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Shuka Sho (G1) Preview: Liberty Island Has a Shot at Winning the Fillies' Triple Crown

With a victory in the 2,000-meter Shuka Sho in Kyoto, Liberty Island would become the seventh filly to accomplish the feat.

There is big racing action again this week, with Kyoto Racecourse hosting the 28th running of the Grade 1 Shuka Sho, the 3-year-old filly pinnacle which wraps up the fillies' Classic races, on Sunday, October 15. 

This year, the Shuka Sho is returning to its usual venue after a two-year sojourn at Hanshin Racecourse while Kyoto underwent massive renovations.

Like 2022, the fillies' Triple Crown is once again on the line, as super filly Liberty Island, winner of the first two events, aims to claim her third win in the series. If successful, she will bag the ¥110 million JPY (nearly $740,000 USD) winner's prize. But she will also become only the seventh filly in Japanese racing history to capture all three races. Those are comprised of the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and the Shuka Sho, run over distances of 1,600, 2,400 and 2,000 meters, respectively.

Details on the Shuka Sho and the 2,000-Meter Course

Twenty-three fillies have been nominated for the 18 berths of the Shuka Sho and five of those nominees are tied for earnings and will be vying for the final lineup's last two spots.

The race is Kyoto's 11th on a card of 12, with a post time locally of 3:40 PM. It is held on the 2,000-meter inner A course, which starts before the grandstand. 

The ground rises from the start and, after the keen battle for position, the field straightens into the backstretch. From there, the track remains relatively flat and the field picks up speed as the ground dips gradually into the straight. Two hundred meters before the finish line the track rises sharply again.

Here's a look at the likely popular picks.

Liberty Island
Liberty Island wins the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) on May 21 at Tokyo Racecourse. (ⒸSANKEI)

Liberty Island to Make Kyoto Racecourse Debut

On a three-race Grade 1 winning streak that includes the first two tests of the fillies' Classic and the 2-year-old Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, Liberty Island is expected to be way out in front as the Shuka Sho favorite. If her six-length winning margin in the Japanese Oaks in May 2023 is any indication of what's to come, she'll be way out in front at the finish line on Sunday, too. 

It will be her first time at Kyoto, but she'll have the home advantage as she is based at Ritto, in Shiga Prefecture. And she is proven over both clockwise and counterclockwise tracks. 

With four wins and one second from her five starts thus far (spanning distance from 1,600 to 2,400 meters), Liberty Island's blistering late speed has stood her well, whether traveling from the fore of midfield or from the rear. She has, however, never drawn terribly wide, and she's going straight from the Japanese Oaks to the gate, a spell of nearly five months.

Liberty Island spent the summer at Northern Farm in Abira, Hokkaido Prefecture, and returned to Ritto in mid-September. 

If she can pocket the Shuka Sho, Liberty Island will become the seventh filly to do so, and the first since Daring Tact accomplished the feat in 2020. Yuga Kawada, currently trailing leading jockey Christophe Lemaire by one win, has ridden all her starts, and is expected to ride Liberty Island again on Sunday.

Shuka Sho
Harper exercises on October 11 in Ritto, Shiga Prefecture. (ⒸSANKEI)

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Harper Set for Third Showdown with Liberty Island

Considered Liberty Island's biggest rival is the Oaks runner-up Harper. And the two will meet for the third time on Sunday. 

Harper, a daughter of Heart's Cry, lacks the brilliant turn of foot of Liberty Island. But her fourth place in the Oka Sho demonstrated her ability to reach down deep and give it all she has. Her top win to date, however, is only at the Grade 3 level, a first in the 1,600-meter Queen Cup at Tokyo in February. 

The Ritto-based Harper will also be going straight to the gate from the Oaks and taking on Kyoto for the first time. Harper has won over the Hanshin 1,600 meters and debuted with a second there over 2,000 meters. 

Harper has had a number of riders, Yuichi Fukunaga, David Egan, Kawada and Lemaire, under whom she has yet to win. Lemaire, who last won the Shuka Sho in 2018 aboard Almond Eye, rode Harper's last two starts (both Grade 1s) and is expected to have the Shuka Sho ride. 

Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, who won the Shuka Sho with Vivlos in 2016 says of Harper, "We've given her solid workouts over the last two weeks and her footwork and movement are good. She's bigger and more relaxed, and I'm hoping she'll show that maturity in the race. I think, with 2,000 meters, she'll have enough ground."

Read the rest of this article about the Shuka Sho as well as the Japanese horses in contention on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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