By Nicholas Godfrey
Hanshin: Osaka Hai G1 ¥260m (£1.7m) 2,000 metres (1m2f), turf, 4yo+
Lei Papale (Tomokazu Takano/Yuga Kawada)
Wet ground and a surprise result in the Osaka Hai as front-running filly Lei Papale led all the way to silence the big guns Contrail and Gran Alegria in the mud at Hanshin.
The eagerly anticipated G1 event was billed as a clash between the superstar pair, who dominated the market with Triple Crown winner Contrail sent off odds-on favourite.
However, after rain hit Hanshin during the afternoon, the 11-1 chance Lei Papale was able to extend her unbeaten record to six as she surged away in the stretch to establish her own claims as the new star in the Japanese equine firmament.
Despite an awkward start, Yuga Kawada was able to claim the lead after a furlong or so and then dictated matters on the winner before kicking clear off the home turn, after which she never looked in danger.
“The X-factor is gonna cause the upset,” suggested the Japan Racing Association’s excellent Murray Johnson as the lightly raced daughter of Deep Impact made all for an authoritative four-length win.
Mudlark Mozu Bello, a 69-1 chance, stayed on for second a neck ahead of Contrail, who made a tepid challenge outside Gran Alegria three wide in the straight, never really looking entirely comfortable on his first run on ground softer than good (officially described as yielding).
Without ever looking likely to win, star sprinter-miler Gran Alegria gave a slightly bolder show and was second in the straight only to be caught for the places inside the last 50 yards on her first attempt at the 1m2f distance. She was a neck behind Contrail in fourth.
Lei Papale had won her first graded stakes only on her previous outing in December, when she claimed the G3 Challenge Cup on faster ground over the same course and distance.
“I had always believed in her outstanding talent since her debut but of course it was a tough ask this time against top-class rivals after registering our first grade-race victory,” said winning jockey Yuga Kawada as he completed back-to-back G1 wins after taking last week’s Takarazuka Kinen with Danon Smash.
“She felt good during the post-parade and she was able to jump into her rhythm throughout the race without being pressed.
“I was able to shift her out without interfering the horses coming from behind for her stretch run as there was still plenty room between her and the rest of the field at the top of the stretch.
“To still have the strength to find another gear over the turf condition today … she is an exceptional filly to keep her speed right to the end. Now that she’s a G1 winner, expectations will suddenly be quite high from now on!”
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