• Kyodo

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Harp Star delivered a stunning performance in the Oka-sho on Sunday, going from last to first on the homestretch to capture the first Classic race of the season.

Harp Star, the overwhelming favorite in a full field of 18, held off second choice and 2-year-old champion Red Reveur by a neck to capture the first leg of the filly’s Triple Crown at Hanshin Racecourse.

Fifth pick Nuovo Record was third another three-quarters of a length behind.

Harp Star’s winning time was 1 minute, 33.3 seconds over 1,600 meters on going that was heavier than listed as firm. It was her first Grade 1 victory, and if Sunday is any indication, there will be plenty more to come not just in Japan but overseas, too.

“What a relief,” jockey Yuga Kawada said. “She traveled fine, ran at a rhythm she liked. All I had to worry about was when to bring her outside.”

The Hiroyoshi Matsuda-trained Harp Star got off to a clean start, but Kawada, with bullet-proof confidence in the horse’s ability, dropped his mount to the back of the pack led by long-shot Fukuno Dream.

Fukuno Dream had Harp Star fans startled as she made a desperate attempt to run away with it, pulling away by five, six lengths going into the final straight.

Still in last at that point, Kawada guided Harp Star to the far outside — she was almost by the outer railing — and with an incredible closing rush, the Deep Impact daughter overtook the lead with 100 meters to go.

“To catch up from where she did, I don’t even know what to say,” Kawada said. “I think the horse knew there was a lot more at stake, (with) this being a Grade 1. The 2-year-old champion was strong as well.

“I let her down last fall and I’m glad I made up for it.”

Harp Star, now 4-for-5 with more than ¥187 million in earnings, is next scheduled to run in the May 25 Japanese Oaks at Tokyo.

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