06/23/2017 6:06PM

Kitasan Black seeks third straight Grade 1 win at Japan's Hanshin

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Kitasan Black, the 2016 Japanese Horse of the Year, will be a heavy favorite to win his third consecutive Grade 1 race in Sunday’s $2.6 million Takarazuka Kinen at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan.

Kitasan Black won the Japan Cup last November and was second in the Grade 1 Arima Kinen on Christmas Day. This year, Kitasan Black is unbeaten in two starts in Grade 1 races: the Osaka Hai at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hanshin on April 2, and the Tenno Sho at two miles on turf at Kyoto on April 30.

The Takarazuka Kinen is part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program, offering a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 4.

The 5-year-old Kitasan Black is part of a field of 11 and will be an odds-on choice. He was third in the 2016 Takarazuka Kinen. By Black Tide, Kitasan Black has won 10 of 16 starts for owner Ono Shoji and trainer Hisashi Shimizu. Regular rider Yutaka Take has the mount.

Kitasan Black’s main rivals on Sunday are Cheval Grand, who was second in the Tenno Sho and third in the Japan Cup last November; and Sciacchetra, who won the Grade 3 Nikkei Sho at 1 9/16 miles on turf at Nakayama on March 25 and was ninth in Tenno Sho.

Satono Crown, who won the Hong Kong Vase last December, is another prominent runner. He won the Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen in February and was sixth in the Osaka Hai at Hanshin in early April.

Sunday’s Group 1 Gran Premio Pamplona at Hipodromo de Monterrico in Lima, Peru will offer a fees-paid berth to the BC Filly and Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on Nov. 4.

The $65,000 Gran Premio Pamplona is run at 1 1/4 miles on turf. The field of 12 is led by Soy Realidad, a Chilean-bred 3-year-old filly who won her 2017 debut in the Grand Premio National at 1 1/4 miles on turf at the same venue on May 20.

Birdie Gold, second in the Grand Premio Nacional, and Smart Choice, a filly who was second to males in the Gran Premio Nacional last December, are part of the field.