Stars on Earth Shines in Oka Sho

Stars on Earth Shot through between rivals in the final strides to upset the first Japanese classic of the year, the group 1 Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas), the first leg of the Triple Tiara, at Hanshin Racecourse, by a nose in a blanket finish.

The photo showed the Duramente filly, with Yuga Kawada up, a nose better than Water Navillerawho looked to have the race in the bag with 50 meters to go. Namura Clair was third as little more than two lengths separated the first 10 finishers, including the favorite, Namerwho reported 10th.

It was a wild finish as the fillies climbed the stretch hill toward the finish with Water Navillera grabbing the lead and working hard to hold off Namura Clair. Stars on Earth was stuck behind rivals, finally found a narrow seam, was soundly bumped by a rival while going through, and found just enough to get there first. She finished 1,600 meters (about 1 mile) on good to firm turf in 1:32.90.

“I’m just so glad that she actually snatched the win at the end,” Kawada said. “I knew we had caught up but couldn’t tell who’d won.

“I’d been aware during workouts that she was a bit difficult to control but besides keeping that in mind, the plan today was to stay in mid-pack and let her run in a comfortable rhythm. It was definitely her strength and determination that shone and gave us the win today.

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“I’m looking forward to how she develops from here,” Kawada added.

Before the Oka Sho, trainer Mizuki Takayanagi said Stars on Earth had a tendency to bear to the right and he implemented an equipment change to address that issue. He also accurately assessed the need for her to finish well.

“I think she still needs more acceleration towards the finish,” Takayanagi said. “But she does have talent and I’m hoping things will come together for her.”

Stars on Earth, out of the Smart Strike mari Southern Stars, was bred by Shadai Farm and races for Shadai Race Horse. Takayanagi, who opened his yard in 2010, notched his first group 1 win.

The race was handicapped as a rematch between the 2021 Japanese 2-year-old filly champion Circle of Life and frequent rival Namur and the outcome scrambled the outlook for the Triple Tiara, which continues with the 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2 miles) Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1) at Tokyo next month, and concludes with the Shuka Sho ( G1) over 2,000 meters (about 1 1/7 miles) at Hanshin in October.

Namur came into the Oka Sho with a win in the March 5 Tulip Sho (G2), where Circle of Life finished third. Water Navillera finished fifth in the Tulip Sho with traffic issues. That was her first race since a third-place finish in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1), won by Circle of Life.

Stars on Earth finished second in both her previous 2022 starts — the Daily Hai Queen Cup (G3) at Tokyo Racecourse and the Fairy Stakes (G3) at Nakayama. She has not tackled any distance beyond the 1,600 metres.

Three-year-old males take center stage April 17 in the group 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) at Nakayama Racecourse, the first race in the series that includes the May 29 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1) at Tokyo Racecourse.

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