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Rain forecast challenges top contenders in Takarazuka Kinen


On Wednesday in Japan, contenders for the 57th running of the G1 Takarazuka Kinen went through their final paces under the watchful eyes of connections and the media. Expected top picks were all given a final fast gallop before the 2200m turf event at Osaka’s Hanshin Racecourse this coming Sunday.
Duramente, Kitasan Black and Ambitious are the standouts in the field of 17.
Mirco Demuro has the ride on Duramente, but did not ride fast work on Wednesday, 22 June. The Miho-based Duramente worked under an assistant to trainer Noriyuki Hori. He was given 5 furlongs over slightly soft ground and, working in tandem with an open-class stablemate, clocked 68.9 seconds with a 12.5-second final furlong and no urging.
It will be Duramente’s first time over the Hanshin course. Demuro said, “It will be the inside course with a short stretch, but I think it’ll be OK for him.” The jockey said the four turns of the race call for a good position, which he plans to secure. Last year, Duramente won the G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m) at Nakayama coming from far off the pace, but Demuro said “that would be tough over this course.”
Rain in the forecast may pose a problem for the 4-year-old colt. Demuro admitted bad weather “would be a bit of a problem.” He also said though, “he’s a very strong horse and I very much want him to win.” Demuro has not notched a major race since February.
The field of the spring gala Takarazuka Kinen is chosen in part by fan ballot. Garnering the most ballots was this year’s winner of the G1Tenno Sho Spring, Kitasan Black.
Trainer Hisashi Shimizu spoke to the press after fast work on 22 June. Though Yutaka Take is slated for the ride Sunday, jockey Yu Kuroiwa took the reins for morning work, which consisted of a 7-furlong run in tandem over the woodchip course at Ritto. Kitasan Black clocked 97.8 seconds in total with a final furlong of 12.2 seconds and no urging.

Shimizu said, “His movement was good. His time was good and he looked like he had a lot more to give. I think we’ll be heading to the race in good shape.”
Kitasan Black has raced successfully over distances from 1800m to 3200m. “I can’t say what his best distance is,” said Shimizu. “He’s a very versatile horse with good racing sense and he can handle a number of distances.” It will be Kitasan Black’s first time over the Hanshin 2200m, but Shimizu said “I have no worries whatsoever.” Shimizu said he would like to have a fast track on raceday, “but, all the horses will be racing under the same conditions.”
Ambitious, a 4-year-old Deep Impact colt, is in the spotlight after a winning run in the G2 Osaka Hai (2000m) at Hanshin on 3 April. Ambitious was given a hard gallop up the Ritto hill course on 22 June. Working in tandem with a lower-class horse, he covered 5 furlongs in 51. 2 seconds.
“He’s coming off a bit of a spell but his movement is good and he’s light on his feet. I wanted to push him and be sure,” said trainer Hidetaka Otonashi. Ambitious has yet to win a top-level event but Otonashi said, “I’m hoping he’ll give us a run worthy of his name.”
On 22 June, Christophe Lemaire rode the 6-year-old Lovely Day over 6 furlongs on the flat woodchip course heavy from rain. He clocked 83.2 seconds in total working with an open-class horse. Lemaire pushed him at the end and covered the final furlong in 12 seconds. “It was a very nice piece of work,” Lemaire said. “He was more relaxed than he was last week and he had nice acceleration in the stretch. I’d say he’s in very good condition.”

Lemaire said he too was concerned about soft ground. “The ground was a bit soft in Hong Kong too and he had a difficult time in the stretch,” Lemaire said of Lovely Day’s fourth-place finish under Joao Moreira in the G1 APQEII Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on 24 April.


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