JAPANESE RACING OKA SHO BETTING TIPS
The Oka Sho is Japan’s equivalent of the 1,000 Guineas and its winners tend to become well known on the international stage. Buena Vista, Harp Star and Almond Eye feature on its recent roll of honour, while last year’s winner Gran Alegria is expected to go the same way having shaped like the best horse in the recent Takamatsunomiya Kinen, one of Japan’s premier all-age sprints.
The favourite for this year’s race has basically been ensured since early-December. In the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, over the same course and distance, Resistencia put up a breathtaking performance, winning by an emphatic five lengths and taking the course record in the process. It was a performance that marked her out as by far the hottest juvenile filly in Japan.
She might have been a warm order for Classic success on the back of that, but things have rather got in the way since. Primarily, she was beaten into third at odds of 2-5 in the Tulip Sho, a major trial, five weeks ago.
The Tulip Sho certainly seemed to confirm something from the Juvenile Fillies. It showed that Resistencia, Maltese Diosa and Cravache D’Or are clearly smart fillies well worthy of their place in Group 1 company.
The placed horses in the Juvenile Fillies were both a bit better than the result, and clear of the rest anyway. In the Tulip, they served up a good battle as Resistencia faded.
Watching how the favourite went through the Tulip, her run can be forgiven to a point. On what was her first run in three months, she broke smartly and led for most of the way. She carried a clear lead into the straight and was last off the bridle before weakening in the final furlong.
She is entitled to come on for the run, while the sectionals suggest the principals were racing plenty soon enough. The field was closing in at the line and some of them were probably flattered.
The other factor seemingly against Resistencia is a wide draw. She will break from stall 17 of 18, but with sweeping bends at Hanshin and her notable early pace, that concern is not what it might have been. It is not exactly in the positive column either, though.
She also has a new rider, although that hardly goes down as a negative. Her previous rider Yuichi Kitamura has been relegated to outsider Hiruno Malibu and now the ride is taken by legendary Japanese rider Yutake Take. It is 16 years since the most recent of Take’s five victories in the Oka Sho, the first having come in the 1980s, but he has all the experience to know how best to deal with an awkward draw on the favourite.
It is six years since Harp Star became the last horse to follow success in the Tulip Sho with an Oka Sho win and it is taken that Maltese Diosa, who came out on top last month, is probably the least likely winner of the big three from both the Tulip and Juvenile Fillies.
She was the only one of the three for whom the cards fell last time. Always in a good position, she started the run for home on Resistencia’s shoulder and was unimpeded all the way home. Even so, she only just held on from Cravache D’Or. Similarly, in the Juvenile Fillies she was better placed than Cravache D’Or to chase home Resistencia.
It would be no surprise if the imposing Cravache D’Or were to become a top-class performer over middle distances. Her sire, Heart’s Cry, was a middle-distance type who finished third in the 2006 King George and is responsible for Lys Gracieux, one of Japan’s top performers at 1m2f and 1m4f.
She could yet become a Group 1 winning miler. She is certainly the one of the three fillies discussed so far who can claim to be better than the result in both the Juvenile Fillies and Tulip. She started a long way back in the former and in the latter she was forced to check up early in the straight. Given the final margin between her and Maltese Diosa was just a nose, it is not much of a stretch to call her the moral winner.
Mirco Demuro keeps the ride but will have to come from stall 11. The bend on Hanshin’s mile course is sweeping, but would still be less than ideal to have to race wide around it.
If she were a bit nippier, Cravache D’Or would be the bet in this race. Instead, the inclination is to keep her in mind for the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) next month, whatever happens here.
The main challenger to Resistencia as favourite, is currently Daring Tact, who has not yet run at Group level. Still, she was an impressive four-length winner at Listed level last time, finishing fast in a manner that suggests she was even more superior than the bare result. The runner-up in that race was Wrightia, who had previously shaped as though quite competitive in Group 2 company, so to hand her such a thorough beating is a strong advertisement for Daring Tact’s Group 1 hopes.
Champion jockey Christophe Lemaire rides Sanctuaire. She is well drawn in stall 4 and comes here on the back of a quietly impressive victory at Group 3 level in January. That day she quite comfortably reeled in Prince Return, who had previously been fifth at Group 1 level. She has to step up on that, and did get a dream run through the race for all she was a fairly ready winner.
The three placed fillies from the Juvenile Fillies and Tulip are solid gatekeepers to this Group 1 prize. With Maltese Diosa having the least scope to improve and Cravache D’Or fancied to become a superior performer over longer trips, it makes sense to side with Resistencia.
Had she come here directly from her Juvenile Fillies win, she would be a warm order and the misfortune she has suffered since can all be mitigated. She could well be the filly to give Yutake Take his sixth win in the race, 31 years after his first.
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