Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1) - Preview
This coming Sunday and next, the JRA turns the spotlight onto the budding talent in this season’s 2-year-olds and it’s ladies first with the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies on Dec. 13, followed by the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes the week after also at Hanshin Racecourse.
The 72nd Hanshin Juvenile Fillies sees 20 fillies nominated for a full deck of 18 with many of those set to take on their first top-level race having only a few starts underneath their belts - some only one. The runners will carry 54kg over 1,600 meters on the outer turf course at Hanshin, located west of Osaka in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture.
The winner will earn JPY65 million from a purse of JPY140.2 million and be virtually assured of the title of Best 2-Year-Old Filly at the season-ending JRA Awards. This weekend’s field looks relatively open with no one horse standing head and shoulders above the rest.
The outer course at Hanshin, where races are run to the right, is also the course used for the Grade 1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), the first race in the fillies’ triple crown.
The Hanshin Juvenile Fillies starts along the backstretch and covers 444m before hitting the first turn. With three furlongs to the finish line, the track dips two meters over 400m then rises steeply over the last 200m, making it a formidable test of stamina as well as speed for any horse.
The race record is held by seven-time Grade 1 champion and the 2008, 2009 JRA Horse of the Year Vodka, who cut a time of 1 minute, 33.1 seconds in 2006. The Hanshin Juvenile Fillies will be the 11th race on Hanshin’s Sunday card of 12 with post time of 15:40 local time.
The early favorites for the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies are:
Meikei Yell: Sodashi won’t be the only horse in this year’s field eyeing a fourth successive win. Coming off victory in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes last month after her August debut, Meikei Yell will be taking the first steps in following her dad - new stud Mikki Isle, the JRA’s 2016 Sprinter of the Year - on what will hopefully be a path to future stardom. “The performances have been good in all three wins,” trainer Hidenori Take said. “There was an unstable side to her at one point but ever since her last start, the appetite is there and she’s added some weight. All in all, this is the best I’ve seen her yet.” If Take’s last name rings a bell, he is part of Japanese racing’s royal family heralded by Yutaka - the great jockey and the trainer’s parents are cousins. Yutaka, who has ridden Meikei Yell in her last two races, likes what he sees in the filly - and he has ridden his share of some really good ones, unquestionably - which must be sweet music to Hidenori’s ears. “The most important thing is she won both races. She had a hard time settling, especially in the last race. So that is an area she needs work. Your average horse though wouldn’t have won - but she did. Which speaks to a lot about her quality, her upside. She just runs really hard. But as long as she can stay under control then she has every chance. I’ve known Hide since we were kids, our parents are cousins. Would be great to win a Grade 1 race together.” As noted by Yutaka, the key for Meikei Yell will be patience. The filly has been a little over aggressive than one would like in her three victories, having yet to run longer than 1,400 meters. The 200 meters that will be added in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies will likely not be an advantage but the trainer has been encouraged by what he has seen in the run-up to the race. “She has looked good in the workouts,” he said. “We will push her over the weekend and breeze during the week as usual. I hope practice does translate into results. She’s physically sound and a good all-round horse. She hasn’t filled out yet but I’m excited by the prospect. She’s classy and gorgeous - almost like an actress. A win here hopefully will really get her name out there.”
Satono Reinas: From the tag team of Sakae Kunieda and Christophe Lemaire that brought you Almond Eye brings you Satono Reinas, by Deep Impact out of Balada Sale - who captured the Argentinian equivalent of the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) and Japanese Oaks in 2011. Satono Reinas, 2-for-2 going into this weekend including a win in the Saffron Sho, is the full sister to Satono Flag who placed third in this season’s Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) - won by then unbeaten Triple Crown winner Contrail. While it would be downright unfair to compare the 2-year-old Satono Reinas to her former stablemate Almond Eye, you know you have something special on your hands when compliments come from the jockey who rode the winningest thoroughbred in JRA history. “She was a little uncertain and childish on her debut but the second time, she was all business,” Lemaire said. “There was a lot we had to work through when she travelled but she finished the race very strongly. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Kunieda Stable. She gets better and better and this being her third race, I’m sure this will be the best of her yet. She seems to have a real upside and I’m sure she’ll handle the outer course at Hanshin just fine. I’m looking forward to it.” It goes without saying that it is hard to read into a horse after just two starts. Not to mention it will be the first time Satono Reinas will be traveling outside of greater Tokyo and racing at Hanshin. Kunieda, though, remains confident of his latest prodigy. “She’s come along nicely so far and I think she’ll be in the form she needs to be in for a Grade 1 race,” the trainer said. “She shouldn’t be too different on the scale but she’ll look sharper because she’s taller. She won a couple of races in a row at the mile but would be even better if she had an extra 200 meters. A slightly gentler pace will probably be perfect for her.”
Sodashi: Don’t let the looks fool you. There’s more to Sodashi than the color of her coat - a lot more. The daughter of gray Japanese dirt legend Kurofune, Sodashi heads to the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies as the widely expected betting favorite. The Naosuke Sugai-trained filly, 3-for-3 since her July debut, is on the cusp of making unique history. Should she win on Sunday, Sodashi will become the first white-colored horse to win a Grade 1 race in Japan. “The white really stands out on grass,” Sugai said. “I think she’s turning into a real star.” Out of the King Kamehameha dam Buchiko, Sodashi is already the first white to win a graded turf race and to have multiple graded victories. The trainer has kept her at the stable since her previous start on Oct. 31, the Grade 3 Artemis Stakes at Tokyo, and is pleased with the way Sodashi has been. “We like to keep her close because she can be sensitive,” Sugai said. “But physically, she’s very stable.” The only jockey Sodashi knows, Hayato Yoshida, worked her himself in the three weeks leading up to the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies and is giving his partner a thumbs up. “She took the bit on her own on the straight. She was the one leading me,” Yoshida said after last week’s fast work. “She’s been sharp since the week before and I think she’ll be in similar form compared to her last race.” Yoshida knows a thing or two about whites; he is the JRA’s all-time leader with six wins aboard white horses. Sodashi has taken the race to the competition in all three of her races and Yoshida is expecting more of the same this weekend. “They’re all very sensitive and high maintenance,” he said of white horses. “You do need to be careful with them but with her, that sensitive side is bringing out the best in her. She breaks well and is super responsive when you tell her to go. She’s really smart and a very complete racehorse.” Working in Sodashi’s favor is Sugai’s track record; the trainer has won two of the three Hanshin Juvenile Fillies he entered in the past - with Robe Tissage and Red Reveur in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Victory for Sodashi would make her the race’s 13th unbeaten champion. Sugai is optimistic that she will come through and then some. “I hope she passes all the tests that are thrown at her, but one by one. She needs to go through that to become a better racehorse,” he said. “We just want her to race the way she’s capable of and if she wins, great. And as a result of that, if interest in racing increases, you couldn’t ask for more.”
*Source: Gallop, Netkeiba