where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2020-04-02 11:11:55  
Top-class contenders ready to clash in G1 Osaka Hai

The racing spotlight in Japan moves to Osaka’s Hanshin Racecourse on Sunday (5 April) for the 64th running of the Osaka Hai, a 2000m turf contest that was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2017. A field of 12 horses is set to go to the gate and attention leading into the race has been focused on a standout of four – Blast Onepiece, Danon Kingly, Lucky Lilac and Chrono Genesis.

Blast Onepiece, winner of the 2018 G1 Arima Kinen, and sixth-place finisher in last year’s Osaka Hai, returned from a poor showing in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to begin the year with his fifth graded-stakes victory, a strong win in the G2 American Jockey Club Cup (2200m) at Nakayama on 26 January.

On Wednesday, working with a partner and under an assistant to trainer Masahiro Otake, the five-year-old son of Harbinger breezed over four furlongs of the woodchip flat in 51.7s with a sharp 12.5s final furlong.

“He had a good solid workout last week and looked very on his toes, so I want to keep that for the race and am just fine-tuning him this week,” said Otake. “I think he looked even better than I’d thought he would.”

Yuga Kawada, who has ridden Blast Onepiece in his last three starts, including a G2 Sapporo Kinen (2000m) win in August, is set for the ride Sunday.

“I think this is his best distance and he has no problem with Hanshin,” Kawada said.

Working on the same track on Wednesday and getting top marks was the four-year-old Deep Impact-sired Danon Kingly, who has excelled in his eight career starts thus far, with five wins and only one finish out of the top three, none off the board. He is yet to claim a top-level race from three attempts thus far, having finished third in the classic Satsuki Sho (2000m), runner-up in the Japanese Derby (2400m) and fifth in the Mile Championship (1600m). He is coming off a win of the G2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m) on 1 March.

The Kiyoshi Hagiwara-trained, Danon Kingly too worked under an assistant. Looking eager to run as he entered the woodchip track, he moved up on the inside of his training partner and easily passed him to clock 1m 05.4s over 5 furlongs, with a final furlong of 12s.

The trainer’s main concern for Danon Kingly is the long trip to the track.

“I’m worried that his weight will be down if he ships to the track immediately before the race so we plan to ship on Thursday and lessen our risks.” Hagiwara said, adding that it was likely Danon Kingly would work at Hanshin again before race day.

Meanwhile, at Ritto training centre on Wednesday, the four-year-old filly Chrono Genesis, one of two females in the Osaka Hai lineup, worked under jockey Yuichi Kitamura with a training partner on the woodchip flat. She completed five furlongs in 1m 08.8s with no urging, looked sharp, and extended powerfully over the final furlong in 11.6s.

A highly consistent filly, Chrono Genesis has five wins from nine career starts, only one of them out of the top three. She recorded for figures of 3-3-1 in last year’s filly classics and, competing against male horses for the first time since her second start, topped the field by two and a half lengths last time out in the G2 Kyoto Kinen (2200m) on 16 February.

Kitamura, who has ridden all her starts, said: “Her biggest issue is her excitability and that is what I most wanted to get a reading on in work. This week she was able to wait patiently despite the slow pace and that was very good. And she ran solidly to the end. She felt really good in work, really strong. This will be her first time to compete against male Grade 1 winners and we won’t know how that will go until we try it, but she herself is in excellent shape.”

One year her senior is Lucky Lilac, a five-year-old mare by triple crown champion Orfevre. Hailing from the stable of former jockey Mikio Matsunaga, she is the only horse in this year’s Osaka Hai field to have claimed two Grade 1 races – the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (1600m) as a two-year-old and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2200m) last November. Following that she finished second in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) and started the year with a second place in the G2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m) on 1 March under Mirco Demuro, who has the ride on Sunday.

On Wednesday at Ritto, she ran well-balanced and was switched on, working at high speed alone under an assistant over six furlongs on the woodchip flat for a time of 1m 21.6s. “I’ve been giving her longer workouts and she does better with them,” said Matsunaga. “She’s sharpened up from her last start and is ready. She’s very agile and I don’t think the Hanshin 2000m will be a problem. Mirco is up for the second time and I’m counting on him to give her a good ride.” 

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