Circle of Life Can Turn The Tables in Yushun Himba

Circle of Life | JRA photo


Masatake Iida homebred Circle of Life (Jpn) (Epiphaneia {Jpn}) was perfect in three starts last term to secure champion juvenile filly honours, but will be looking for her first victory as a 3-year-old in a well-matched renewal of the G1 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse.

Winner of the 1600-metre G3 Artemis S. at headquarters last October, the bay–whose sire has accounted for 2020 Oaks heroine Daring Tact (Jpn) and reigning Horse of the Year Efforia (Jpn)–came from worse than midfield to post a half-length success in the G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in December before taking some time off. A sound third to Namur (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) and Pin High (Jpn) (Mikki Isle {Jpn}) in the G3 Tulip Sho going the metric mile Mar. 5, Circle of Life endured a wide passage from a high draw in the G1 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) last time Apr. 10 and kicked home to be fourth, beaten 3/4 of a length behind Stars on Earth (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}). She has a much cosier barrier this time in six, and that could just be the difference-maker. Jockey Mirco Demuro goes for a third Oaks in the last four years.

“If she's able to run nicely balanced, she has a great late kick,” said trainer Sakae Kunieda, who won the Oaks in 2010 with Apapane (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) and in 2018 with Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}). “She won the Grade 1 at the end of her 2-year-old year but I've always thought she would do better with more distance. The change to Tokyo is a plus and I'm expecting her to do better than she did in her last race.”




Stars on Earth was runner-up to Lilac (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in January's G3 Fairy S. and to Presage Lift (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) in the G3 Daily Hai Queen Cup Feb. 12 before overcoming some anxious moments in the straight to just touch off Water Navillera (Jpn) (Silver State {Jpn}) in the Oka Sho. While she had a middle gate in the Guineas, she will have to overcome the widest alley in the Oaks for Christophe Lemaire.

Namur was a disappointing 10th as the favourite in the Oka Sho, but she was done no favours by the barrier draw, as she was never able to get in from the 18 hole. That effort is best taken with a grain of salt. Conversely, Water Navillera sat a clean trip just off the pace last time and was unlucky not to win. She has theoretically the shortest way around from the rail. Yutaka Take has won the Oaks three times, but not since 1996 aboard Air Groove (Jpn).

Sheikh Fahad's lightly raced Art House (Jpn) (Screen Hero {Jpn}) will have her share of admirers off a visually impressive victory beneath Yuga Kawada in the Listed Wasurenaugusa Sho (2000m) Apr. 10.

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