Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) - Preview
Art de Vivre
Shigeru Pink Ruby
This week, following a win of the Osaka Hai by a female for the second year in a row, the girls are once again in the spotlight. This time, however, they make up the entire field.
Sodashi - Sodashi is not only the field standout in looks, her record is a stellar 4 for 4, with two of those starts over 1,600 meters. She has a Grade 1 in her cap along with two Grade 3 victories, was awarded the JRA Award for Best Two-Year-Old Filly of 2020, is the first white horse to win a JRA top-level competition, and will be the first white horse to run in a Japan classic race. In addition, the daughter of Kurofune could become only the eighth filly in the history of the Oka Sho to bag the race unbeaten. Sodashi hasn’t raced in four months, not since the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, and a winner of that race hasn’t won the Oka Sho since Apapane in 2010. After returning to Ritto, Sodashi has trained primarily up the hill course, and on March 31 clocking 52.4 seconds over the four furlongs, with a final furlong in 11.8 seconds. “She can be overly sensitive, so we brought her back to the training center early and gave her gate practice and a hard workout last week,” said trainer Naosuke Sugai. “This week, I just plan to breeze her.” Expected to be in the saddle on Sunday is jockey Hayato Yoshida, currently No. 5 in the jockey standings and gunning for his first win of the Oka Sho.
Meikei Yell - Meikei Yell suffered her first and only loss of her five-race career in her fourth start and first mile, the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. Drawn wide and missing the break, she was forced to race from much farther back than her usual fourth position. Able to make up ground, however, she finished only 0.2 seconds behind Sodashi in fourth place. Sired by Mikki Isle, who usually led the field in his races and captured two Grade 1s wire to wire, Meikei Yell took on the Grade 2 Tulip Sho at Hanshin on March 6 and finished in a dead heat with Elizabeth Tower. The biggest concern with Meikei Yell is her reluctance to settle. In the Tulip Sho, she traveled in fourth position but jumped into the lead early from the final turn. “She did a good job letting off some steam with that last start and that made her easier to prepare this time,” says trainer Hidenori Take. “I have no concerns about her physical condition, but key will be getting her to run more balanced.” With regular rider Yutaka Take sidelined with injuries, pegged for the ride is jockey Norihiro Yokoyama, who has 27 G1 wins to his name but has yet to notch the Oka Sho. “If Norihiro Yokoyama is able to bring out her best, we’ll just have to see how it goes,” says trainer Take.
Akaitorino Musume - Daughter to 2005 Triple Crown winner Deep Impact and 2010 filly triple crown champion Apapane, Akaitorino Musume has some big shoes to fill. Like Satono Reinas, she’s from the stable of Sakae Kunieda, and though chronically slow from the gate, has nevertheless notched three wins from four starts, with only one finish off the board. All of her outings have been over the mile and last out mid-February she topped Art de Vivre by a neck in winning the Grade 3 Queen Cup at Tokyo. Slow from the gate, she was still able to travel farther forward than usual in midfield and took the lead about halfway down the stretch. With three starts at Tokyo and one at Niigata, Akaitorino Musume will be racing to the right for the first time. It will also be her first time to haul from her Miho base to western Japan. “Even though she traveled farther forward than before in her last race and moved earlier, I watched it without worry,” says Kunieda. “After that I kept her at the training center, so there hasn’t been any gain in weight. I think she’s matured both physically and mentally and I’m looking forward to seeing how she’ll do to the right and with the long trip to the track.” Jockey Takeshi Yokoyama is expected to have the ride Sunday.
Others to watch are Fine Rouge and Elizabeth Tower. Fine Rouge has been given one furlong longer in each of her three starts and jumped from her maiden win to victory in the Grade 3 Fairy Stakes at Nakayama in mid-January. Since, she has remained at Miho. Her versatility in racing styles and keen racing sense should stand her well.