chrono Genesis: The filly by Bago has only been beaten once in four starts, and that was when she had to settle for second in the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies over the same course and distance at the end of last year, just being beaten by Danon Fantasy. In her only run this year, she just prevailed in the Grade 3 Daily Hai Queen Cup over 1,600 meters at Tokyo in February. Trainer Takashi Saito said, “It was a slow pace in the Queen Cup last time, but she was patient and able to hold off the other challengers at the finish. We could take a lot from that race. She’s since had a break at Northern Farm Shigaraki and returned to the stable at Ritto on March 14th.” Jockey Yuichi Kitamura just missed out with Danon Smash recently in the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen, but rode a great race last Sunday to notch his first Grade 1 in the Osaka Hai on Al Ain, and he’ll be hoping his good fortune continues.
Beach Samba: Racing in the Kaneko Makoto Holdings Co. Ltd. colors, the Kurofune filly has always been there or thereabouts in her four starts to date. She was a close third in last year’s Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, and she was just beaten last time by Chrono Genesis in the Grade 3 Daily Hai Queen Cup. The dark bay filly is trained by Yasuo Tomomichi, who recently said, “In the Queen Cup, a horse next to her in the gate was quite agitated, so she didn’t make the best of starts and it made her timing throughout the race a bit off. Having said that, she flashed home with the fastest closing sectional time, and just lost out by a neck. So things should be fine as we look to her next race.”
Aqua Mirabilis: The filly by Victoire Pisa is two wins from just three starts, and comes into the race having won the Listed Elfin Stakes over 1,600 meters at Kyoto in February. She will likely be the big race ride of Mirco Demuro. Trainer Keiji Yoshimura commented: “Last time in the Elfin Stakes she produced a good run from the bottom of the hill, with her being saved for a steady run through the field from that point. It was firm ground despite the rain, and her final three furlong time of 33.3 seconds was quite impressive.”
Shigeru Pink Dia: The Daiwa Major filly has also only had three starts, and managed to get within a length of Danon Fantasy last time in the Grade 2 Tulip Sho. That was her only start this year, and in her 2-year-old career, she finished third in her debut race and then notched her first win last November. “She started slower than I would have hoped in the Tulip Sho, and then hung to the right later in the race. Despite these points, she still showed a good turn of foot to finish well. She’s had no problems since that run,” said trainer Kunihiko Watanabe.
No One: With plenty of races already behind her (six in total), No One has won her last two races, the most recent being the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Fillies’ Revue over 1,400 meters at Hanshin in March, where she actually dead-heated for first place. She’s by Heart’s Cry and is trained by Kazuhide Sasada. “She’s run pretty well since her debut, but early on there was still some looseness about her, but that seems to have gone now, and she ran well to win a big race last time. There was no damage after that race, and she’s training as usual,” said the trainer recently.
One other filly that deserves mention is Schon Glanz. Giving trainer Kazuo Fujisawa a strong hand in the race, the filly finished fifth to Danon Fantasy last time in the Grade 2 Tulip Sho over the same Hanshin course and distance. She has two career wins to her name, and jockey Yutaka Take will be looking to win the race for an incredible sixth time with the Deep Impact filly.