2024 Osaka Hai: Group 1 Review

Venue: Hanshin
Distance: 2000m
Value: ¥ 432,000,000 (approximately US$3million)

Bellagio Opera’s fourth-place in last year’s Tokyo Yushun was a hard one for his connections to bear, given that he was caught out for pace on the home turn, stayed on strongly down the straight, and was ultimately beaten only a neck in a four-way photo behind Tastiera.

A stronger four-year-old emerged second-up for the year in the Osaka Hai. The son of Lord Kanaloa not only earned a deserved Group 1 breakthrough for himself and his trainer, Hiroyuki Uemura, but also upturned that Derby form.

There was no Do Deuce, Shahryar, or Liberty Island in the year’s first big domestic middle-distance test. Those stars had been sent to Dubai instead of this race, but last year’s Tokyo Yushun winner Tastiera stepped out as the 4.4 favourite, ahead of the 5.5 chance Bellagio Opera, and Rousham Park at 6.0. The field of 16 also featured the last two G1 Satsuki Sho winners, Geoglyph and Sol Oriens, as well as the 2022 G1 Shuka Sho heroine Stunning Rose.

It was Stunning Rose who led the field along at a steady tempo, stalked by Bellagio Opera racing outside her quarters. Rousham Park made a wide advance form near the tail, followed by Sol Oriens, and pressed Bellagio Opera exiting the back straight. Tastiera, tracked up on the rail to take the spot inside Bellagio Opera as Stunning Rose began to wind it up on the turn.

The mare reached her peak early in the home straight and wilted as Bellagio Opera took the lead, pressed fiercely by Rousham Park. The pair battled to the line with only a neck in it. Rouge Eveil closed on the inner for a close third and Stella Veloce rattled home wide and late for fourth.

2024 Osaka Hai: Race Replay

BELLAGIO OPERA / G1 Osaka Hai // Hanshin /// 2024 //// Video by JRA

What They Said

Winning jockey Kazuo Yokoyama: “I was so disappointed when we lost the Derby that I really wanted to win a Group 1 with this horse … Bellagio Opera has very good manoeuverability, and I knew that he was in good condition, so I decided to race him toward the front. He’s really strong when it comes to a close rally.”

The Disappointment

There’s always a buzz about a Derby winner; the hope that this one might be a champion. Well, Tastiera needs to find his fizz. He can be forgiven his second-place in the Kikuka Sho over 3000m after his Derby win, and he was not disgraced when sixth behind Do Deuce and five other Group 1 winners in the Arima Kinen last December. But this was a tame effort, unable to quicken from a handy fourth off the final turn and fading to 11th; perhaps the longer distance of the Tenno Sho (Spring) will suit next time.

David Morgan is Chief Journalist at Idol Horse. As a sports mad young lad in County Durham, England, horse racing hooked him at age 10. He has a keen knowledge of Hong Kong and Japanese racing after nine years as senior racing writer and racing editor at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. David has also worked in Dubai and spent several years at the Racenews agency in London. His credits include among others Racing Post, ANZ Bloodstock News, International Thoroughbred, TDN, and Asian Racing Report.

View all articles by David Morgan.

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