Daiwa el Cielo Posts Japanese Oaks Upset

The top picks failed to make the money in Sunday's Japanese Oaks (Jpn-I), with Daiwa el Cielo (Sunday Silence--London Bridge, by Dr Devious) emerging as the surprise victor in the 65th running of the fillies' classic at Tokyo. Daiwa el Cielo topped a full gate of 18 by three-quarters of a length, clocking 2:27.2 seconds over 2,400 meters of slightly yielding turf.

Fourth pick Sweep Tosho (End Sweep--Tabatha Tosho, by Dancing Brave) was second, with seventh choice Yamanin Alabaster (Golden Pheasant--Yamanin Recall, by Tamamo Cross) and race favorite Dance in the Mood (Sunday Silence--Dancing Key, by Nijinsky II) third and fourth, respectively. Daiwa el Cielo's win, the second group I in two weeks for owner Daiwa Shoji, was less of a shock to expectant fans than was the first loss by everyone's darling, Dance in the Mood.

Daiwa el Cielo, under Yuichi Fukunaga, took the lead early in the 2,400-meter turf event, and kept to the rail, cornering well. Heavy rain in the week previous to the Oaks had softened the track considerably, which Fukunaga said was to Daiwa el Cielo's liking. "The ground was very loose, and the same all over, on the inside or the out. It would have been messy in the rear so I thought I'd have the best luck up front."

Dance in the Mood, three lengths off the top and a width off the rail, looked good at the 400-meter mark. A sudden burst of speed put her into second position with 200 meters to go, but that's where it ended. Sweep Tosho shot past, followed by Yamanin Alabaster and no further show of strength from the favorite.

Take and trainer Kazuo Fujisawa were at a loss to explain Dance in the Mood's poor showing. A gain of 14 kg (approximately 30 pounds) since the April 11 Okasho may have been a factor, as could have been the distance, Dance in the Mood's first time over 1,800 meters, suggested Fujisawa. Unusually reflective, Fujisawa then shrugged it off with a more characteristic, "Hey, that's racing."

There was little shrugging going on among the fans, however, who had bet over. ¥2.6-billion on Dance in the Mood to win, another billion to place or show, and billions more in bets involving the handsome black filly, a spitting image of her father. Over ¥20.4 billion were wagered on the Oaks alone.

Daiwa el Cielo, bred at Shimokobe Bokujo in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, is trained by the Ritto-based Kunihide Matsuda, whose King Kamehameha, winner of the NHK Mile (Jpn-I) May 9, is expected to be a popular pick for the Nippon Derby May 30. Daiwa el Cielo's `three wins in five starts have brought owner Daiwa Shoji more than 183 million yen. The win of the Oaks was worth ¥97-million ($863,450).