JRA (Japan) Racing – Stakes Analysis – April 3rd

This date has been circled on my calendar since the Japan Cup was run last November.  Tonight we see the return of superstar 4yo colt Contrail to the races.  I assumed that Triple Crown winner Contrail would be given a run or two in Japan before his international adventures (Arc, Breeder’s Cup, etc) begin and indeed here we are.

It won’t be a cakewalk for him. He’ll face a familiar foe from the Triple Crown trail in the form of Salios as well as crack sprinter/miler Gran Alegria.  Throw X-factor Lei Papale in and you come up with a juicy renewal.

G1 Osaka Hai – 10f Turf, 4yo & up – Race 11 – 2:40am ET/11:40 pm PT

2 – Salios – First start of the year for this 4yo son of Heart’s Cry out of the G1 German Oaks winner Salomina.  He spent most of 2020 being one upped by Contrail on the triple crown trail (2nd in the Japanese 2000 Guineas and Derby) and hopes to turn the tide on that foe today.  Ended the year with a respectable 5th in the G1 Mile Championship (drew 17 and started poorly) after a stellar performance in the G2 Manichi Okan (9f Turf), winning by 3 easy lengths.  There is a perceived lack of pace in here so expect to see him sitting 2-3 lengths off probable leader Lei Papale, making his move turning for home and holding off his rivals Contrail and Gran Alegria.  Heart’s Cry offspring tend to mature with age (Suave Richard, etc) so can only see him improving as a 4yo.

7 – Contrail – Is starting to see the hype levels of his sire (Deep Impact) in Japan.  The 2020 Triple Crown Winner did little wrong last year, with the only blemish being a very respectable runner up in the G1 Japan Cup to super mare Almond Eye.  He comes in fresh and looks to add to his G1 resume today.  Is 3 for 3 on right handed tracks, including two G1 scores at this distance.  Jockey Fukunaga will need to keep him closer to the pace today, usually allowing Contrail to come out of the gate and position where the horse feels comfortable.  That tactic (in my opinion) cost him the Japan Cup and he has to be aware not to let the leaders slip away. I’m willing to take a stand against him due to his odds but I may be eating a nice big serving of crow after the race.

8 – Lei Papale – This filly is the true X-factor in the race and will certainly have a say in the outcome.  High on talent but this fragile 4yo filly by Deep Impact has had to be nursed along, only starting 5 times in her career.  Still undefeated after climbing the class ladder, she scored in the G3 Challenge Cup in early December at this track (2 for 2 at Hanshin) and distance in her last start.  She doesn’t need the lead but her high cruising speed naturally places her close to the pace.  Candice Hare has selected this filly as her pick and can understand why. If allowed to do her thing on or near the front end she’ll take this field a long way.  I don’t think she’s good enough yet for G1 company but don’t fault you for taking a shot with her at a price.

12 – Gran Alegria – If she ran in the G1 last week she would’ve been my top choice, as she’s in my opinion a world class sprinter/miler.  The daughter of Deep Impact out of the G1 winning mare Tapitsfly is trying a mile and a quarter for the first time in her career after never racing longer than a mile. She’s won 3 G1 races in a row coming into this so you know the class is there as are the connections (Lemaire and trainer Fujisawa).  Expect to see her mid pack and show off her usual quick turn of foot at at track she loves (3 wins from 4 starts).  My issue is you’re having a mare trying the longest distance in her life vs. a tough group of improving 4yo’s (the three above) and she’ll probably be 2nd choice in the wagering.  Will use her defensively in wagering but not willing to put my eggs in her basket (sorry for the Easter reference!).

4 – Bravas – 5yo son of King Kamehameha out of multiple G1 winning Deep Impact mare Verxina comes in off of a VERY lackluster effort in the G2 Kinko Sho.  The running lines don’t tell the story however as he fought his rider the whole way after being stuck down on the inside with nowhere to go.  In addition, you just don’t want to be on the inside part of the track at Chukyo (as we saw in the G1 last week).  He was competitive in G3 company prior to that start and is one who likes the track and distance (never worse than second at Hanshin – finishing just behind Lei Papale in the G3 Challenge Cup). Willing to throw out his last but think he rounds out the backend of exotics here.

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