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Bellagio Opera wins the 2024 Osaka Hai

Second pick Bellagio Opera captured his first Grade 1 and third graded victory in this year’s Osaka Hai at Hanshin on Sunday. Winning his debut start in November as a two-year-old, the son of Lord Kanaloa marked his third consecutive victory when winning the Spring Stakes (G2, 1,800m) in March 2023.

Though well beaten to 10th in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas, G1, 2,000m), he registered a close and respectable fourth in the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby, G1, 2,400m). 

After capping off his three-year-old season with his second graded title in the Challenge Cup (G3, 2,000m) in December, he commenced the current season with a runner-up effort in the Kyoto Kinen (G2, 2,200m) on February 11 before coming into this race. 

Jockey-turned-trainer Hiroyuki Uemura, who opened his yard in 2019, celebrated his first JRA G1 and fifth graded title while jockey Kazuo Yokoyama registered his third G1 title since his victory with Titleholder in the 2022 Takarazuka Kinen.

Breaking sharply from the outer stall, Bellagio Opera rushed out to rally for the lead and settled just behind Stunning Rose to press the pace in second. The Lord Kanaloa colt continued to stalk the frontrunner turning the last two corners to enter the lane in close second, overtook the front before the 200-meter pole and managed to fend off the repeated efforts of Rousham Park and fast-closing Rouge Eveil to cross the wire a neck and a nose in front.

“I was so disappointed when we lost the Derby that I really wanted to win a G1 with this horse. So, I’m really, really happy. Bellagio Opera has very good maneuverability, and I knew that he was in good condition, so I decided to race him toward the front. He’s really strong when it comes to a close rally. I’m glad he held off his rivals,” commented jockey Kazuo Yokoyama.

Unhurried in 13th early, third pick Rousham Park made rapid headway toward the front in the backstretch, turned the last two corners outside the eventual winner to rally for the lead and, while unable to catch the stubborn leader, sustained his bid to hold off the late chargers by a nose for second place. 

Eleventh choice Rouge Eveil traveled around 12th, saved ground turning for home, fought well, launching the fastest late drive to close in on the leaders, and while missing the runner-up spot, secured third place by a half-length margin.

Race favorite Tastiera hugged the rails in fourth and shifted slightly to the outside after entering the lane to make bid, but the Satono Crown colt was one paced and gradually fell back in the last 200 meters to finish 11th.

THE 68TH OSAKA HAI (G1)

4-year-olds & up, 2,000 meters (about 10 furlongs), turf, right-handed
Sunday, March 31, 2024 Hanshin Racecourse 11th Race Post time: 15:40
Total prize money: ¥ 432,000,000 (about US$ 3,064,000 <US$1=¥141>)
4-y-o & up: 58kg (about 128 lbs),
2kg allowance for Fillies & Mares, 1kg allowance for Southern Hemisphere-bred born in 2020
Course Record: 1:57.2 Race Record: 1:57.4 [Jack d'Or (JPN, by Maurice), 2023]
Safety factor: 16 runners Going: Good to Firm Weather: Fine

FP BK PP Horse Jockey S&A Color Wgt Odds (Fav) Margin (L3F) Sire Dam (Dam’s Sire) Owner Breeder Trainer

1 6 11 Bellagio Opera (JPN) Kazuo Yokoyama C4 b. 58.0 5.5 (2) 1:58.2 (34.9) Lord Kanaloa Air Routine (Harbinger) Shorai Hayashida Tsunebumi Yoshihara Hiroyuki Uemura

2 1 2 Rousham Park (JPN) Keita Tosaki H5 b. 58.0 6.0 (3) Neck (34.9) Harbinger Reinette Groove (King Kamehameha) Sunday Racing Co., Ltd.
Northern Racing Hiroyasu Tanaka

3 7 13 Rouge Eveil (JPN) Akira Sugawara M5 b. 56.0 40.0 (11) Nose (34.0) Just a Way Nothing But Dreams (Frankel) Tokyo Horse Racing Co., Ltd. Shadai Farm Yoichi Kuroiwa

Other Horses:
4th: (9) Stella Veloce—raced around 9th, switched to outside at early stretch, accelerated
5th: (6) Geoglyph—chased leaders around 4th, showed effort but no match for top finishers
6th: (8) Pradaria—settled around 6th on rails, gradually closed in on leaders but needed more
7th: (10) Sol Oriens—sat around 9th early, made headway in backstretch, showed brief effort at stretch
8th: (5) Stunning Rose—set pace, showed tenacity after surrendering lead, weakened in last 100m
9th: (16) Catedral—settled 3rd from rear, showed belated response to pass tired rivals
10th: (14) Epiphany—broke poorly, ran 2nd from rear, gradually advanced, never fired
12th: (4) Hayayakko—trailed in rear, turned wide, never threatened
13th: (7) Harper—raced 3-wide around 6th, failed to keep up with frontrunners
14th: (1) Mikki Gorgeous—took economic trip around 9th, unable to reach contention
15th: (12) Killer Ability—traveled 3-wide in 8th, gradually dropped back
16th: (15) Licancabur—prominent early in 3rd, faded after 1,000m to go

Fractional time (sec./furlong): 12.4 - 10.9 - 12.5 - 12.6 - 11.8 - 11.5 - 11.5 - 11.4 - 11.4 - 12.2
 Last 4 furlongs: 46.5 Last 3 furlongs: 35.0
Positions at each corner: 1st corner (*5,11)15(3,6)(8,7)12(1,9,10)13,2(16,14)-4
 2nd corner 5,11(3,15)6(8,7)(9,12)(1,10)(13,2)16,14,4
 3rd corner 5(11,2)(3,6,10)(8,15)(9,7)(13,14,12)(1,4)16
 4th corner (*5,11,2)(3,6,10)8,15,7(13,9)(14,12)4(16,

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