Japan: Take Brothers Team Up With Undefeated Water Navillera In Sunday’s Hanshin Juvenile Fillies

While 12 Japan-based horses battle it out in Hong Kong, Hanshin Racecourse hosts the top-level action at home and this time it’s not serving as a temporary venue for a Kyoto regular. It’s a Hanshin tradition – the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, and Sunday, Dec. 12 marks the 73rd running of the highlight for 2-year-old fillies, run over one mile on turf and carrying a winner’s prize of JPY65 million (about US$570,000).

Twenty-three youngsters have been nominated for 18 berths and 11 of them are tied for earnings, which means a drawing will decide which seven secure the remaining gates.

The field will boast four graded-stakes winners with the unbeaten Water Navillera in the spotlight, having pocketed all three of her wins at different courses, including Hanshin. Circle of Life won the Artemis Stakes in October, and is fielded by Sakae Kunieda, who won this race with Apapane in 2009. And, Namura Lycoris, who clinched the Hakodate Nisai Stakes, returns after five months off. Racing under the same colors is Namura Clair, winner of the Kokura Nisai Stakes.

Water Navillera, the talented daughter of new stallion Silver State, by Deep Impact, won her first start wire to wire and hasn’t stopped winning since. She’s three for three, with wins over the Sapporo 1,500, the Nakayama 1,600, and the Hanshin 1,400. Her second win was claimed with the field’s fastest time over the final three furlongs – 33.6 seconds. Her most recent first was in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes where she traveled in second position and held on solidly despite the early high pace.

It was the first graded-stakes win by progeny of Silver State, whose short but successful career (four wins from five starts) ended early due to tendonitis. Of his 53 sons and daughters currently running in JRA races, nine of them have already brought a total of 13 wins. Possessing keen racing sense, Water Navillera’s main concern is her excitability. Trained at Ritto by former jockey Koshiro Take and pegged to be ridden by elder brother Yutaka, success on Sunday would bring Koshiro his first G1 victory since opening his stable in 2018. Yutaka has (from 21 bids) only one win of the race, back in 1994 with Yamanin Paradise when the race was known as the Hanshin Sansai Himba Stakes.

Races are run to the right at Hanshin and the 1,600 meters for the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies uses the outer B course (rail is moved in three meters on the straight, four meters on bends). Starting in the backstretch, it’s nearly 450 meters to the first turn, then a slight upward slope at the end of the backstretch. With about 600 meters to go, the track dips two meters over the next 400 meters, then rises two meters again over 100 meters before leveling out with less than 100 meters to go.

The pace tends to be relaxed in the Hanshin outer 1,600 meters, and, in Grade 1 competitions especially, it can prove difficult for those making their crucial move turning onto the stretch to reach the top in time. The majority of recent winners have travelled close to the pace.

Generally speaking, unbeaten fillies and the race favorites have fared well in this race, having claimed six of the race’s last 10 runnings. Over the same time period, the favorite has made the top three six times, with four wins. However, a surprise upset cannot be ruled out. Double-digit picks finished in the top 3 twice over the last decade. And, in 2012, the top three in finishing order were the fifth, 15th and 10th pick at the window.

Vodka, who clocked 1 minute 33.1 seconds in 2006, still holds the race record.

The main event is the No. 11 race on Hanshin’s Sunday card of 12. Post time is 3:40 p.m. All fillies race under 54 kg.

Here’s a look at the other expected popular picks:

Sternatia: A Lord Kanaloa filly, Sternatia’s dam L’Archetto, by Falbrav, should add some distance to her repertoire. And from her 1-2 in her two starts thus far, both over the mile, it looks like it has. In her debut amid mixed company at Niigata, she won by three lengths and displayed fine speed in the final stage (32.7 seconds over the final 600 meters). Last out, Sternatia raced handily and patiently to finish only half a length behind the colt Command Line in the Oct. 9 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup. Sternatia is full brother to Stelvio, runnerup in the Asahi Futurity Stakes in 2017 and winner of the 2018 Mile Championship at only 3 years of age. Yuichi Fukunaga was up for Sternatia’s two starts to date, but with Fukunaga in Hong Kong for the International Races, Christophe Lemaire, out in front of the jockey standings with an incredible 60-race lead, should lend confidence in the filly’s first start to the right.

Circle of Life: Winner of the Grade 3 Artemis Stakes at Tokyo, Circle of Life went head-to-head in the stretch with Belle Cresta (eventual runnerup) and Shigeru Iwaizake (third place), but her time of 33.5 seconds over the final three furlongs topped the field and saw her home the winner. The Epiphaneia-sired Circle of Life has matured considerably in her three starts that have brought her a 3-1-1 over the mile and 1,800 meters. It’ll be her first time at Hanshin, but her win at Nakayama bodes well, and though she does have to travel from her Miho base, she weathered the trip to Niigata for her debut well.

Trainer Sakae Kunieda said: “Her workout on Dec. 2 was a hard one and since then she’s only been breezed. I’d like her to have a bit more distance but with the long stretch of the Hanshin outer course, there shouldn’t be any problems.”

Namur: A Harbinger filly with two starts, two wins, both over the mile, Namur has an exceptional late kick. She hasn’t yet raced to the right and she’s only moving up from the one-win class, but she has race sense, evident from her debut, when, she shifted gears from second position and shot over the last two furlongs in 10.8-10.7 to win by two lengths. Last out Nov. 21, she raced from further back, won by a length and three-quarters and recorded the field best time of 33 seconds over the final 600 meters at Tokyo. There’s little time between races but she’s closer to her home base this time.

Belle Cresta: The Duramente-sired Belle Cresta is 2-1-2 and lost the Oct. 30 Artemis Stakes to Circle of Life by a mere neck. She’d balked loading and had been agitated in the gate, was a bit keen in the beginning but settled well traveling in third position amid a relaxed pace. She led down the long Tokyo stretch but was overtaken just before the finish line.

“She did well and I could feel that she has matured,” said jockey Kohei Matsuyama, who has ridden all her starts. “I’m looking forward to what’s to come.”

It will be her first time to race to the right but she’s looking good in work, with a personal best of 51.1 seconds up the hill course last week. Trainer Naosuke Sugai, who won here with Sodashi last year, has notched the race three times in total. He also trained 2017 Victoria Mile winner Admire Lead, a half-sister to Belle Cresta.

Namura Clair: This daughter of champion sprinter and miler Mikki Isle won the Grade 3 Kokura Nisai Stakes and ran second by 3/4 length to winner Water Navillera last out in the Nov. 6 Fantasy Stakes.

She’d been keen over the first half, and trainer Kodai Hasegawa said: “She can react rather strongly to horses coming up from behind, so I’ve had her wear a hood to calm her. She has let off steam, is looking good, and she improves with a race. I don’t think the mile is out of reach. How well she can settle will be key.”

Her third in her debut start over the Niigata mile indicates she has a good chance. Her speed is up to snuff, with lap times of 11-some seconds up the hill in track work.

Namura Lycoris: The other filly running under the pink-and-sky-blue colors of the owner Mutsuhiro Namura, is Namura Lycoris, returning to the track for the first time since her win of the Hakodate Nisai Stakes in July. It will also be her first start over anything but six furlongs. A look at her pedigree, however, reveals the stayer blood of Manhattan Cafe. With her forward running style, Namura Lycoris should be able to go the distance and stave off a late challenge. Nineteen-year-old Fuma Izumiya, who debuted in March 2020 and already ranks No. 25 with 43 wins this year alone, is slated for the ride, the first Grade 1 of his career.

The post Japan: Take Brothers Team Up With Undefeated Water Navillera In Sunday’s Hanshin Juvenile Fillies appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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