INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS

Keiba Diary: Fillies and mares rev up for the QEII Cup

Sunday’s Group 1 not a one-filly race, stakes race upsets, two fan favourites clash and a look ahead to an intriguing Mile Championship in this week’s Keiba Diary.

This Sunday the focus turns to the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hanshin, where a number of Japan’s top-line fillies and mares will come together for a clash of the generations on the inner turf track.

Topping the bill for the 2200-metre feature is Stunning Rose, who is heading in off a fine win in the G1 Shuka Sho just four weeks ago. The three-year-old has three wins from four starts at Hanshin and two of them have been achieved with Sunday’s talented jockey Ryusei Sakai in the saddle.

But the Oaks runner-up won’t be getting things all her own way in a field that features Daring Tact, the 2020 ‘Triple Tiara’ winner. The five-year-old is still looking for her first win since those diamond days, having suffered an injury that kept her off the track from April 2021 until May of this year, and is coming off a sixth place finish in the G2 All Comers. Her trainer Haruki Sugiyama thought the ground bias didn’t help her at all in that lead-up race and expects more from her this time.

Even so, reversing placings with the All Comers winner Geraldina looks as if it could be tough. That filly by Maurice is seemingly on the up and will be piloted this time by Cristian Demuro. Namur is another filly who looks to have woken up to her full potential and could flash home late. Adding more spice to the mix is Ireland’s Magical Lagoon, a rare overseas contender, whose fifth place finish to Alpinista in the G1 Yorkshire Oaks certainly deserves respect.

Rounding out QEII Cup day is the time-honoured Doncaster Cup, a 1400m dirt race, for which Mozu Rickey has been nominated. The useful looking three-year-old colt is by the two-time Japan Cup Dirt hero and Dubai World Cup second Transcend.

Shocking Weekend

There were four graded races on the JRA programme last weekend and the shortest priced winner was Breakup at 17-1 in the G2 Copa Republica Argentina. The four-year-old had previously only contested one Group race from 16 starts and even jockey Hironobu Tanabe was ‘honestly surprised’, in his own words, by the win. Breakup was mostly unaffected by King of Dragon running into the rail in the homestretch.

But 17-1 was nothing compared to the day’s other surprises. We had the 50-1 shot Obamburumai winning the G2 Keio Hai Nisai Stakes; Rivara taking out the G3 Fantasy Stakes at 70-1; and topping them all, 90-1 for Sunrise Hope in the G3 Miyako Stakes, the omen bet of them all perhaps.

Let’s also spare a thought for the four-time Tokyo Daishoten victor Omega Perfume in the Miyako, after he ran-on late under a 59kg impost to take third. And the final shock of the weekend was the record low payout of 240 yen for a JRA trifecta in race three at Hanshin on Sunday.

Ladies’ Day

This weekend sees 18-year-old Seina Imamura, Japan’s leading female rider with a record 47 winners this year, meet up with star British rider Hollie Doyle, 26, when they both ride at Tokyo. It’ll be Imamura’s first time riding at Fuchu (Tokyo) and she’s down to partner Ten Happy Rose in the Oro Cup.

Imamura already has a lot of respect for the English rider. “She has a great riding style and it’s a way of riding that I like to think I can learn from. She’s someone I admire a lot and I look forward to meeting her,” Imamura said. Doyle is still looking for her first win in Japan, but it’ll probably come sooner rather than later.

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18-year-old Seina Imamura is rapidly rising through Japan's riding ranks. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

Japanese window cleaner

Reminiscent of the 177cm-tall Irishman Richard Hughes in his riding days, jockey Hiroki Matsumoto, 20, stands a lofty 176cm. He is just into his second year as a JRA jockey and scored his first win only a week after his debut in 2021; the Shiga prefecture native is stable rider to trainer Hideyuki Mori.

Matsumoto is currently spending a couple of weeks at the Miho training centre, where his master has sent him to get more experience. When he does the rounds at Yukihiro Kato’s
stable, staff are amazed at his height, but they see him doing everything right in the way he handles himself.

Reminiscent of the 177cm-tall Irishman Richard Hughes in his riding days, jockey Hiroki Matsumoto, 20, stands a lofty 176cm. He is just into his second year as a JRA jockey and scored his first win only a week after his debut in 2021; the Shiga prefecture native is stable rider to trainer Hideyuki Mori.

Matsumoto is currently spending a couple of weeks at the Miho training centre, where his
master has sent him to get more experience. When he does the rounds at Yukihiro Kato’s
stable, staff are amazed at his height, but they see him doing everything right in the way he handles himself.

Here’s looking at you, kid

And finally in this week’s diary, a quick peek behind the curtains for the upcoming G1 Mile Championship. Danon The Kid returned to his stable at Ritto at the end of last month and
was recently seen working uphill at the training track under jockey Yasunari Iwata, although trainer Takayuki Yasuda has revealed that Yuichi Kitamura will ride him in the end-of-season mile feature.

Everyone’s favourite, Sodashi, has also been working towards her effort in the same race, posting a 51.7 seconds for 800m in her training at Ritto. “She’s well in herself and that piece of work was good enough,” said the trainer of the ‘White Wonder’, Naosuke Sugai. “She’s probably lighter on her feet than the male horses she’ll encounter in her next race.”

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