Superstar clash in Japan: Gran Alegria has Contrail in sights for 2021 return

Horse Racing Gran Alegria
Gran Alegria (Christophe Lemaire): Japan’s top sprinter/miler will step up in trip for her next start. Photo: Japan Racing Association

By Jon Lees

Japan: Gran Alegria, Japan’s champion sprinter and miler, will move up in trip for her first start of 2021 – setting up a clash with last year’s Triple Crown winner Contrail, who is not going to Dubai.

UPDATE: APRIL 4: Osaka Hai: Lei Papale steals the show ahead of Contrail and Gran Alegria at rain-hit Hanshin

Gran Alegria’s connections have nominated the G1 Osaka Hai, over 1m2f, on April 4 for her return to action, a race which is now also on Contrail’s spring schedule after an apparent change of heart for the Triple Crown winner.

Shunsuke Yoshida, who represents owners Sunday Racing, said the decision to target the Osaka Hai with Gran Alegria was made after discussing the options with jockey Christophe Lemaire. Trained by Kazuo Fujisawa, Gran Alegria has won seven of her ten starts, four at G1 level, but none beyond 1m.

The daughter of Deep Impact ended last year by reeling off a hat-trick of spectacular performances, which started with her defeat of Almond Eye in the Yasuda Kinen and was followed with victories in the Sprinters Stakes and Mile Championship.

The Osaka Hai is also expected to feature on the spring schedule of Contrail, who became only the third undefeated horse to win the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas), Tokyo Yushun  (Japanese Derby) and Kikuka Sho (Japanese St Leger) last year.

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi had talked of using the Dubai Turf as a stepping stone to the Osaka Hai but did not nominate Contrail, who suffered his only defeat in the Japan Cup at the hands of Almond Eye.

Horse Racing Sodashi
Sodashi: cult horse near to a return to training ahead of Classic campaign

April could be an exciting month for Japanese racing with the Osaka Hai, run at Hanshin, preceding another highly anticipated return to action with the all-white ‘idol horse’ Sodashi due begin her bid for Classic glory in the Oka Sho (Japanese 1,000 Guineas).

The daughter of popular spotted-white mare Buchiko became the first white horse to win a G1 in Japan when she won the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, part of an unbeaten four-race campaign. Connections have reported she is expected to return to training next week.

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