At least three exciting Grade races were held during the past weekend at Japanese tracks, while the most prestigious one definitely was the G1 QEII Cup, where the favourites totally failed to impress. Outsider Akai Ito took the spoils among fillies and mares at Hanshin as both Akaitorino Musume and Lei Papale simply didn’t shine, while for the winner, it was the very first victory at the Grade scene where she didn’t even managed to place before Sunday. At Hanshin, two-year-old Serifos recorded his first G2 victory after running down Sonnet Phrase, and Soliste Thunder scored the G3 Musashino Stakes in Tokyo.
The G3 event held on the dirt surface in Tokyo attracted a varied field of three-year-old and older horses who clashed at the distance of a mile, while most of the purse of 72,820,000 Yen Soliste Thunder (56-10) trained by Daisuke Takayanagi took home. The six-year-old horse had a lovely trip under Keita Tosaki, settled in the midpack, and in the final turn, he charged forward to secure his very first Grade victory. Soliste Thunder commenced his finish from the outside, therefore had a clear path in front of him and simply saw his rivals tiring out, while the bay stayed on strongly. In the end, he crossed the wire in 1m 35.00s with the advantage of one and ¼ of a length to eight-year-old Air Spinel (54-10), who struggled with some serious lack of space in the final stretch. The G1 February Stakes runner-up was blocked by his rivals, and once he finally saw the light, he managed only second in front of the third Omega Rainbow (77-10).
At first sight, it’s clear the race belonged among the older horses as the only three-year-old, Smasher (119-1), was quite disappointing when finishing 11th. The winner of the race from 2019, Wonder Lider (77-10) was ninth, also providing an underwhelming performance.
Daily Hai Nisai Stakes
Seven two-year-old colts and fillies competed not only for the purse of 72,360,000 Yen but also for their premiere victory at the G2 scene. On the turf surface at the Hanshin Racecourse, unbeaten Serifos (7-5) took the role of a favourite, but he didn’t rush anywhere at the distance of a mile as Yusuke Fujioka held him in the midfield. Only in the final turn did he urge his mount to improve his position, which the Mitsumasa Nakauchida trained bay colt did, and turning home wide, he started his attack for the front position. He was closing on the leading filly Sonnet Phrase (2-1), and even though it looked like she was about to put up a huge fight, Serifos had it under control and maintained his unbeaten record by a neck in 1m 35.10s. Sonnet Phrase secured second place as a total outsider Kawakita Reverie (110-1) took third.
Although the winning colt didn’t seem to handle the initial pace, Serifos definitely catch the eyes of racing fans thanks to his diligence as he was just adamant about scoring the race, but truth be told, Sonnet Phrase displayed a fine will to win as well, given she bumped into her rivals in the final stretch. Still, she managed to recover and didn’t disappoint at all, which can’t be said about Purpur Ray (41-10) who looked to have every chance at the bigging of the final stretch, but he tired himself out quickly and didn’t even hold on to the third place.
One of the most prestigious races for three-year-old and older fillies and mares on turf resulted in a massive upset in 2021 as all the preferred participants had nothing to offer on the turf surface, while Akai Ito (64-1) was the one to strike the gold at the distance of a mile and three furlongs. The four-year-old charge of Kazuya Nakatake failed to place at the G2 scene and achieved no Grade placement to begin with; however, she just thrived on Sunday at the Hanshin Racecourse, spent the 204,660,000 Yen race in the midfield, and piloted by Hideaki Miyuki, she turned wide for home. Still, the manoeuvre ensured her to have enough space for her finish, during which she squeezed G1 winner Akaitorino Musume (12-5), passed her by, and bagged the race in 2m 12.10s. Stellaria (241-10) ran in second by 2 lengths, while being the only participant expected to place who actually managed to as third Clavel (46-1) belonged among outsides alongside the winning filly. She proved to be a smart G3 performer, yet the four-year-old simply surprised by such a bold run she delivered on Sunday.
The rest of the purse money was seized by other outsiders, Soft Fruit (73-1) and Izu Jo No Kiseki (117-1), and only then the favourites crossed the line. In terms of the Shuka Sho scorer, Akaitorino Musume, it was already said she faced a collision with the subsequent winner, and even though she might’ve placed without getting bumped into, she didn’t look about to fight for the win this time. It’s possible she was tired after her brave attempts in the Classic races, so finishing seventh could be excused in her case.
However, Lei Papale was once again the leading chance, but as in the G2 race in September, her moment in the spotlight came too early. The undeniably classy filly won the G1 Osaka Hai in April, upon which she took gallant third in the Tarazuka Kinen. Still, her two following performances were below par as she simply looked great when turning for home but faltered in the final stage. This time, she had to settle for sixth, and it’s a question of whether she needs a shorter distance or maybe a change in her running tactics. Or this year’s QEII Cup was just one of these races where favourites didn’t fire without a clear cause because it’s something that just happens in the sport of horse racing from time to time.