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Bellagio Opera Wins Tough Competition in the 68th Osaka Hai

Bellagio Opera stalked frontrunner Stunning Rose in the Osaka Hai while turning the last two corners. He passed the leader before the 200-meter pole.

Osaka Hai second pick Bellagio Opera captured his first Grade 1 and third graded victory in the 68th Osaka Hai on Sunday, March 31 at Hanshin Racecourse.

Winning his debut start in November 2022 as a 2-year-old, the son of Lord Kanaloa then marked his third consecutive victory at the Spring Stakes (G2, 1,800 meters) in March 2023. Though he placed 10th in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000 meters) last April, he registered a close and respectable fourth in May's Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400 meters). 

After capping off his 3-year-old season with his second graded title in the Challenge Cup (G3, 2,000 meters) in December 2023, he commenced the current season with a runner-up effort in the Kyoto Kinen (G2, 2,200 meters) on February 11 before coming into this race.

On Sunday, jockey-turned-trainer Hiroyuki Uemura, who opened his yard in 2019, celebrated his first Japan Racing Association Grade 1 and fifth graded title. Kazuo Yokoyama registered his third G1 title as jockey since his victory with Titleholder in the 2022 Takarazuka Kinen.

Osaka Hai
Kazuo Yokoyama guides Bellagio Opera at the front of the pack in the 68th Osaka Hai. (KYODO)

How Bellagio Opera Emerged Victorious

Breaking sharply from the outer stall, Bellagio Opera rushed out to rally for the lead and settled just behind Stunning Rose (Atsuya Nishimura) to press the pace in second in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. 

The Lord Kanaloa colt continued to stalk the frontrunner turning the last two corners to enter the lane in close second and overtook the front before the 200-meter pole. He managed to fend off the repeated efforts of Rousham Park (Keita Tosaki) and fast-closing Rouge Eveil (Akira Sugawara) to cross the wire a neck ahead of the runner-up. (Watch the race on the JRA's YouTube channel.)

Bellagio Opera completed the race in 1 minute, 58.2 seconds. Piloted by Yutaka Take, Jack d'Or set the race record of 1:57.4 in 2023.

On Sunday, Rouge Eveil finished a nose behind Tosaki's ride.

Osaka Hai
Winning jockey Kazuo Yokoyama reacts after the race. (©SANKEI)

Perspective from Osaka Hai-Winning Jockey Yokoyama

"I was so disappointed when we lost the Derby that I really wanted to win a G1 with this horse," Yokoyama commented, looking back at the 2023 Tokyo Yushun. "So, I'm really, really happy. Bellagio Opera has very good maneuverability. 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. I'm glad he held off his rivals."

Osaka Hai
The 68th running of the Osaka Hai. (©SANKEI)

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Additional Details on the 68th Osaka Hai

Unhurried in 13th early, third pick Rousham Park made rapid headway toward the front in the backstretch and turned the last two corners outside the eventual winner to rally for the lead. And, while unable to catch the stubborn leader, Rousham Park sustained his bid to hold off the late chargers by a nose for second place. 

Eleventh choice Rouge Eveil traveled around 12th, saved ground turning for home, fought well, launching the fastest late drive to close in on the leaders, and while missing the runner-up spot, secured third place by a half-length margin. 

Race favorite Tastiera (Kohei Matsuyama) hugged the rails in fourth and shifted slightly to the outside after entering the lane to make a bid. But the Satono Crown-sired colt gradually fell back in the last 200 meters to finish 11th.

Following Bellagio Opera, Rousham Park and Rouge Eveil, Stella Veloce (Manabu Sakai) and Geoglyph (Hiroshi Kitamura) rounded out the top five in the 16-horse field.

Read the full report with details on each of the Osaka Hai entrants on JRA News.

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Dubai World Cup Day Results

The Dubai World Cup Day races were held on Saturday, March 30 at Meydan racecourse in the United Arab Emirates. It was a busy day of racing in Dubai, with 22 Japanese thoroughbreds competing in seven of the nine races.

In the G2 3,200-meter Dubai Gold Cup, won by Ireland's Tower of London (Ryan Moore's ride) by two lengths over Britain's Al Nayyir, Iron Barows (Cristian Demuro) placed eighth. Libyan Glass (Ryusei Sakai) was 11th among the 15 runners. The winning time: 3:17.29.

Ireland's California Spangle (Brenton Avdulla) triumphed in the 1,200-meter Al Quoz Sprint, a G1 race, by a three-quarter length margin over Britain's Star of Mystery (Frankie Dettori), clocking 1:07.50. Japan-based Jasper Krone (Taisei Danno) was 11th, one spot ahead of the last-place finisher.

In the G2 1,900-meter UAE Derby, Japan's Forever Young, guided by Sakai, won by two lengths over Argentina's Auto Bahn on the dirt track in 1:57.89. Ballon d'Or (Norihiro Yokoyama) was sixth among the 11 participants.

Forever Young, ridden by Ryusei Sakai, wins the UAE Derby on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. (Rula Rouhana/REUTERS)

Kentucky-bred brown colt Tuz emerged victorious in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, with Irish jockey Tadhg O'Shea handling the reins over the 1,200-meter course on dirt. Seven-year-old Tuz beat Japanese runner-up Don Frankie (Demuro's ride) by 6½ lengths, reaching the wire in 1:10.19. Japan had two more top-five finishers in the 14-horse field, with Remake (Yuga Kawada) placing fourth and Igniter (Tsubasa Sasagawa) fifth.

Facteur Cheval and jockey Maxime Guyon are seen after winning the Dubai Turf. (Rula Rouhana/REUTERS)

Dramatic Finish in the Dubai Turf

In the G1 1,800-meter Dubai Turf, Ireland's Facteur, guided by French jockey Maxime Guyon, edged Harbinger-sired Namur (Demuro) by a head in a pulsating 1:45.91.

Namur bested third-place finisher and Heart's Cry progeny Danon Beluga (Joao Moreira) by a head's length. The fifth-place finisher was Do Deuce (Take) in the 16-thoroughbred event.

Namur (left), piloted by Cristian Demuro, places second in the Dubai Turf. (KYODO)

In the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, held over 2,410 meters on turf, Japanese horses finished second and third, with Deep Impact-sired Shahryar (Demuro) and Liberty Island (Kawada) placing two and three lengths, respectively, behind Irish winner Rebel's Romance (William Buick).

Justin Palace (Moreira), trained in Japan by Haruki Sugiyama, finished fourth in the 12-horse event. Rebel's Romance crossed the line in 2:26.72.

Laurel River (7), steered by Tadhg O'Shea, vies for victory in the prestigious Dubai World Cup. (Rula Rouhana/REUTERS)

In the night's final race, the 2,000-meter Dubai World Cup, a G1 event with $12 million USD (¥1.8 billion JPY) up for grabs, reigning race champion Ushba Tesoro, trainer Noboru Takagi's entrant, was back in Dubai to defend his title.

Six-year-old American colt Laurel River, ridden by O'Shea, outclassed the field, beating 7-year-old Ushba Tesoro, again with Kawada on the saddle, by 8½ lengths in 2:02.31.

Wilson Tesoro (Yusuke Hara), Dura Erede (Bauyrzhan Murzabayev) and Derma Satogake (replacement jockey Oisin Murphy's ride) were fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, out of 12 runners.

Lemaire Breaks Collar Bone and Rib in Dubai Turf

French jockey Christophe Lemaire, who was scheduled to ride Derma Satogake, was taken to the hospital in an ambulance earlier in the day after 5-year-old gelding Catnip, his horse in the G1 Dubai Turf, took a tumble on the track nearly 100 meters from the wire and had to be euthanized later.

Lemaire sustained a broken collarbone and rib, according to a Dubai Racing Club news release.

As a result, Murphy filled in for Lemaire in the Dubai World Cup.

The injured Japan Racing Association fan favorite issued an update on his official social media accounts on Sunday.

"Hi everyone, thank you all for your support messages," Lemaire posted on X and Instagram. "I feel good this morning. Looking forward to being back in action."

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Author: JRA News

Editor's note: Sports editor Ed Odeven compiled and wrote the news section on the Dubai World Cup Day races.

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