06/21/2012 4:58PM

Hanshin: Orfevre has work cut out in Takarazuka Kinen

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Orfevre, the winner of the 2011 Japanese Triple Crown, is finding racing more difficult as a 4-year-old this year. Winless in his first two starts of the season, Orfevre is part of Sunday’s $3.4 million Takarazuka Kinen over about 1 3/8 miles on turf at Hanshin Racecourse.

Once again, he faces a formidable list of rivals. This time, there is more at stakes than the winner’s share of approximately $1.65 million. The winner receives an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

The Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen includes two major stakes winners from April 29 – Beat Black, the winner of the spring running of the Group 1 Tenno Sho, and Rulership, the winner of the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin in Hong Kong.

Other leading contenders from Japan are Eishin Flash, who was second to Orfevre in the Arima Kinen last December and eighth in the Dubai World Cup in March; and Win Variation, who was third in the spring running of the Tenno Sho.

Orfevre, a winner of 7 of 13 starts, was 11th in the Tenno Sho as a 3-10 favorite. He finished 11 1/2 lengths behind Beat Black, a 159-1 outsider. Earlier this year, Orfevre was second in the Grade 2 Hansin Daishote over 1 7/8 miles at Hanshin. Last year, Orfervre won two Grade 2 races at Hanshin.