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JRA Blackbook: Shuka Sho unmasks new Group 1 contender

Fast-finishing runner-up Masked Diva revealed her immense potential in Sunday's G1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto, while a well-related newcomer impressed on the Tokyo dirt.

Masked Diva 2nd of 18 (R11 Kyoto, G1 Shuka Sho, 2000m, 15 Oct)

Hot favourite Liberty Island lost no admirers in securing her place in Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown history at Kyoto on Sunday, but if times are anything to go by, runner-up Masked Diva looks well equipped to create some history of her own.

Entering the G1 Shuko Sho off a last-start Group 2 victory over the Hanshin 1800m – in world record time, no less – the daughter of Rulership again wowed after suffering an interrupted run for jockey Mirai Iwata.

Unleashing a devasting 10.7s final 200 metre sectional as part of a 33.5s final three furlongs, Masked Diva may have forced Liberty Island to stretch her neck to secure the Triple Tiara with a more generous run in transit.

A visibly emotional Iwata rued what might have been in the aftermath of the Classic.

“She was nervous before jumping from the gate as there was a big audience today,” said this year’s World All-Star Jockeys winning rider. “It made her miss the start a little bit and we could not stay in a better position. If we could have, I think we could have got a better result.”

Masked Diva looks a serious player in November’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup, a Group 1 event over 2200 metres for fillies and mares, should trainer Yasuyuki Tsujino elect to go there.


Mikki Fight (R4 Tokyo, Newcomers, Dirt, 1600m, 15 Oct)

While Masked Diva ran without luck at Kyoto, a first-starter at Tokyo was able to make a winning debut thanks to the misfortune suffered by a Newcomer rival.

Mikki Flight – a half-brother to the high-class dirt runner and G1 Champions Cup winner Jun Light Bolt – was making a good fist of closing off on the heavy track at his opening assignment, but looked unlikely to bridge the gap to Central Valley, who had kicked well clear within the final furlong.  


Mikki Fight swoops home to score at Tokyo. (Photo by @llx_pplplpl)

The leader suddenly veered sharply off the track in the shadows of the post however, allowing Mikki Fight and jockey Akihide Tsumura to pounce on victory after sustaining a powerful late run. 

“He looked good when going to the starting line,” said Tsumura. “However, he was immature during the race. It is great he could win at his debut.”

Watch this week’s JRA Blackbook, also including our ‘Dirt Monster of the week’ that won by a space at Kyoto: 




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