Al Ain Earns Well-Deserved G1 Osaka Hai Victory

Al Ain wins this year’s Osaka Hai.

AL AIN winning the Osaka Hai at Hanshin in Japan.
AL AIN winning the Osaka Hai at Hanshin in Japan. Picture: Japan Racing Association

Ninth pick Al Ain captured his long awaited G1 title, the first since his three-year-old classic victory in the 2017 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, 2,000m), against a reputedly strong field in this year’s Osaka Hai. Although regarded highly since early in his career during which he scored two wins in as many starts as a two-year-old and quickly landed two grade-race titles including the Mainichi Hai (G3, 1,800m) and the Satsuki Sho in his three-year-old campaign, the son of Deep Impact was winless in ten starts since while consistent in finishing within fifth place in nine including two thirds in the Osaka Hai and the Mile Championship (G1, 1,600m) last year. Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee scored his 20th JRA-G1 victory following the 2017 Mile Championship with Persian Knight. It was the first career G1 victory and 17th grade-race title for Yuichi Kitamura who debuted in 2006.

Jockey Yuichi Kitamura, who had partnered the son of Deep Impact twice before last season, made use of the inside draw to settle Al Ain after a sharp break in third or fourth and saved ground through most of the trip behind pacesetter Epoca d’Oro. The field traveled at a moderate-slow pace and bunched up rounding the last corner giving the 2017 Satsuki Sho victor an ideal opening going into the stretch. Kitamura did not miss a beat in giving the five-year-old the green light and his mount responded instantly as they overtook the tiring leader and took command in the last 200 meters, out-dueled Kiseki who emerged along the center lane and held off Wagnerian who challenged in the inside for a neck win.

“We had a good draw and everything worked to our advantage. He was able to focus using the blinkers for the second time and he responded well so I just concentrated on keeping him comfortable,” commented Yuichi Kitamura.

Kiseki, who had dictated the pace in his recent starts, chose to stay close to the pace in second and had every chance as the 2018 Japan Cup runner-up accelerated smoothly into the stretch but was unable to match the winner finishing a neck short for second.

Wagnerian  was rated in mid-field along the rails not far from the Al Ain and followed the eventual winner for the stretch run but was unable to reach the first two for a close third.

Last year’s Arima Kinen victor and race favorite Blast Onepiece was unhurried after a smooth break, made his move from racing fourth from the rear along the outside approaching the last corner but was forced wide as the field bunched up rounding the final turn and had too much ground to make up, finishing sixth.

Other Horses :
4th:  (1)   Makahiki - trailed in rear along rails, switched to outside, accelerated in last 200m, timed fastest over
                last 3 furlongs
5th:  (9)   Air Windsor - traveled in mid-division, responded well, even paced in last 100m
7th:  (13)  Stiffelio - chased leaders in 3rd, showed effort, outrun in last 100m
8th:  (5)   Muito Obrigado - saved ground in mid-pack early, gradually dropped back, entered last entering
                stretch, passed tired rivals
9th:  (14)  Danburite - raced 3-wide in mid-group, even paced at stretch
10th: (4)   Epoca d’Oro - set pace, fell back after furlong pole
11th:  (11)  Persian Knight - settled 3-wide in mid-division, checked 100m out, lost momentum
12th:  (8)  Sungrazer - ran 2nd from rear, switched to outside at early stretch, never fired
13th:  (10) Stay Foolish - sat 3rd from rear, circled wide, unable to reach contention
14th:  (12) Stelvio - traveled outside eventual winner, weakened in last 300m, faded
Japan Racing Association