By Nicholas Godfrey
Japan: British bookmakers William Hill are struggling to identify a favourite for this weekend’s Japanese highlight, the 64th running of the Osaka Hai (7.40am BST) at Hanshin on Sunday – a race packed with horses who could emerge as potential Arc contenders come the autumn.
Raised to G1 status in 2017, the 1m2f contest features a number of top-level scorers, among them a pair of Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) winners in the veteran seven-year-old Makahiki (2016) – a nice ride for dual South African champ Lyle Hewitson – and Wagnerian (2018). Both are trained by Yasuo Tomomichi.
However, others with more recent form are preferred in the market, among them Blast Onepiece (Masahiro Otake/Yuga Kawada), the 2018 Arima Kinen hero who got back to winning ways in G2 company on his seasonal debut at Nakayama in January after a disappointing effort in the Arc.
Originally installed as 11-4 favourite with Hills, he is now 100-30, a shade bigger than market leaders Danon Kingly and Chrono Genesis, joint favourites on the 3-1 mark for the 260 million yen (£1.95m) event.
Danon Kingly (Kiyoshi Hagiwara/Norihiro Yokoyama), beat Sunday’s rival Lucky Lilac (Mikio Matsunaga/Mirco Demuro) by a length and three-quarters in an impressive start to his four-year-old campaign in the Nakayama Kinen a month ago. While the son of Deep Impact has yet to win a G1, he was a neck second to Roger Barows in last year’s Derby by Roger Barows.
Shuka Sho (fillies’ St Leger) winner Chrono Genesis (Takashi Saito/Yuichi Kitamura) also scored on her four-year-old debut, comfortably beating last year’s Oaks second Curren Bouquetd’or in the Kyoto Kinen.
Osaka Hai betting
William Hill: 3 Chrono Genesis, Danon Kingly, 100-30 Blast Onepiece, 9-2 Lucky Lilac, 6 Wagnerian, 20 Makahiki, Stay Foolish, 25 bar
Shall we talk about it?
“In last year’s race as the favourite, he got well back and the slow pace didn’t suit him. I also think we worried a bit too much about his weight last year. In his latest race it was good to get a result and I was pleased about that after his trip overseas. In recent training, particularly since two weeks ago, he’s been spot on and I think his best distance is 2,000 metres.”
Masahiro Otake (trainer)
“Now she’s older, she’s developed more and is stronger; it’s noticeable compared to last year. In training she’s done well and posted good times, but with her last piece of work we just concentrated on the finish. 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.”
Takashi Saito (trainer)
“I think he’s come on well since his last race – that was his first run for a while. In training he’s been moving well and his times have been faster than I expected, so he’ll have done enough going into the race. He’s in good physical shape. It’ll be his first time at Hanshin and this time the distance is 2,000 metres, as well as it being a strong field, so it’s important that all goes right.”
Kiyoshi Hagiwara (trainer)
“After coming back from overseas, she has regained her condition and put on 11kg. In her last race she ran pretty well and she will definitely improve for that. She’s done well in training and I’m not anxious about anything. The Hanshin 2,000 metres doesn’t pose any problems, and she’s good enough to take on and run well against the male horses. She’s sharpened up from her last start and is ready.”
Mikio Matsunaga (trainer)
“There’s a really fresh feel to him, and that’s how I wanted things to be so that we could aim him at this race. It’s been good to see him get things right in training, and his responses and breathing have been great. He’s in really good condition and I’m expecting him to run a big race.”
Yasuo Tomomichi (trainer)
• Trainer quotes provided by the Japan Racing Association