06/21/2007 11:00PM

All-star group at Hanshin


Virtually all of Japan's leading horses will line up at Hanshin on Sunday in the $2 million Takarazuka Kinen.

Dubai Duty Free winner Admire Moon, Japanese champion miler Daiwa Major, champion 3-year-old filly Kawakami Princess, Melbourne Cup runner-up Pop Rock, and the last two winners of the Japanese Derby, Vodka and Meisho Samson, make this 1 3/8-mile Grade 1 contest worth getting excited about.

While Daiwa Major may be the best of the bunch, his forte is a mile. He has won going 1 1/4 miles in the Group 1 Autumn Tenno Sho, but 11 furlongs may be just beyond his scope. Last year's Japanese Oaks winner, Kawakami Princess, disappointed in her seasonal debut when she ran 10th in the Victoria Mile, while Pop Rock, winner last out of the 1 9/16-mile Grade 2 Meguro Kinen, has never won at the highest level.

Admire Moon has yet to win a Grade 1 race in Japan, so by process of elimination one is left with Derby winners Vodka and Meisho Samson.

Vodka beat colts by three lengths in this year's Japanese Derby, but Meisho Samson is the one to back. In addition to his 2006 Derby score, he won last year's 1 1/4-mile Japanese 2000 Guineas. An Opera House 4-year-old, he took a 1 1/4-mile Grade 2 in April before landing the two-mile Grade 1 Spring Tenno Sho, and is adaptable enough to handle the cut back to 1 3/8 miles.

Daiwa Major is the one to use in the exacta in what will be the last Japanese Grade 1 race until Sept. 30.