03/31/2017 2:08PM

Japan: Makahiki, Kitasan Black clash in Osaka Hai

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Makahiki, the winner of the 2016 Japanese Derby, and Kitasan Black, the winner of the Japan Cup last November, will meet for the first time in Sunday’s Grade 1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan.

The Osaka Hai is run at 1 1/4 miles on turf and is worth $2.084 million. The race, which has Grade 1 status for the first time this year, has international implications. The winner will receive a berth in the Group 1 Irish Champions Stakes at Leopardstown Racecourse on Sept. 10.

Makahiki has already had success in Europe. After winning the Japanese Derby last May, Makahiki won the Group 2 Prix Niel at Chantilly, France, last September and was 14th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly a month later. In his lone start this year, Makahiki was third in the Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen Stakes at Kyoto on Feb. 12.

Makahiki is trained by Yasuo Tomomichi, who told Japan Racing Association publicists that the 4-year-old was not well-suited to a rain-soaked track in the Kyoto Kinen.

“The going was surely a factor in the Kyoto Kinen,” he said. “He had a solid workout on March 23. He needs a fast track, but I think the [1 1/4 miles] is best for him.”

The Kyoto Kinen was won by Satono Crown, who is part of the Osaka Hai field. Satono Crown won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase in Hong Kong last December, beating Highland Reel, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita last November.

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Kitasan Black followed his win in the Japan Cup with a second in the Grade 1 Arima Kinen Stakes on Christmas Day, the final major race of the year in Japan. The Osaka Hai will be Kitasan Black’s first start of 2017.

The field of 14 includes Yamakatsu Ace, who was fourth in the Arima Kinan and won the Grade 2 Kinko Sho at Chukyo Racecourse on Feb. 11.