Keiba Diary: Liberty Island in the Oka Sho spotlight
Adrian Webber has the latest happenings around the JRA from Classic musings to Kawada’s continuing hot streak, to the Ho O man’s Group 1 ambitions.
April Fools’ weekend came and went, and there didn’t appear to be any tricks during any of the 48 races at the JRA’s Hanshin and Nakayama fixtures to warrant an April Fool tag. Mind you, punters might have been scratching their heads a bit after T O Sirius ran away with the Miho Stakes at Nakayama on Sunday, but the big-striding five-year-old just kept finding more, and, at odds of 60/1, he certainly made fools out of those who thought he would come back to the field and capitulate.
A man who’s certainly nobody’s fool is jockey Yuga Kawada, who added another five winners to his season’s tally at the weekend, although he couldn’t get the big Group 1 prize on Weltreisende. The reigning champion jockey now has a nice cushion of eight wins over Christophe Lemaire, who is currently second in the rankings.
All right, Jack
The G1 Osaka Hai in fact confirmed what connections of Jack d’Or have been thinking for some time, that the striking chestnut was a Group 1 winner in the making. The five-year-old son of Maurice was given a great ride by the maestro himself, Yutaka Take, and ‘Jack’ put in one of his best performances to date to make the running and then hold on at the line from the fast-finishing (and a shade unlucky) Stars On Earth and Lemaire. Jack d’Or definitely got the best out of the lush grass cover, which is how the turf currently looks at Hanshin.
— Team Iwata (@JayRAye02) April 2, 2023
Liberty Island, the super-smart three-year-old filly by Duramente, puts her big reputation on the line this weekend in the G1 Oka Sho, the Japanese 1,000 Guineas over a mile. She’ll have plenty of opposition (with a full field of 18 runners expected), but if the filly is as good as many think, will any of the others have a realistic chance of beating her?
That man Take rides the unbeaten filly Light Quantum, trained by his brother Koshiro, and Japan’s greatest jockey will be looking for a sixth win in the classic, but his first since 2014. Harper from the stable of Yasuo Tomomichi looks promising too, and those talented fillies will let us see just how good last season’s top juvenile filly Liberty Island really is.
Another big name to step out for the first time this year will be last year’s G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes winner, Dolce More.