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June 7, 2021 (Mon)

April JRA Graded Stakes Review

Classic season springs to life in April with the first two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown and the Japanese Filly Triple Tiara. It also brings with it the exciting G1 Osaka Hai, where many of Japan's brightest Turf stars have an opportunity to capture their first G1 of the year.

In the 1600m, G3 Lord Derby Challenge Trophy at Nakayama Racecourse on April 3rd, Terzetto(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) impressed with a powerful closing kick, her first graded stakes title beating a field of older males in the process. She broke a little slow and settled near the back of half of the pack in the race's early stages. Her jockey took her wide on the turn from home, and that is where she showed her sire's signature closing kick to win by a length. Catedral(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN) was second, and Bom Servico(JPN) by Daiwa Major(JPN) was a neck back in third.

The 2000m G1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin Racecourse on April 4th saw the clash of three of the best middle-distance runners in Japan. It saw a rematch between Triple Crown winner Contrail(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) and his classics rival Salios(JPN) by Heart's Cry(JPN). It also saw both colts taking on the speedy four-time G1 winning mare Gran Alegria(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN). However, heavy rains had a significant effect on the turf, and from the bog came a brilliant new star to follow, Lei Papale(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN). She was late to debut and only raced five times last year, debuting in January and winning her first graded stakes in December. Still, she was going into the highly regarded G1 undefeated, and she left it in the same condition. She tends to lead or sit just off the pace in all her previous races, but here she surged to the lead and never looked back. In the stretch, her jockey Yuga Kawada made what at the moment looked like the odd decision to swing wide, but the turf in the middle of the track gave the filly the perfect runway to continue her stellar drive home. She crushed her elite competition by four lengths. Mozu Bello(JPN) by Deep Brillante(JPN) was second and Contrail(JPN), who didn't seem to like the yielding turf at all, was a further three-fourths of a length back in third.

The 1600m G2 New Zealand Trophy at Nakayama Racecourse on April 10th was a G1 NHK Mile Cup trial where the first three home get an automatic start next month. Second favorite, Bathrat Leon(JPN) by Kizuna(JPN), went wire to wire, giving his sire his third graded stakes winner of the year. The three-year-old demolished the competition when he entered the stretch, he found a whole new gear and sprinted clear of the rest of the field to win by five lengths. Time to Heaven(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) was second, and City Rainbow(JPN) by Epiphaneia(JPN) was a length and a half back in third.

In the 1600m G2 Hanshin Himba Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse on April 10th, Des Ailes(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) got her first graded stakes win. She was a little slow out of the gate and settled near the back in the race's early stages. With a furlong to go, she switched gears and chased down the other females in front of her to get her neck in front for the win in the final strides. Magic Castle(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was second, and Donau Delta(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) was another neck back in third.

Going into the 1600m G1 Oka Sho(Japanese 1000 Guineas) at Hanshin Racecourse on April 11th, it was very much a two-horse race, a rematch between white filly Sodashi(JPN) by Kurofune(USA) and Satono Reinas(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN). The pair had narrowly finished a hair apart in the G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies last December, with the white filly going out on top. The pair were heavy favorites in the race, with Satono Reinas(JPN) being the bettor's main choice as the one most likely to come out on top in the rematch. However, Sodashi(JPN) had over plans and helped along by a slow break from Satono Reinas(JPN), the white filly continued to make history by becoming the first white thoroughbred to win a classic race anywhere in the world. Sodashi(JPN) broke sharp and was brilliantly positioned close to the pace, allowing her to easily take the lead with just over a furlong to go. Satono Reinas(JPN) just had too much ground to make up in the stretch, and though she closed strongly, she was unable to catch her flashy rival at the wire, this time losing by a neck. Fine Rouge(JPN) by Kizuna(JPN) was half a length back in third. Those hoping for a rematch between the two fillies will be disappointed as it was announced that Satono Reinas(JPN) will head to the G1 Japanese Derby on May 30th to take on the boys instead of the G1 Japanese Oaks on May 23rd, where she would have come up against Sodashi(JPN) yet again.

The 1600m G3 Arlington Cup at Hanshin Racecourse on April 17th was a G1 NHK Mile Cup Trial where the first three finishers get automatic entry into the race. Favorite Ho O Amazon(JPN) by King Kamehameha(JPN) broke shop and settled into second position early on and stalked the pacesetter till the top of the stretch. His jockey angled him wide to get better ground on the yielding turf and took over at about the 200m mark and easily one by a length and a quarter. Rickenbacker(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) was second. Raymond Barows(JPN) by Victoire Pisa(JPN) was three-quarters of a length back in third.

The 2000m G1 Satsuki Sho(Japanese 2000 Guineas) at Nakayama Racecourse on April 18th is the first leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, and much like last year, the champion two-year-old was the post-time favorite. However, this year Danon the Kid(JPN) by Just a Way(JPN) was unable to reproduce similar results to last year's Contrail(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN), but instead, a new three-year-old star was born. Efforia(JPN) by Epiphaneia(JPN) brought his young sire new accolades with a dominating performance in this year's classic. He broke sharp and stalked the pace in fourth position until the top of the stretch, where he immediately took the lead away from Titleholder(JPN) and sprinted clear to win by three lengths. Titleholder(JPN) by Duramente(JPN) held on for second, and Stella Veloce(JPN) by Bago(JPN) was just a neck back in third.

In the 1800m, G3 Antares Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse on April 18th over the dirt, T O Keynes(JPN) by Sinister Minister(USA) turned out a solid performance to win his first graded stakes win. He broke well but got pinched back after the start and settled into the middle of the pack. As they started the turn for home, his jockey angled him to the outside, keeping him clear of traffic, and moved up bit by bit till he was in second position going into the stretch. He surged to the lead with about 300m to go and never looked back, winning by a comfortable length and three quarter. History Maker(JPN) by Empire Maker(USA) had to again settle for second for the second time this year. Lord Bless(JPN) by Danon Ballade(JPN) was a further two lengths back in third.

In the 1800m, G3 Fukushima Himba Stakes at Niigata Racecourse on April 24th, Dirndl(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) took the lead and finally captured her first graded stakes title. It wasn't an easy win, and the five-year-old mare had to dig deep to be able to pull it off. She showed amazing guts, as she looked like she was going to get beat as other fillies and mares targeted her in the stretch, but each time a new rival caught up to her, she dug deep and fought back, regaining the lead. She was able to hold on long enough to keep her nose in front as Donna Attraente(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) closed on her. Sanctuaire(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was another neck back in third.

The 2000m G2 Flora Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse on April 25th was a G1 Japanese Oaks Trial race where the top two finished get an automatic berth. Cool Cat(JPN) by Screen Hero(JPN) posted a mild upset when she took the lead with a furlong to go. She broke well and, despite the wide draw, was able to take up a comfortable position stalking the pace. She had the perfect position going into the straight and took over the lead at about the 200m mark to win by a length. Slyly(JPN) by Orfevre(JPN) was second, and Uberleben(JPN) by Gold Ship(JPN) was only a nose back in third.

The 1600m G2 Milers Cup at Hanshin Racecourse on April 25th gave winner Cadence Call(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) his third graded stakes win of his career against a solid group of Japanese milers. The five-year-old sat mid-pack early on in the race and dug deep in the stretch to outdo his equally determined rivals to get up in the final strides to win by a length and a quarter. Al Jannah(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) was second, and Kaiser Minoru(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN) was a nose back in third.

Also, on April 25th, the Champions Day at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong, where five JRA horses had made the trip over to participate in two of their G1 event. First up was Danon Smash(JPN) by Lord Kanaloa(JPN), who looked like he had a great chance going into the race as he was coming off back-to-back G1 wins, including the G1 Hong Kong Sprint last December. However, he had to settle for sixth in the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize when he didn't respond with his usual burst of closing speed. Later in the day, the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup ended in a major triumph for Japan. There were a total of four runners from Japan making up over half the field, so the odds of favorable results were pretty high in this race. Nearly all the prize money was claimed by Japan, with all four coming in first through fourth in the prestigious event. Loves Only You(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN), who had shipped over from Dubai, where she had finished third in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic less than a month prior. She took a favorable position early on, taking cover before making her move in the stretch and proved much the best, passing Japanese triple tiara winner Daring Tact(JPN) by Epiphaneia(JPN). She also held off a fast closing Glory Vase(JPN) by Deep Impact(JPN) to claim her second G1 title of her career by three-quarters of a length. Glory Vase(JPN) was second, Daring Tact(JPN) length and a quarter back in third, and Kiseki(JPN) by Rulership(JPN) was fourth.

All JRA graded stakes results and race replays are available on Japan Association for International Racing, and Stud Book (JAIRS)'s website:

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