Horse Racing
Rising star seen as biggest threat to Efforia in Osaka Hai

31/03/2022 18:06

On the books, three-time G1 winner Efforia towers above the competition in the expected field of 16 for this Sunday’s (3 April) G1 Osaka Hai (2000m).

Returning from his winning run in the G1 Arima Kinen (2500m) on 26 December, Efforia takes on his fifth start over 2000m, but it will be his first time at Hanshin and there’s new talent on the stage.

With two big wins over the distance – the G1 Tenno Sho Autumn at Tokyo and the G1 Satsuki Sho at Nakayama – Hanshin’s right-handed, relatively tight-turned track is not expected to pose any problems for Efforia. An Epiphaneia colt weighing upward of 510kg (approx. 1122lb), he returned to the Miho training centre on 3 March.

Trainer Yuichi Shikato said: “He had a bit of extra weight on him but his training has been going well.

“Last week he was still a bit heavy, but we gave him a good, hard work-out (1200m on heavy ground in 1m 23.1s). On Wednesday (30 March) he worked with two others and looked good (1m 22.5s over 1200m of slightly heavy ground). Jockey Takeshi Yokoyama rode both this week and last and said the colt had improved from last week.”

Except for his debut in Sapporo, Efforia has only raced close to home. Shikato, however, was unconcerned about the long haul to the venue in the west.

“When he was younger, he was pretty restless in the van, but he’s quieted down now,” the trainer said.

“I plan to ship him a day early and school him. And, since he has won over a tighter course before, I’m not worried about Hanshin.”

Rising star Jack d’Or is seen as Efforia’s biggest rival. Not only will the Osaka Hai be the four-year-old colt’s first G1, it’s also only his second graded-stakes start. However, the son of Maurice is a 2000m specialist and, after finishing second in his first two starts, he has only missed the winner’s circle once. He’s on a five-race winning streak from last autumn, his past four finishes were wire to wire, the last in record time.

That race was the G2 Kinko Sho (2000m) at Chukyo on 13 March, where he toppled last year’s Osaka Hai champion Lei Papale by two and a half lengths with a time of 1m 57.2s over 2000m on fast turf.

Though his best results have come racing left-handed, the colt broke his maiden over the Hanshin 2000m and his recent times have been progressively faster and impressive. This will be his first time saddled with 126lb but, weighing in at over 500kg (approx. 1100lb), he should be able to handle it. Three other hopefuls, however – Lei Papale, Win Marilyn and Akai Ito – will be favoured with 5lb less.

Nevertheless, agile and sharp around the bends, Jack d’Or is expected to give Efforia a run for his money.

Lei Papale returns for her second run in the Osaka Hai. Unbeaten from her debut, her win of the 2021 Osaka Hai came on her sixth start and as her first top-level competition. Since then, however, she has failed to reach the winner’s circle, with a third, sixth and sixth in her next three G1 bids, the most recent the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

She returned to Japan for her second in the Kinko Sho but was carrying 123lb, the same as the winner, and this time has the weight advantage. The five-year-old daughter of Deep Impact has two wins over the Hanshin 2000m and rain in the forecast may mean the ground will, like last year, be slow.

Other names of interest include five-year-old Akai Ito, winner of the 2021 G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2200m) at Hanshin and who is coming off a third in the Kinko Sho. Arrivo, a Duramente colt who just won a G3 over 1800m at Kokura, is expected to have ace Yutaka Take in the saddle.