Yet another upset was scored in Japan's spring top level races as Smile Tomorrow bested a full-gate in the 63rd running of the Oaks (Jpn-I) on May 19 at Tokyo Racecourse.
The White Muzzle filly easily shook off the field at the 100-meter mark for victory by 1 1/2 lengths. Finishing second was 12th pick Chapel Concert, who hit the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of second pick Yu Carat. Okasho. Oaks favorite Shinin' Ruby (Sunday Silence-Shinin' Racer, by Northern Taste) met with some interference in the stretch but generally failed to spark and crossed the line in fifth place some 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Winning time over the 2,400 meters of fast turf was 2:27.7 seconds
Jockey Yutaka Yoshida said his main concern was calming the high-strung Smile Tomorrow, who was agitated in the preliminaries and the gate. Yoshida wanted to avoid a replay of the Okasho, in which Smile Tomorrow broke slow and failed to hit her stride, finishing sixth.
In the Oaks, Yoshida kept the filly at the rear in 14th, 15th position as the race unraveled at a slow pace. Yoshida held Smile Tomorrow neatly to an inside course round the final turn, where, he said, "I had a lot of horse under me." Seeing an opening he brought her out and three wide. Running strongly Smile Tomorrow lined up with Meine Mimose, Yu Carat and Chapel Concert, then pulled away as Yoshida's whip flew.
"She had great response," rider Yoshida, 27, said. "Overall she showed a lot of patience."
For trainer Kazuhiro Seishi, it was the first win in grade I competition. Looking back on the race, Seishi said, ''I don't remember it well, but I think I was yelling at the end.''
Seishi, one of Japan's youngest trainers at 40 years of age, only obtained his license three years ago. ''I thought if she could just relax she would show good kick. So when I saw she was running well I relaxed myself," he said. "She's a very straightforward and serious horse and I'm doing my best not to change that.'' Seishi fended off the slew of postrace congratulations. ''Smile got this win for me. Please give her the praise."
It was the first classic win for owner/breeder Masatake Iida of Chiyoda Bokujo in Hokkaido, the first GI win for the farm in 14 years. Smile Tomorrow (White Muzzle-Kokuto Beauty, by South Atlantic) is now 4 for 7 with over 184 million yen in prize money, 97 million yen from the Oaks alone. Smile Tomorrow will return to Hokkaido to spell until fall.
This year marked the last year the Oaks excluded all foreign-bred stock. From 2003, the Oaks will be opened to allow two foreign- bred runners into its lineup. No foreign-based horses are as yet allowed in Japan's classic races.