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HORSE RACING | Sodashi Bests Field in Oka Sho, Becomes First White Thoroughbred to Win a JRA Classic Race

Sodashi, the daughter of Kurofune, began her five-race winning streak at the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in December.

Ed Odeven

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Sodashi broke the track record for a 1,600-meter race and rode into history as the first white horse to triumph in a Japan Racing Association classic race on Sunday, April 11.

Ridden by Hayato Yoshida, Sodashi edged favorite Satono Reinas by a neck to claim the 81st Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) crown in the first leg of the 2021 fillies’ Triple Crown at Hanshin Racecourse in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture.

With impressive closing speed on the outside, Sodashi won the Grade I race in 1 minute, 31.1 seconds, extending her winning streak to five.

“It’s a great feeling,” the 37-year-old Yoshida said after the race. “There was a lot of pressure with many doubting how strong a white filly could be, so I’m thrilled we were able to prove them wrong. I was a bit worried that the fast track would be a disadvantage, but she responded beautifully and ran well, holding off the others closing in on us which I saw and made me drive her to the wire. Her potential is limitless and I look forward to her future starts.”

Naosuke Sugai, Sodashi’s 54-year-old trainer, collected his 13th JRA Grade I victory, while Yoshida increased his total to three.

In the day’s biggest race, post time 3:40 p.m., the winner’s speed and color equally shared the spotlight at the Oka Sho.

So where did Sodashi get her distinct mane? From her granddam Shirayukihime, otherwise known as “Snow White.”

Sodashi began her winning streak at the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies on December 13, 2020, when the daughter of grey American-bred stallion Kurofune, winner of the 2001 NHK Mile Cup and Japan Cup Dirt, also served notice as the first white GI winner in JRA history.

In addition to the Oka Sho, the JRA’s other designated classic races are the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) and Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Ledger).

In Sunday’s 18-horse race on firm turf, second choice Sodashi surged past Stutti and Meikei with 300 meters left and was too fast to catch before the exciting event ended.

French jockey Christophe Lemaire steered Satono Reinas to the runner-up position. Yuichi Fukunaga rode Fine Rouge to a third-place finish. Both horses made spirited attempts to end Sodashi’s win streak. (Watch the replay of the race here.)

Akaitorino Musume moved from third to fourth over the final 100 meters. Stutti, who held the first spot for the first 700 meters, faded during the middle of the race, then moved back to the front of the pack down the final stretch before slipping back again several spots in the crowded field. Jockey Yasunari Iwata guided Stutti to a seventh-place finish.

An announced crowd of 3,100-plus spectators saw Sodashi’s fifth win in as many career starts.

Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.