2023 News

October 10, 2023


Shuka Sho (G1) - Preview
Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1)
Liberty Island

Daily Hai Queen Cup (G3)

Kansai Telecasting Corp. Sho Rose Stakes (Shuka Sho Trial) (G2)
Masked Diva

Shion Stakes (Shuka Sho Trial) (G2)

Hokkaido Shimbun Hai Queen Stakes (G3)

Kona Coast
Kona Coast

Hip Hop Soul
Hip Hop Soul

There is big racing action again this week, with Kyoto Racecourse hosting the 28th running of the Grade 1 Shuka Sho, the 3-year-old filly pinnacle which wraps up the fillies’ Classic races. This year, the Shuka Sho is returning to its usual venue after a two-year sojourn at Hanshin while Kyoto underwent massive renovations.
Like last year, the fillies’ triple crown is once again on the line, as super filly Liberty Island, winner of the first two events, aims to claim her third win in the series. If successful, she will not merely bag the JPY110 million winner’s prize, but will become only the seventh filly in Japanese racing history to capture all three races comprised of the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the Shuka Sho, run over distances of 1,600, 2,400 and 2,000 meters, respectively.
Twenty-three fillies have been nominated for the 18 berths of the Shuka Sho and five of those nominees are tied for earnings and will be vying for the final lineup’s last two spots.
The race is Kyoto’s 11th on a card of 12, with a post time locally of 15:40. The event is held on the 2,000-meter inner A course, which starts before the grandstand. The ground rises from the start and, after the keen battle for position, the field straightens into the backstretch. The track from there remains relatively flat and the field picks up speed as the ground dips gradually into the straight. Two hundred meters before the finish line the track rises sharply again.
Here’s a look at the likely popular picks.

Liberty Island: On a three-way Grade 1 winning streak that includes the first two tests of the fillies’ Classic and the 2-year-old Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, Liberty Island is expected to be way out in front as the Shuka Sho favorite. If her 6-length winning margin in the Japanese Oaks is any indication of what’s to come, she’ll be way out in front at the finish line on Sunday too. It will be her first time at Kyoto, but she’ll have the home advantage as she is based at Ritto, and she is proven over both clockwise and counterclockwise tracks. With four wins and one second from her five starts thus far (spanning distance from 1,600 to 2,400 meters), Liberty Island’s blistering late speed has stood her well, whether traveling from fore of midfield or from the rear. She has, however, never drawn terribly wide, and she’s going straight from the Japanese Oaks to the gate, a spell of nearly five months. She spent the summer at Northern Farm and returned to Ritto in mid-September. If she can pocket the Shuka Sho, Liberty Island will become the seventh filly to do so, and the first since Daring Tact accomplished the feat in 2020. Yuga Kawada, currently trailing leading jockey Christophe Lemaire by one win, has ridden all her starts, and is expected up.

Harper: Considered Liberty Island’s biggest rival is the Oaks runnerup Harper and the two will meet for the third time on Sunday. Harper, a daughter of Heart’s Cry, lacks the brilliant turn of foot of Liberty Island, but her fourth place in the Oka Sho demonstrated her ability to reach down deep and give it all she has. Her top win to date, however, is only at the Grade 3 level, a first in the 1,600-meter Queen Cup at Tokyo early this year. The Ritto-based Harper will also be going straight to the gate from the Oaks and taking on Kyoto for the first time. Harper has won over the Hanshin 1,600 meters and debuted with a second there over 2,000 meters. Harper has had a number of riders, Yuichi Fukunaga, David Egan, Yuga Kawada and Christophe Lemaire, under whom she has yet to win. Lemaire, who last won the Shuka Sho in 2018 aboard Almond Eye, rode Harper’s last two starts (both Grade 1s) and is expected to have the Shuka Sho ride. Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, who won the Shuka Sho with Vivlos in 2016 says of Harper, “We’ve given her solid workouts over the last two weeks and her footwork and movement are good. She’s bigger and more relaxed, and I’m hoping she’ll show that maturity in the race. I think, with 2,000 meters, she’ll have enough ground.”

Masked Diva: The Rulership-sired Masked Diva gained access to the Shuka Sho with her record win of the Rose Stakes on Sept. 17. Clocking 1 minute, 43 seconds over 1,800 meters at Hanshin, Masked Diva shot over the final three furlongs in 33.2 seconds, leaping from the one-win level to the Grade 2 winner’s circle. She will have four turns this time and, though she won her debut over 2,000 meters at Chukyo, she lost ground lugging out around the turns in the 2,000-meter Wasurenagusa at Hanshin in April. If Masked Diva can execute the turns well and win the Shuka Sho with only four starts to her name, she’ll join the ranks of four other quickly rising stars before her - Fabulous la Fouine in 1996, Fine Motion in 2002, Kawakami Princess in 2006 and Daring Tact in 2020. Trainer Yasuyuki Tsuji said, “I had thought of her as a filly that would only come into her own as an older horse, but her last race showed me she has matured far faster than I expected. She came out of the race without damage. She was maintaining her balance well, so I aimed her here. As for the turns, I’m hoping her prior experience will stand her well.”

Moryana: Moryana clinched her first graded win with a final three-furlong time of 34.3 seconds in the Grade 2 Shion Stakes at Nakayama in early September. It was her first test over 2,000 meters. Previously raced only over 1,600 and 1,800 meters and proven at both, the victory expanded her options and brought her to the Shuka Sho with confidence. Yoshinori Muto, who trains at Miho and is gunning for his first Grade 1 win, admits he was surprised when he saw his filly (who had been racing from the rear) looming large right before the finish line of the Shion Stakes. “Honestly, I had thought that with it being the opening week of the meet at Nakayama and with the four turns, she couldn’t make it home in first. However, it all happened so quickly there wasn’t even time for my heart to leap into my mouth,” he joked. “In her spring starts, she didn’t have the right conditions to give it her all and show herself at her best. The Kyoto 2,000-meter is tricky, but if she can break well, I think she can show us something good.”

Dura: Dura, the Oaks third-place finisher, is coming off a win of the Grade 3 Queen Stakes at Sapporo at the end of July. As in the Oaks, it was once again her late speed that moved her quickly up the straight, but this time she made it to the winner’s circle and beat older horses as well. With the formidable late speed in the Shuka Sho lineup, Dura’s sharp turn of foot will be a much-valued commodity. Arata Saito, who only debuted four years ago and has ridden six of Dura’s eight starts (won three of them), is expected to be in the saddle on Sunday.

Other fillies of interest are:

The Ritto-based Kona Coast consistently made the top two in her four starts (including the Oka Sho) leading up to the Japanese Oaks. In the Oaks, where she placed seventh under Damian Lane, the horse next to her rammed her at the break, throwing her off balance and causing her to race from the rear instead of her preferred forward position. This daughter of Kitasan Black is not a talent to be overlooked.
Hip Hop Soul will be traveling west for the first time in her six-start career. Sixth in the Oaks, she is taking on a top-level event for only her second time, but has two seconds in graded company, including the Grade 2 Shion Stakes, which is her most recent start.
Shinryokuka followed Liberty Island over the line in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies by 2 1/2 lengths, just missed the board in the Oka Sho, and was fifth (a full 1.3 seconds off the winner) in the Oaks. She was, however, disadvantaged by the outside draw and unable to get cover while traveling on the outside. She rallied in the stretch and could fare better with a more advantageous trip.


Shuka Sho (G1) related contents