One week before Contrail looks to sweep Japan’s Triple Crown, his counterpart Daring Tact will attempt to become the first to capture the fillies’ equivalent while remaining undefeated. The Oka Sho (G1) and Yushun Himba (G1) heroine will be the heavy favorite to make history in Sunday’s Shuka Sho (G1) at Kyoto.
Five others have swept the fillies’ classics – Mejiro Ramonu (1986), Still in Love (2003), Apapane (2010), Gentildonna (2012), and most recently Almond Eye (2018) – but all had met with defeat at some point previously.
Daring Tact brings a perfect 4-for-4 record into the final jewel, including two smart efforts at Kyoto to open her career. The Haruki Sugiyama trainee handled a substantial class hike from the listed Elfin S. to the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) at Hanshin, where the yielding ground could not dampen her closing rush. Daring Tact followed up in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) on a firm course at Tokyo, and the daughter of Epiphaneia has been freshened since that May 24 test.
Regular rider Kohei Matsuyama, who will guide her from post 13, spoke of Daring Tact’s progression:
“In the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas), the ground was so bad I didn’t think she would win, but she did and showed just how much above the others she was. The distance was much longer for the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) and I was a bit worried if she would settle well, but she was able to hold back and save something for the finish. She really flew in the final stage.
“Even from her debut, she stood out, but it was after the Oka Sho that I realized just how much she had improved since then. And then, her limberness in her work before the Oaks struck me and her improvement stood out.
“After returning to Ritto (training center) after the summer I felt she was mentally more mature. Her tendency to get agitated and tense was much better. Her weight is up and she returned much stronger. Her training has all gone well. She works in tandem on the flat and up the hill alone. This week’s work was excellent. But, given that this week is the race, I didn’t push her hard. I want her to be relaxed for Sunday.
“She’ll have no problem with the Kyoto inner 2,000 meters and rain won’t bother her either.”
Daring Tact has already beaten 11 of her 17 Shuka Sho rivals. The respective second through fifth from the Oaks – Win Marilyn, Win Mighty, Ria Amelia, and Magic Castle – are among those trying again.
Ria Amelia came back to land a notable prep, the Sept. 20 Rose (G2) at Chukyo, over class climbers Musica and Oh My Darling as well as fellow classic veterans Cravache d’Or, Fiori Chiari, and Ablaze. Regular rider Yuga Kawada believes that the daughter of Deep Impact and Ria Antonia is only now putting it together. Perhaps her unplaced efforts in her past top-level attempts, including the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Oka Sho, are of more archival interest than actionable intelligence. Note, however, that Kawada wants a fast track – and rain is in the forecast.
Maltese Diosa, also unplaced behind Daring Tact in the first two jewels, likewise returned to uphold the classic form in a prep at this about 1 1/4-mile trip. Successful in the Sept. 9 Shion S. (G3) at Nakayama, Maltese Diosa defeated Pallas Athena (who was coming off a fourth versus males in the Radio Nikkei Sho [G3]), Miss New York, the aforementioned Magic Castle and Win Mighty, and Ho O Peaceful.
Aside from Daring Tact, several other past classic opponents are coming into the Shuka Sho without a prep. Win Marilyn, 3-for-3 at this distance including the Apr. 26 Flora (G3), was just a half-length shy of pulling the Oaks upset last out. Sanctuaire regressed from sixth in the Oka Sho to 13th in the Oaks, but the half-sister to Yoshida might appreciate a return to Kyoto, where she beat the boys in the Jan. 12 Shinzan Kinen (G3). Christophe Lemaire stays aboard. Miyamazakura, another unplaced in the first two classics, had also garnered an early trial in the Feb. 15 Daily Hai Queen Cup (G3).
Rounding out the field are Godolphin’s Soft Fruit, who makes her graded debut after rising through the ranks, and Dantsu Elise, hitherto best known as a dirt allowance runner.