During the past weekend, two exciting Graded races took place at the Japanese tracks. On Saturday, G1 winner T O Keynes returned to the winning ways with a bang in the G3 Heian Stakes in Chukyo, upon which three-year-old fillies clashed in the G1 Yushun Himba on Sunday. In Tokyo, Stars on Earth once again prevailed, and after bagging the Japanese 1000 Guineas, she also scored the Japanese Oaks.
The G3 dirt event welcomed a field of sixteen four-year-old and older horses that competed for the purse of 72,810,000 Yen. At the distance of a mile and one and a half furlongs, T O Keynes (4-5) was the clear shot who didn’t hesitate to score by two and a half lengths.
The five-year-old horse had a good start, settled behind the leaders at the fence, and once the pack hit the final stretch, Kohei Matsuyama aboard urged the chestnut to go forward. Smoothly, T O Keynes outran all of his rivals and crossed the wire in 1m 57.00s in front of Keiai Purple (22-1), with Meisho Hario (6-1) taking third.
The Daisuke Takayanagi bound horse showed some tremendous talent in the season 2021 that T O Keynes concluded with a commanding victory in the G1 Champions Cup. The ongoing season offered an interesting tilt for the connection in the richest race in the world – the Saudi Cup, where T O Keynes just didn’t fire, though.
The son of Sinister Minister trailed home in eighth, but when returning to Japan, he was expected to score as nobody in the field simply showed anything similar to what the favourite did. Still, Keiai Purple ran a brilliant race in second, easily holding off third Meisho Hario, who delivered his standard.
Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks)
The second Classic race for three-year-old fillies was held at the distance of a mile and a half, offering the purse of 306,220,000 Yen. In the field of seventeen participants, Stars on Earth (11-2) drew on her Japanese 1000 Guineas (Oka Sho) victory and secured a Classic double in the 2022 Yushun Himba, running away by one and ¼ of a length.
With Christopher Lemaire aboard, the bay daughter of Duramente settled in the midfield, and after a patient ride, the jockey took the filly outside where Stars on Earth charged for the lead in the final stretch. She prevailed in 2m 23.90s, leaving Stunning Rose (27-1) in second with Namur (61-10) recording a great run in the third.
Stars on Earth, trained by Mizuki Takayanagi, has always looked like a decent filly as she was collecting fine places among the good company; however, she developed into an outstanding specimen in 2022. After taking more preferred contestants off guard in the Japanese 1000 Guineas, she was more respected on Sunday; still, she had to prove herself to be capable of handling the trip, which she was.
It took her some time to rally properly, but subsequently, she swung by Stunning Rose and went for the win. Stunning Rose took second place in front of Namur, who spent the race in the midfield next to Stars on Earth; however, she opted to finish in between the fillies and more or less made amends for her underwhelming effort in the first Classic. Pin High (51-1) came home in fourth before fifth Presage Lift (138-10).
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