Champion Japanese trainer Yoshito Yahagi says Ho O Amazon has blossomed in the past week and will be close to his best in Saturday’s Group 1 $1.5m Schweppes All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
Whether that’s good enough to beat what he regards a strong field of sprinters remains to be seen but as he surveyed the entire at Canterbury on Friday he was more than pleased with what he saw compared to when he was last in Sydney a couple of weeks ago.
There were plenty of eyes raised when Ho O Amazon, who Yahagi says excels on wet ground, was easily beaten by Unicorn Lion in a gallop on the Kensington track early last week.
“Last time I was here he wasn’t quite there yet but in the past seven days he’s really improved a lot and he looks like he’s ready,’’ he said.
“I think he will be getting there in the right condition.
“The Australian sprinters are high quality and it is a good field he’s racing against. Hopefully he can run a good race to show he has a good future.”
A look at the five-year-old’s Japanese form shows he can be a little hit and miss but at the same time if you race at Group 1 level in Japan you’re racing in elite company.
Ho O Amazon, $15 with TAB on Friday, has had five attempts at Group 1 back home with his best performance a fifth behind Gran Alegria in the Mile Championship of 2021. He has recorded placings at Group 2 level behind the likes of Danon Fantasy and Grenadier Guards.
Yahagi said the All Aged is a perfect race for Ho O Amazon because he feels his best form is at 1400m.
“Because he couldn’t beat those horses we brought him over here,’’ he said.
“There’s no seven furlong Group 1 race in Japan so that’s the reason he runs in mile Group 1s but he’s best suited at 1400m.”
The All Aged will be broadcast into Japan and Ho O Amazon’s regular rider Ryusei Sakai will be at Randwick to ride the horse.
Yahagi said “I would probably cry’’ if his horse was able to win the race, given his ties to Sydney when he was younger and hopes he can do Japan proud.
“For us to bring a horse here and race in a race like this hopefully it will enlighten the Japanese fans to acknowledge there’s such good racing in Australia and good opportunities,’’ he said.
“I love this city so it makes me happy coming here.
“(Ho O Amazon) is quite versatile, he can lead, I think we will be positive. I’m not concerned about a wet track, we look for heavy ground.”
A Japanese horse has won the All Aged in the past, Nash Rawiller rode Hana’s Goal to victory in 2014 for trainer Kazuhiro Kato but Yahagi said the likes of Giga Kick, Zaaki, Private Eye, Mazu
and company will provide stern opposition.
“She was a good race mare but compared to the field she was racing against back then it looks like a stronger race this year,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Unicorn Lion has come through his fifth placing behind Dubai Honour in the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes in good order and is expected to race again in Japan in June.
– Racing NSW