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Big Three lead Group 1 Victoria Mile onslaught

3 minute read

Japan’s spring racing features continue this Sunday (12 May) with the staging of the JPY281.8 million (approx. HK$14.11 million) G1 Victoria Mile (1600m) at Tokyo.

NAMUR winning the Fuji Stakes at Tokyo in Japan.
NAMUR winning the Fuji Stakes at Tokyo in Japan. Picture: Japan Racing Association

The entries include Group 1 winners Namur and Stunning Rose , who are pitted against a collection of upcoming talent. Stunning Rose's somewhat questionable recent form has swept her slightly to one side, but Namur retains a solid hold on the limelight.

Namur , who finished third in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) after winning the G1 Mile Championship (1600m) at Kyoto, aims to bag her second Group 1 mile in a row at home. She finished seventh in the Victoria Mile last year, having gone into the race directly off a three-month spell. This year, she's returning to Tokyo directly from Meydan, where she finished second in the G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) last March. 

A daughter of Harbinger, Namur is looking well and is expected to be the one of the favourites on Sunday. She's had a number of riders, including Joao Moreira, who rode her to a Group 2 win over the course and distance in October. Though Moreira is in Japan on a short-term licence, it'll be new partner Yutaka Take, who watched the mare's work from the sidelines on Wednesday (8 May). With strong urging only in the final metres of the gallop, Namur covered the final furlong in a fine 12s.

"Her balance is good, her rhythm is good and we made her wait a bit, then upped the pace," trainer Tomokazu Takano said. "She was a bit faster than the number I'd asked for, but that's not a problem. Her demeanor and gait after work were extremely good. She's in fine shape and will be able to most definitely give it her absolute best."

Moreira, who contests his first Victoria Mile, is paired with Masked Diva, a Rulership filly considered Namur's biggest threat. Masked Diva  is a double Group 2 winner and placed second in her only Group 1 event, also an all-female event, the G1 Shuka Sho (2000m). She won under Moreira in her most recent race and second over the mile, the G2 Hanshin Himba Stakes (1600m) held on 6 April.

Masked Diva also worked on Wednesday (8 May) under an assistant trainer and clocked 52.9s with no urging. "Her time was a bit faster than I'd planned but she kept her form, her breathing was steady, and she went up the hill with ease. I think it was a perfect workout," said trainer Yasuyuki Tsujino.

Umbrail, a four-year-old by Lord Kanaloa, worked between two other horses. She covered six furlongs on slightly heavy ground on the woodchip flat course for a time of 1m 25s and an 11.3s final furlong. With that workout, and two previous hard workouts earlier this month - seven furlongs on the flat in 1m 38.4s and then a 53.5s up four furlongs on the hill - Umbrail looks ready.

Trainer Tetsuya Kimura said: "Last week, she was using her body in a much bigger way, but today she had no trouble. Two starts ago at Tokyo things didn't go well but I could see the change in her last race. I definitely can sense some progress and I'm relieved."

Umbrail finished half a length behind Masked Diva in her previous start. Before that, in the G3 Tokyo Shimbun Hai (1600m), she had returned in early February after a nearly nine-month spell and finished ninth. The year before, she was a close second in the G1 NHK Mile Cup (1600m) at Tokyo, where she missed the win by a head margin behind Champagne Color. The venue and the distance should suit.

Others gaining attention as challengers to the big three this Sunday are Moryana (third in the Hanshin Himba Stakes), Fierce Pride, with Christophe Lemaire up, and the longshot Lilac, under Keita Tosaki, known to excel over the Tokyo mile. 

Hong Kong Jockey Club

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