04/08/2010 11:00PM

Japanese 1000 Guineas looks anyone's race

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The $2.25 million Oka Sho, or Japanese 1000 Guineas, at Hanshin on Sunday looks like a Triple-A race, with much of the attention in the fillies' classic focused on Apapane, Apricot Fizz, and Animate Bio. The one-mile contest is officially rated an international Grade 1 contest for the first time in its history this year, as are the other four Japanese classics as they are now open to all comers from around the world.

All of the 18 runners in this year's renewal are trained in Japan, however. Apapane, a daughter of the 2004 Japanese Derby winner, King Kamehameha, was Japan's juvenile champion filly last year. Trained by Sakae Kinieda, she was in need of the race when the finished second by three-quarters of a length in her seasonal debut, the Grade 3 Tulip Sho over the Oka Sho course and distance. It was another King Kamehameha filly, Shoryu Moon, who beat her that day, and that filly, trained by Shozo Sasaki, will test her again on Sunday.

Apricot Fizz has run just three times in her brief career, but her last was a corker, as she won the Grade 3 Tulip Sho at Tokyo by two lengths. Her rider that day, Masayoshi Ebina, is sticking with Apapane, however, so Norihiro Yokoyama will ride Apricot Fizz, a daughter of Jungle Pocket, for the first time. Animate Bio was a half-length second to Apapane in last December's Hanshin Fillies Mile, and was second again in her 3-year-old debut in the listed Anemone Stakes to Ginza Bonanza, who tries her again on Sunday.

Oken Sakura and Sound Barrier are both coming off graded-race wins in what is really a wide-open affair with the runners-up in their two races, Cosmo Nemo Shin and Ranunculus, also standing decent chances for victory.