David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Omega Perfume on path to Japanese racing history, once again

A fifth Tokyo Daishoten is on the agenda later this year as the popular grey heads to Oí on Wednesday for the Teio Sho.

It has become a familiar sight at Oí in late December: as the winter sun dips low, the grey galloper with the dark charcoal mane closes on the front rank into the fourth and final turn and then hammers down for all he is worth under a determined Mirco Demuro.

Four times that has happened: four times in a row Omega Perfume has won the local government administered NAR circuit’s only fully-accredited Group One prize, the 2000-metre Tokyo Daishoten. No other horse in Japan’s storied racing history has won any individual Group One flat race more than two times, and, for that remarkable feat, the seven-year-old entire enjoys star status beyond the grit and grind of the dirt track scene.

And he is not finished yet. By rights, he should be enjoying his first season at stud, but despite the announcement of his retirement after that famous fourth win, Omega Perfume is still racing. A U-turn by connections saw him return to win the Group Three Antares Stakes at Hanshin in April; this Wednesday he will attempt a second win in the Teio Sho at his favoured Oí and down the line the big aim is a fifth Tokyo Daishoten triumph at the same Tokyo city track.

“I’m just glad he is back and I’m happy I’m riding him,” Demuro told Asian Racing Report.

The Italian will take the reins again for the prestigious Teio Sho – designated Listed for international grading purposes – having missed his Antares win due to a commitment to ride in the Group One Satsuki Sho.

“The horse still feels young and fresh, he loves to run and loves what he is doing,” Demuro continued. “When they said he was going to retire it was sad news for me because he was still a happy horse and when you find a champion like this, you want to ride it all your life.”

Star status

In Japan, the JRA’s turf megastars hog the spotlight’s bright centre but there is still room enough for a standout dirt runner to shine and Omega Perfume is basking in that beam.

“He’s very popular because he did something very unusual, so he’s famous for that but he’s a superstar like maybe Stradivarius in England, he’s not a megastar like Sodashi or Almond Eye. He’s a dirt horse and that makes a difference,” said Demuro.

“He has done his winning mostly on the NAR local racecourses. He never won the Champions Cup, which is the JRA race, and that makes a difference, too. But the Tokyo Daishoten is a tough race to win and the best dirt horses run there, but sometimes people look at the difference between JRA and NAR and local wins are seen to be not as strong, but it’s just perception.”

Dirt track racing, after all, makes up a sizable portion of the JRA programme and even the great champion Oguri Cap started his career with nine wins from 11 starts on the surface before going on to gain legend status with triumphs in the Arima Kinen, Mile Championship and Yasuda Kinen.

The strength of the dirt scene in Japan has been highlighted at Meydan in the past two years with Chuwa Wizard placing second and then third in the Dubai World Cup. It is a mightily competitive arena with the likes of T O Keynes, Café Pharoah, Gold Dream, Le Vent Se Leve and Chrysoberyl to contend with in recent seasons.


Omega Perfume, the King of Oi, is aiming for another feature success on Wednesday. (Photo: JBIS).

The right traits

Omega Perfume’s Florida-bred sire, Swept Overboard – successful in a pair of Grade Ones on the dirt in the US – passed away at Breeders’ Stallion Station in November 2017, the same year that his son went through the Chiba Sale ring as a two-year-old for ¥16,200,000. 

His dam, Omega Fragrance – who also raced in owner Reiko Hara’s pink silks – was a three-time winner on the dirt in minor grade.   

The juvenile originally, went Ritto and the stable of Takayuki Yasuda, who conditioned the great Lord Kanaloa, and then, after a debut win, to his son Shogo. He has taken Omega Perfume’s record to 11 wins from 24 starts. “The trainer has done a very good job with him,” said Demuro. “The horse is seven now, but from the first start he was a lovely horse and we knew then that he was a good horse, he always showed us that he had ability.”

His first Tokyo Daishoten at the end of 2018 was a coming-of-age race as he defeated the Group One stalwart Gold Dream by three-quarters of a length; a year later he scored by a length from Nonkono Yume; his third win saw him dig deep to hold Casino Fountain by a neck; and for his fourth victory, he overcame a hefty bump at the top of the straight,to beat Clincher by half a length.

“He’s tough in his races but he’s always a very gentle and clever horse; he knows what to do in a race,” Demuro continued.

“Sometimes he can break very slowly: when you’re the race favourite in Japan and you break slowly, it’s not a good thing, but then he always gives his best and often gets first to the wire, and that’s the most important thing in a race.”

An Oí affair

Omega Perfume clearly relishes racing at Oí. His record at the course – located in the built-up Shinagawa area of Tokyo, close to the bay front and not too far from Haneda airport – reads five wins and three seconds from nine starts there.

His only unplaced effort at Oí, in fact, came when fifth in last year’s Teio Sho but that followed a runner-up finish in the contest in 2020 and a victory in the same race, under Damian Lane, in 2019.

“He loves it at Oí,” said Demuro. “He prefers running a right turn than left turn; the long straight suits him and he has always done well there.”

Demuro was particularly impressed with his Antares Stakes win under Kazuo Yokoyama when the horse weighed in at his lifetime heaviest – 464 kilograms – and shouldered a 59-kilogram impost, conceding weight to all 15 of his rivals.

“It is very difficult in Japan to win with this amount of weight but he won very easily and impressed a lot of people,” said Demuro, who noted that expectations increased after that performance, for his Teio Sho tilt and beyond.

Such an effort suggested Omega Perfume has plenty still to offer. With Yasuda likely to plot another light campaign into the Tokyo Daishoten, who is to say that the old charcoal mane won’t be flying once again as he rounds the home turn for an incredible fifth charge to victory?  

“We will do our best,” added Demuro. “You never know in racing.”



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