Heavy favorite Buena Vista collared second choice Red Desire with 100 meters to run and went on to capture the US$2.1 million Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas) by a half-length for the second grade I victory of her career April 12 at Hanshin Racecourse.
Buena Vista, Japan's champion 2-year-old filly last year after dominating the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (Jpn-I), once again displayed her brilliance at the 1,600-meter distance (about one mile). She stopped the clock in 1:34 flat on the firm going, a half-second off the race's grass course mark.
The Oka Sho, or Cherry Blossom, was witnessed by more than 72,000 under fair skies at Hanshin. The first of five Japanese Racing Association classics is also the first leg of the nation's Triple Crown for fillies.
Katsumi Ando guided the Japanese-bred daughter of Special Week to victory for owner Sunday Racing Co. and trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda.
Sent off at 1-2, Buena Vista broke smoothly in the 18-horse field and was eased to the back of the pack by Ando as Koei Heart set the pace. Buena Vista was traveling next-to-last in a long line down the backstretch before angling wide on the turn to reach contention on the outside at the top of the homestretch. Red Desire, who had surged from sixth on the outside to gain the lead for jockey Hirofumi Shii, and Buena Vista pulled away from the pack leaving the 200-meter mark. Buena Vista, however, prevailed with a powerful late burst. The stalking Germinal finished third, two lengths behind the winner, with Yuichi Fukunaga aboard.
Buena Vista, who was coming off an impressive win in the Tulip Sho to begin her 2009 campaign a month earlier, won for the fourth time in five lifetime starts. Her only loss came in her debut race.
Northern Farm bred the winner, who is out of Biwa Heidi, by Caerleon.