There’s 18 horses to choose from in the final leg of Japan’s filly Triple Crown, the $1.6 million Shuka Sho, but there’s likely to be a dominating favorite.
Aerolithe (Kurofune) is set to be at short odds for the 2,000-meter (about 1 ¼ miles) classic at Kyoto. She finished fifth in the Oka Sho (G1, Japanese 1,000 Guineas) in April, but has since beaten the colts and geldings in the NHK Mile Cup (G1) despite being four wide for most of the journey.
At her last start she scored an easy wire-to-wire victory in the Hokkaido Shinbun Hai Queen Stakes (G3) over 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) July 30.
The biggest query about Aerolithe is the distance. Most of the progeny of the U.S.-bred Kurofune (French Deputy) have been best at a mile or less, though she got to the line well enough in the Queen Stakes. Barrier one may necessitate a fast start, but she showed an ability to do that in the Queen Stakes.
Most of the leading Japanese fillies are present, bar the Yushun Himba (G1, Japanese Oaks) winner Soul Stirring. They include Oka Sho winner Reine Minoru (Daiwa Major), though she would need to improve on her recent efforts to win.
Second favorite Fan Dii Na (Deep Impact) was considered good enough to take on the colts in the Satsuki Sho (G1, Japanese 2,000 Guineas) earlier this year. She finished seventh, and should improve on her sixth-place finish in the 1,800-meter Rose Stakes (G2).
The Rose Stakes winner was the only American-bred in the Shuka Sho field, Rabbit Run (Tapit). A $750,000 purchase at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, the half-sister to the good U.S. turf mare Rainha de Bateria began her career on dirt but has won both her starts since switching to turf.
Rabbit Run was better than 25-1 when she took out the Rose Stakes but she came home from well back to win and should enjoy the step up to 2,000 meters.
The fillies that filled the four positions behind Rabbit Run in the Rose Stakes – Kawakita Enka, Lys Gracieux, Mirissa, and Meisho Owara – should all be considered, and expect a good run also from Shion Stakes (G3) winner Deirdre, whose stamina is proven.
Aerolithe is definitely the one to beat, but in a deep 18-horse field, there’s no shortage of alternatives. Rabbit Run, Lys Gracieux, and Deirdre in particular should be included in multiples.